Nearly 100 of the world's best players will descend upon The Chop Shop in Wicker Park this weekend to compete in the Big Buck Hunter World Championship.
The arcade game tournament, with more than $63,000 in prizes including a grand prize of $15,000, is returning to Chicago after a single-year stint in New York in 2012. This is the sixth year for the World Championship, and the third year of the Ladies Tournament.
Two-time ladies champion Sara Erlandson, 30, of Beldenville, Wis., took fourth overall last year.
“My husband and I own a bar, so we got the game there and just started playing it," said Erlandson, whose husband, Jerod, finished 16th overall at last year's world championship. Erlandson says she doesn't take the competition too seriously, but instead attributes her victories to her upbringing.
“I was an only child, but I had a lot of boy cousins," she said. "I kind of had to get into video games."
For Kevin Naumann of Royal Oak, Mich., this year's competition means serious preparations.
"We've been practicing at least five times a week," said Naumann, 27, who placed fifth last year and has been getting "tons and tons" of practice in the weeks leading up to the championship. Naumann started competing in the tournament five years ago and has recruited his brother, sister and girlfriend over the years to join him in the competition.
Naumann, who is the general manager of a Potbelly in his suburban Detroit town, said the competitive juices start flowing long before the World Championship.
"It all starts with a little bit of trash talking on Facebook," said Naumann, who connects with other Big Buck competitors online weeks before they meet in person. Naumann said that he and his family are hoping to represent Detroit favorably this weekend by taking home the top prize.
"It's a pretty unpredictable game, so we just keep practicing in the meantime," said Naumann, who is traveling to Chicago on Thursday for the championship. “But when you get to Chicago, you’re ready for it.”
To see a video of last year's competition, click here.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.