NEW YORK CITY -- Players from across the country -- and globe -- flocked to New York City to participate in the fifth annual Big Buck World Championship on Nov. 9 and 10. For the two days, the historic Altman Building in lower Manhattan was transformed into a rustic hunting lodge with six Big Buck Hunter coin-op videogames used for competition.
Large-screen monitors displaying bracket rankings and real-time social media messages, along with rock blasting from the speakers, kept adrenaline flowing. Supplementary Big Buck games, along with the new Snow Cross and Super Bikes games, were on the floor for spectators to play. The popular coin-op videogames are made by Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix.
In the championship virtual shooting match, the 64 competitors who earned a spot during qualifying matches that began at the end of summer were joined by nearly as many spectators to pack the floor. More than $50,000 in prize money was awarded. To earn one of the 64 spots in the World Championship, players competed on Big Buck HD, said to be the first 1080p high-definition arcade game, released earlier this summer. The 12 highest-scoring players in each region (North, South, East and West) advanced, along with 16 wild card spots for the highest cumulative scores.
By the end of the hard-fought competition, underdog Chris Fream, 29, of Minneapolis beat reigning Buck Hunter champ Nick Robbins in the final round. With the win, Fream took home Pappy's Jug, the Big Buck trophy, and $15,000. Returning women's champion, Sara Erlandson of Beldenville, WI, earned the top prize for the second annual Big Buck ladies tournament.
Despite his early loss to Robbins in the quarterfinals of the double-elimination tournament, Fream defeated Robbins in two Big Buck adventures in the finals. Fream, who spent the past year training for the World Championship, is a sales manager at Crispin Cider Co. in the Minneapolis area; he placed second at the World Championship in 2010, but did not participate in the 2011 tournament.
Erlandson, a freelance graphic designer, claimed $5,000 in prize money, along with the Jugs of Destiny trophy in the ladies event. Tournament organizers noted that it was a particularly strong year for female participation, which saw 28 competitors. Erlandson also finished fourth overall in the World Championship, netting her a total of $7,000 for the weekend.
Other high-profile competitors included Nascar and X Games star Travis Pastrana, who finished 11th in 2011, but dropped to 58th in the recent outing. The top New York-area finishers were Carley Szweda of New Jersey, who finished in 11th place, and Alex Derhohannesian of Brooklyn who earned 14th place.
In light of the recent events in the New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut area following Hurricane Sandy, Raw Thrills collected and matched donations up to $50,000 for American Red Cross relief efforts.