Hunting 'hip' in Gotham

July 27, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Alexandra Broseus grabs a shotgun, lifts it to her slender shoulder, pumps and readies her aim. Seconds later she's firing furiously at animated deer darting across a video game screen inside Horseshoe, a popular Manhattan bar. When the shooting ends and the adrenaline wanes, Miss Broseus -- wearing a zebra-striped dress -- brings the plastic barrel to her lips, blows the imaginary smoke into the air and reaches for a nearby can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Thanks to youthful urbanites, such as Miss Broseus, the coin-operated Big Buck Hunter Pro has evolved into the hottest-selling, biggest-moneymaking video game in bars and arcades across the country. And it's surprisingly popular in liberal bastions with strict gun laws such as New York City. "It's very strange, and I've been doing games for about 24 years," said George Petro, president of Play Mechanix Inc., the Chicago-area company that designed the game. "There's some kind of hipness to it." While older versions of the game have always done fairly well in the Midwest and other deer-hunting regions, the newest line has caught fire everywhere, mainly because of changes in the design. Mr. Petro said the game has been upgraded to a PC platform, giving it more lifelike graphics. A second shotgun was added so two players could fire simultaneously, raising the competitive stakes. When the Pro version was released, "I was hooked," said 25-year-old Sebastian Baumer of New York City, who has spent about $2,000 playing the game over the past year. Players score points for accuracy, distance and the animal's weight. There are different hunting adventures in states such as Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming. Players can stalk elk, antelope, big horn sheep, moose and, of course, bucks. Part of the allure: no shivering outside in the cold for hours waiting for a trophy buck to arrive. "It's distilled to the cool part, the shooting," Mr. Petro said. "The thrill is getting the kill." The fine-tuning of Big Buck has led to some unexpected success in this tough business that has been squeezed by the rapid technological advancement of home video games, said Bob Boals.

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