This weekend, some of the most seasoned snipers on the planet converge on Chicago to shoot it out at the 2011 Big Buck Hunter World Championships. 64 of the world's best players will compete for over $50,000 in prize money and a top prize of $15,000. These (occasionally drunk) single person shooters hunt their video game “game” and earn hundreds and sometimes thousands of bucks in monthly tournaments both in-person and online.
We spoke to seven of the most decorated virtual outdoor-sportsmen in the world and gained insight into what it takes to hunt and kill deer like a champion gamer.
Alex DerHohannessian (above, left) (New York, NY)
Won $10,000 from Big Buck Safari at 2010 World Championships. Claims to play his best after six PBR tallboys.
“Aim small, miss small. My big thing is accuracy: Part of your score is based on accuracy. By ‘aim small, miss small,’ I mean you gotta aim for your target, but your target should be as small as possible, aiming for the head or the heart region. You make it as small as possible so that if you miss, you only miss by a little bit and you have a better chance to kill the buck.”
Nick Berg (Twin Cities, MN)
Nick and his brother Jerad have won more than $25,000 from Big Buck Hunter. Last year, Nick was the runner up and took home $5K.
“The name of the game would be speed. Some guys are into accuracy and memorizing the stages, but to me it’s all about quickness and getting ahead of the buck. At the world championship, it’s two players, so if the other guy shoots the buck before you, that one is gone and it’s onto the next. You have to use speed to your advantage and be ahead of you opponent.”
Steve Guenther (Corpus Christi, TX)
Steve, known as “The Godfather of Big Buck Hunter,” wins nearly every online tournament throughout the year and owns five Guinness Book of World Records.
“Create a wall around yourself and don’t let anybody fuck with you. I’ve been in the 12th hour of a tournament one month: I was in a situation where all I had to do was finish the bonus round without missing a shot, like I do every time. I’d won a number of tournaments like that at this point. It was no sweat. Halfway through the bonus round, some guy grabbed me to say hello and I missed a shot. It cost me $300.”
Max Manning and Clay Conrad (Twin Cities, MN)
Max, an aspiring tattoo artist and Clay, a bartender, have the highest scores in “double gun” going into the World Championship this year.
Max: “The biggest thing is memorization - if you can memorize your board, you should have no problem putting up a high score. You can play it over and over again and learn the board in five minutes, but if you go in there not knowing what you’re shooting it’s never going to be your highest potential score that you could get. Playing a board over and over again, you’ll learn where the buck is. Most of the animals run the same way, because the same guys make every single screen, so there’s gonna be some repetition in there.”
Clay: “Know the difference between Big Buck Hunter Open Season and Big Buck Hunter Safari. In Sarafi, small things like critters and things like that aren’t worth as many points as they are in Open Season. In Open Season, your critters can really make or break your board. For every critter that you get per board, you get an exponential amount of points. For your first critter you get 50 points, for your next critter you get 100 points, then 150, after that it becomes 300, then 500, then 750, then 1000 and then 1050. The depth of your bucks and your accuracy really come into play on Sarafi. The difference between the two games is substantial. ”
Brenton Garrity (Adelaide, South Australia)
An Aussie who beat out everyone else in his homeland (where the game is very popular) to make it to the finals in Chicago.
“You’ve got to be very accurate to knock the buck down with one shot. When playing head to head, I do something I call the 'double-tap', where I let the other guy get the first shot in and then kind of pick up the pieces. I’ll get the second shot that will usually kill them most of the time. If the shooter isn’t very accurate, it’s easy to let them get the first shot in and then you kill them all.”
Thor Fox (St. Louis, MO)
Thor has qualified for and attended the World Championships every year since 2008. He finished 16th last year, and is a dominant player for the national tournaments all year long.
"My biggest thing is, don’t get tunnel vision. Most people try and stare down the scope like you’re looking through a real gun, but that only works if you’re going to take one shot, so you have to keep both eyes open. This game is all about speed and endurance. It’s kill everything. If it looks at you, attack everything, but don’t shoot the girls! Don’t hurt the ladies. It helps to have a drink - it's definitely a drinking game, as long as it’s a plastic gun."