Look, I’ll be brutally honest: I saw the Hunger Games recently and loved it.
Controversial to be sure, but anyone who knows me knows that I actually have a fairly morbid aesthetic; one of my favorite aspects of the Mass Effect franchise is its occasional descent into darkness (the volus’ story on Noveria is a great example of what I’m talking about). I don’t consider myself a dark, brooding person…I just tend to get into macabre media. You pitch a story that involves 24 children fighting to the death and I’m sold; allow me to point you to my collector’s edition copy of Battle Royale.
As I left the theatre I immediately began to deconstruct its possible game mechanics (I do this with most things). I warn you: I’m going to be speaking frankly about the film from here on out; if you’re trying to avoid spoilers it would be best to come back after you’ve seen the movie.
Okay so there are a number of ways you could approach the Hunger Games as a designer, but there are really two things that stand out to me.
The first, and least interesting, is a deathmatch style multiplayer game. I actually think permadeath is a largely underutilized mechanic (for understandable reasons), but it would be perfect here. I think the best way to approach the mood of the Hunger Games themselves would be to use a control scheme similar to Dark Souls, with the kinds of maps you find in Battlefield games; large, open, and brutal are the kinds of words I’d use to describe that scenario. If there was a way to mod Dark Souls I think there could be a lot of meat here.
But I think a far more interesting proposition would be including something like the Hunger Games into a persistant world like an MMO or even a MUD. This is because what fascinates me most about the Hunger Games is not the games themselves but how they affect society. The unrelenting fear of the games looming over the districts is what fascinates me, along with the process of the tributes trying to impress the public and the fact that only one of them ultimately survives.
I love the idea of a lottery that results in selected players participating in a challenge that, ultimately, results in the death of all but one of them. Permanent death possibly, although that could only happen in a game where starting over wasn’t a huge deal; a rare thing indeed.
I would love to know if any games have tried something like this. At PAX East I was part of a long discussion with James Portnow and various Extra Credits fans about the game Ultima Online, which seems (from the descriptions) like the most likely candidate for some fucked up player death lottery. My immediate assumption is that this could only truly work in a MUD–where else would you be able to find a lively community of people willing to experiment with something that took days and ultimately resulted in most players dying?
Hah! I have no idea how to finish this article. In summation: it’s fun to imagine how different aspects of things could translate to game ideas, and I should make my own MUD to try out these stupid ideas.
(photo credit: Christopher Hsia)