There’s the Australian Dream. Then there’s the “Big Buck” Australian Dream, and it belongs to Will Bromley.
After a sponsorship arrangement and fundraising campaign from Surry Hills-based Hawke’s Brewing Co., Bromley has achieved his dream: travelling to Las Vegas for the 11th Big Buck World Championship – his first ever – and clinching fourth place at the international tournament of the coin-op shooter arcade game on Saturday October 27.
“I’m bloody over the moon with my fourth place,” he told Broadsheet. “My goal was to just get in the top 10, so being in the top five means everything and more for me.”
The Newtown bartender, at the Carlisle Castle Hotel, has long known of his knack for driver- and shooter-style arcade games. He first picked up the Big Buck Hunter fake rifle in 2004 at a Kings Cross hotel where he was manager, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he competed in his first Australian tournament, held on a rocky boat in Sydney Harbour.
The premise of the Big Buck Hunter arcade game is simple: players earn points for “shooting” animated bucks (male deers) and avoiding does (female deers).
(For the record, Bromley does not advocate violence towards animals. Growing up in Tamworth, he went real-life rabbit shooting one time. “It really affected me; I’m not a killer by nature … I live in Newtown [and] there are a lot of vegan and vegetarians who heckle me when I’m playing. [But] it’s [just] a game ... It’s not real,” he says.)
In Big Buck, players also score bonus points for hitting “trophy animals” – sabre tooth tigers, prehistoric Irish elks – and on the odd occasion, flying dinosaur poop. “They keep it interesting,” Bromley says.
It was while shooting airborne Jurassic-era faeces that he was featured in a social media video by surrealist humour website Brown Cardigan. The story caught the eye of brewery Hawke’s Brewing Co, named after former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who is also the ambassador of the craft-beer brand.
“We found this lovable guy who had a dream to go to Vegas and try to conquer the world … We are all about supporting Australians who want to live their dream,” says Nathan Lennon, co-owner of Hawke’s Brewing Co, drawing comparisons to the Australian sailing team’s 1983 journey to, and eventual victory at, the America’s Cup yacht race.
The brewery sponsored Bromley’s travel and accommodation for the tournament, produced a short video about the man himself, and held a “dream keg” event where punters made a donation in exchange for a schooner of Hawke’s beer. They raised $1000, which went towards covering Bromley’s expenses.
After weeks of training with fellow Australian competitors Sean Chadwick and Mark Santander – Bromley estimates he pumped $2000 through the arcade machine – he was named the man most likely to win the tournament by CNN.
With the weight of expectation on him, and with a sponsorship and a cast of hopeful supporters, Bromley took the tournament seriously. The night before the finals other competitors partied until late, but Bromley went to bed early to prepare himself for the next day.
Bromley’s training partner Chadwick placed second, while an American Trevor Gartner beat out 64 players to take out the Big Buck Championship (and the $20,000 cash prize).
Having returned from the US, Bromley says after training for 20 hours a week in the lead up to the tournament, he’ll be taking a little breather from the game.
“I’m all bucked out at the moment. But I will definitely get back into it in a few weeks. I’ve got the winning bug now and want to do better next year,” he says.
He’s keeping the dream alive.