WICKER PARK — Brenton Garritty traveled almost 10,000 miles to come to Chicago this weekend.
And he came to play a video game.
Garritty, of Australia, was one of 64 players to compete in Saturday's sixth annual Big Buck Hunter World Championship in Wicker Park.
The game's top players converged on Wicker Park's Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave., to duke it out for more than $63,000 in prize money.
And while competitors from across the country came to play, Garritty — the Australian champion of Big Buck Hunter — was the sole international player at the competition.
"It's a typical American thing to call it a world championship even if it's only Americans competing," the 26-year-old said with a smile.
The competition is fierce, and Garritty said it takes some serious dedication to make it.
"Sometimes I'll do six, seven, eight hour stints at the machine just trying to get the high score," he said.
The two-day event featured a ladies tournament on Friday night and the world championship on Saturday. Trevor Gartner, of Wisconsin, ultimately came out on top Saturday. He brought home "Pappy's Jug" — the first-place trophy — and $15,000 in cash.
Melinda Van Hoomissen took home $5,000 and the "Jugs of Destiny" trophy after she won the ladies tournament.
Van Hoomissen, of Vancouver, Wash., said she has been to the world championship the past four years.
"It's more exciting than you can imagine," Van Hoomissen said. "With the lights and the cameras and the music and the heckling, it's super exciting."
Van Hoomissen said she got into Big Buck Hunter through her husband, Scott Van Hoomissen, who played the videogame incessantly at a local bar. The mother of six said she ended up buying the arcade game with money from the couple's tax return.
"And then I started playing, and I got hooked," she said. "And I've been hooked ever since."
The Van Hoomissens both competed in Saturday's world championship.
Like most players at the tournament, Scott Van Hoomissen said the competitive aspect is satisfying, but it's the camaraderie that makes him want to come back every year.
"It's a hell of a community, and I think it's a fantastic game," he said. "I think it kicks Golden Tee's ass. I don't care what anybody says, and you can quote me on that."
Even though competitors come from across the country, Scott Van Hoomissen said most of the 64 players are friends and regularly play each other online. They even started a Big Buck Hunter Facebook group to stay in touch, but the annual tournament is the only time they get to be together in person.
Derek Tower, of St. Louis, Mo., also said even though there is $15,000 on the line it's not about the money, it's about the community. In his fourth year at the tournament, Tower said the same people come back each year and have formed lasting friendships.
Tower, 32, finished 20th in Saturday's tournament. He said the competition is tough, so he brings a lucky hat.
"It's never been washed," he said. "And the dirtier it is, the better I do."
Like many people at the tournament, Tower said he sticks to virtual hunting and does not hunt in real life.
And although a lot of people on Saturday were decked out in camouflage gear, Garritty said it's a "real mix" of people.
"You get guys from Brooklyn who have never been out in the sticks and shot a real gun who are amazing, and then you get guys that actually go and hunt every single weekend that are pretty amazing as well," he said.
After Saturday's tournament, participants were bused to Wicker Park's Emporium Arcade Bar.
But the players had to take a break from their favorite game. Emporium does not have Big Buck Hunter.