In 2012, one of the must-see films of the year was The Hunger Games, which was also one of the first few films in the “dystopia” genre, which is still immensely popular even now (The Maze Runner, Divergent, Elysium, Ender’s Game, Snowpiercer… There is quite an extensive list.).
In The Hunger Games, the Games were created to punish the twelve districts, who’d previously rebelled against the powerful and rich Capitol. In simpler terms, it’s a control mechanism that balances fear and hope.
While The Hunger Games is a dark and often depressing story, there are many good lessons to learn from it. It’s not just about the game, or the killing, or who Katniss will end up with. It is a story that explores deeper issues such as corruption, society and class, the power of the media…
And, as its name implies, it also teaches us a lot about games.
Or, rather, gamification.
Gamification is the act of putting game elements into non-game contexts to increase engagement.
For example, game elements are placed into the murdering of innocent people in The Hunger Games! Let’s take a deeper look at the gamification within the Games.
Rewards, in the form of gifts, are heavily relied upon in the Games, and they motivate the tributes to do their best, before they even step foot into the arena.
While making public appearances prior to the Games (.gif above), the tributes show themselves off to television audiences to obtain ‘sponsors’, who will send gifts such as food, medicine, and tools to their favourite tributes during the Games
These gifts can be critical to survival and, thus, are highly sought after.
In gamification, achievements and rewards can come in the form of virtual badges to earn, or physical assets one can redeem with accumulated points. These achievements and rewards are meant to motivate players to play their best, the same way sponsors’ gifts motivate the tributes to leave a lasting impression in The Hunger Games.
Collaboration vs Competition
It is made known to everyone that there can only be one victor in the Games. Yet, even with this knowledge on hand, tributes often form alliances with one another instead of taking individual action.
This way, even weaker tributes with no real survival skills stand a chance at lasting longer in the Games. With allies on their side, weaker tributes feel like they have a fighting chance, and they work even harder to survive, as compared to working individually and simply giving up because they feel like they have no chance at all.
Yes, most games are competitive, but fostering collaboration amongst players will engage them better than fostering rivalry.
Tributes are assigned mentors who are to groom them and prepare them for the Games. Mentors teach tributes how to create allies, how to act on television to win sponsors, and much more. It’s not just a one-time workship either, but constant training that is provided from the time the tributes are selected, until they enter the arena.
With constant feedback, players gain better understanding of where they stand in the game. Feedback as simple as a rank on a leaderboard can motivate a player to improve themselves.
If the Games were held in the same arena every year, pretty soon there’d be no one watching them anymore. Blood, more blood, that one idiot who will eat poisonous berries, that person will die from a wound infection… No one wants to see the same thing over and over again.
That’s why the Games are held in new arenas every year. New arenas means new ways of dying. This variety will increase engagement (In this case, engagement comes from the audience, rather than the tributes, but, regardless…). What’s the arena gonna be this year? An ocean? A dessert? An office building? What if someone dies from drowning this year? Or from being stabbed by a pencil? Who knows will happen.
Besides arenas, the gamemakers also implement surprises into the Games. For example, mutant dogs!
Keep the game new and fresh to keep your players and audience on their toes, and you will keep them forever.
The tributes are constantly on camera during the Games, giving their sponsors and the general audience a real-time update of whatever’s happening.
Imagine: you can watch the killing take place while it’s actually happening! You don’t have to wait till another telecast next week to find out who died and who’s still alive!
Including a live feed in games will creates a connection between the game and the player, as both happen in real time.
Obviously, real-life uses for gamification are nothing like the Games in The Hunger Games (or, at least, we hope not!), but the values and psychology still apply!
So go on, try out some of the game elements we’ve mentioned here, and…