Vicci Ho is a writer, film programmer and producer. She has written for Variety and worked for film festivals across the globe, including Toronto International Film Festival, Zurich Film Festival and directed the Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.  She is the President of Janitor Interactive: a production company specializing in games.

This is her personal page.

Interaction technology: Big Buck Hunter.

Arcade video games might no longer dominate our entertainment landscapes, but they have not been wiped out yet. This is one of my favourite games and can still be found in many (dive) bars across this country: It is Big Buck Hunter, of course!

As you can see from the photo above, it is a shooting game. The objective is that you have to shoot 3 buck (male) animals, while avoiding the doe (female) variations. There's deers, antlers, elks...and other animals that I don't know the names of. There is a plastic shotgun that you use to shoot at the screen. The gun allows for trigger and pump action, and you score points for getting the right animals while the game also measures your accuracy.

I happen to be at an establishment with Big Buck Hunter at the back and I got to observe how people play this game at various levels of drunkenness, though honestly I felt most are sober enough to know what they are doing.

It's interesting to see how many people use the pump action even though it isn't necessary to (well, I am 90% sure you can just shoot by pulling the trigger) and logically speaking, the player's accuracy would improve if they actually keep the guns more still. However, the excitement tends to encourage people to 'shoot faster'. It is also a very social game: friends and even strangers like to crowd around the machine and watch, even though it is really just a game with animals walking across the screen. The version I saw allows for two players, which allowed me to witness many friends get 'competitive', scream, yell and giggle through their games.

Why is Big Buck Hunter such a popular arcade game? There are plenty of arcade shooters but I have not seen one that generates this much energy or excitement amongst players (judging from my friends who play this game, most are not gamers). I think part of it is the simplicity of it. The menus are easy to navigate, objectives clear (though because of my lack of knowledge on animals in general I have no idea how to differentiate between buck and doe animals, though I guess that's my own fault), and it is a pretty no-frills game: aim, shoot, score. I also believe a lot of it is the fact that there is so much interactivity with the very cheap looking plastic gun. Most players are not pros (I discovered today there are actual leagues and national tournaments for this game!) but they enjoy the ridiculousness of shooting at animals walking around on screen with a plastic shotgun that you can, for a lack of a better word, 'rage-pump' indiscriminately.

I personally would love for the shotgun to provide a bit more feedback when I play...for example, mild vibration (like the PS3 controller) as I shoot. Though I think too much sophistication would actually ruin the experience, so maybe it is best to just keep it simple.

Design meets disability

ICM week 3