If you're like most Slog readers, you probably know Big Buck Hunter as that game at Shorty's (or maybe Ed's Kort Haus) where you've drunkenly clutched a plastic rifle—probably teetering a bit, let's face it—and pumped hot virtual lead into a succession of pixelated ungulates. Drinking is definitely part of the Big Buck ethos, and even serious competitors debate how to perfect "the Big Buck buzz":
But Big Buck did some serious technological growing up this year, with a new version in July, and somehow turned into a sophisticated, Internet-connected, Facebook-integrated, giant-screened-HD game that also coincidentally involves drunkenly killing deers (and mooses and bearss and etc.).
If stand-up video games have a future, this is it: It's cashless and massively networked, with players setting up accounts and ordering swipe cards online, charging them up with money, and then competing for real dollars against other players over the Internet. Winnings go back on your account, which you can cash out anytime. The high-level players are all playing each other remotely, which is a mind-blow since nearly every (very expensive) installation of the game resides in a bar.
As you might expect, the game just looks and plays way better than the original, too, with the first 1080p HD resolution ever in a stand-up arcade game. The animal AIs and graphics will remind you of stalking prey in Red Dead or Skyrim (okay, maybe minus the dragon), making the old Big Buck look like a glorified Duck Hunt:
Seattle has only had the new machines since August, but RJ has been practicing two to three times a week since then—mostly at Shorty's but shuttling to Phinney at times (and even Issaquah in a pinch, when a tourney he was playing wasn't loaded in time). A former corpsman, RJ has only shot a real gun once, a 9mm during a day of Navy training. It's his arcade background that got him into Big Buck—he's a Medieval Madness man, and also plays Pub Brawl and Transformers. His 3x12 schedule as an OR nurse at Virginia Mason is perfect for quiet weekday practice, and he credits his operating-room "OCD" for his Big Buck accuracy under pressure, tracking the bucks ("the boys") and does ("the girls") and quickly weighing when and whether to take shots.
This is RJ. (It's Halloween, he doesn't always dress like this.)
The championship has an open bar for competitors (including at the opening party and "Ladies Tourney*," tonight), but RJ was cautious, pointing out that the defending champion famously never drinks while he's playing. RJ plans to win tomorrow, even against stiff competition from the other regions: "The guys from Minnesota are hard core. I think they don't have much to do out there. You can tell them I said that. I'm coming for them."
*The gender politics of Big Buck defeated us. It's like staring up at the night sky on a quiet beach with a head full of perfectly legal mood enhancers: What you are trying to take in is so incomprehensibly vast that all you can do is say "wow" in a sad, tiny voice, knowing that you're shut off from the true nature of the situation. We've seen it, we know it's real, but we can't possibly do it justice.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.