Zoe Espinoza is very good at Mortal Kombat. She was also born with Leber congenital amaurosis, which has reduced her vision to the point where she can sense the presence of light but cannot see anything. In the latest episode of Totally Game (opens in new tab), Future's video series that meets remarkable gamers, we caught up with Espinoza and found out what it takes to master games without sight.
"Right now, I can see a whole lot of nothing," she said. "I can feel the presence of light because my eyes still sense it, so I feel a sensation near my eyes, but as far as what I'm actually getting from my eyes, they don't do a lot apart from look beautiful."
Despite this, Espinoza has been gaming since she was little, starting with Golden Axe 2 on the Sega Genesis. It's her first gaming memory, and since it's a 2D sidescroller, there was no need to worry about getting lost.
It's Mortal Kombat, though, that takes the top spot in her favourite games of all time—specifically Mortal Kombat X. "Being a blind gamer means I have to practice four times as hard to be a quarter as good," she said, which explains why she revels in her victories so much, even dishing out a bit of smack talk after a win.
"One of the most morbidly satisfying things to do in a fighting game is to demolish someone completely and utterly—to then inform them that they were defeated by a blind opponent, it drives home the obliteration of their sense of pride in their technique. Being able to do that to someone who intrinsically should be better than me is a cruel but satisfying pleasure."
When she's not ripping off the heads of random players, Espinoza plays with her wife, Kelsey, helping her keep up her fighting skills. Her wife never lets her win, Espinoza told us, which she called "the ultimate form of respect from one competitor to another."
Espinoza was signed as the fighting specialist for PermaStunned (opens in new tab), an esports organisation for gamers with disabilities, where she plays Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken and SoulCalibur. You can also find Espinoza and her wife streaming on YouTube (opens in new tab) and Twitch (opens in new tab).