Somerville Couple Competes for Big Buck Hunter Championship

Don't 'Buck' with them—they're the best players in Massachusetts.

Buck Hunter Screenshot via

Buck Hunter Screenshot via

Still basking in the Red Sox World Series win, Somerville residents Michael Costello and Alessia Brugnara are hoping to bring back a few more championships to Massachusetts this weekend.

The couple, rated as the top players in their respective male and female categories in the state, are at the Big Buck World Championship competition in Chicago, attempting to claim the titles of the best deer-shooting, trigger-pulling duo on the globe.

Big Buck Hunter is a series of video games available in arcades and dive bars, where players use plastic shotguns to take down deer, elk, moose, and other animals as though they were really hunting.

The makers of the video game have been hosting an annual championship competition since 2008, bringing the highest-scoring players from all over the world to one spot for a chance to clinch the title. As it stands, Costello is the best male Buck Hunter player in Massachusetts. And his girlfriend, Brugnara, is the women’s state champion. Nationwide, Costello is 42nd, and Brugnara is 16th in the women’s category.

Between the two of them, they think their chances of snagging some money at the two-day competition are pretty high. “I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t do better than half the people here,” said Costello, hours after arriving in Chicago. “But it’s two losses and you’re out, so you never know what will happen.”

The women’s competition will begin Friday night, something Costello thinks his girlfriend will dominate. “Alessia has a good chance of finishing top 10. She is more likely to go on a wining streak because a lot of female players don’t have as much experience as her, and it’s a little less competitive.”

Brugnara said she is nervous about playing, but she is just in it for the fun and the opportunity to share the moment with Costello. “I’m trying not to be nervous, but I don’t do a lot of competing,” she said. “I am going to have fun with it and see how it goes. I have never done anything like this. I’m along for the ride.”

On Saturday the men’s competition will follow, and already, Costello is getting mentally prepared. Before he steps up to the video game console, and picks up the plastic rifle to take down the animated animals on screen, he will turn to his usual ritual to get in the zone. “I have a couple beers before I play. I want to play loose, I don’t want to be over cautious, but once you drink too much you start missing some shots. But I want to be loose so I’ll have two or three,” he said. “You have to get a little buzzed.”

Both bartenders in the Boston area, Costello and Brugnara, who have been together for three years, first started playing after their shifts in places like Sligo Pub in Davis Square and the Brighton Beer Garden.

The more they played, the more competitive they became, tracking their scores during online tournaments and securing their spots as the top players in the state. “You have to play a lot, and you have to play with other people that are good,” said Costello.

The couple stands to win up to $20,000 if they each grab the title in their separate competitions, and beat out the other players who come from all over the country, and as far away as Australia.

But Brugnara, who said she is better than her boyfriend on occasion, is fairly confident they have got this hunting trip in the bag.

“We need another title in Boston,” she said.

Below is a video from the 2012 competition: