While hunters around the nation are gearing up for the autumn chill, another group of “hunters” headed indoors over the weekend for their shot at a virtual buck, and the chance at big money. On November 8 and 9, competitors gathered for the sixth annual Big Buck World Championship in Chicago. Instead of peering down from a treestand, this group of hunters shouldered their weapons at an arcade screen and took aim at digital bucks.
Big Buck Hunter is an arcade hunting game developed by Play Mechanix. Since it was released in 2000, the game found popularity in arcades and bars. Eventually, its high demand led to the establishment of an official world tournament in 2008. Despite its global moniker, only one international player showed up in Chicago last weekend. According to DNAinfo.com, Australian champion player Brenton Garritty traveled almost 10,000 miles to be able to compete in the tournament. With over $63,000 in prize money up for grabs, the expense likely seemed well worth it.
Garritty said the competition draws a varied crowd, including gamers and experienced sportsmen.
“You get guys from Brooklyn who have never been out in the sticks and shot a real gun who are amazing, and then you get guys that actually go and hunt every single weekend that are pretty amazing as well,” he said.
Friday was a ladies-only tournament while Saturday hosted the main competition, in which 64 contestants battled it out for first place. According to The Columbian, the version of the game used for the competition is similar to that of the 40,000 arcade machines around the country. The game centers around a player’s ability to make quick, yet accurate shots. Whitetail bucks are usually the main quarry in these games, although other game species also make an appearance.
“It’s more exciting than you can imagine,” said competitor Melinda Van Hoomissen. “With the lights and the cameras and the music and the heckling, it’s super exciting.”
Van Hoomissen won the ladies tournament, netting $5,000 in winnings. The main tournament was dominated by Wisconsin native Trevor Gartner, who bagged $15,000 in cash—and a countless number of virtual deer.
You can watch a clip from last year’s tournament below: