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Hunger Gamer’s Guide: The World of ‘The Hunger Games’

The start of what could be a very big film franchise is nearly upon us with The Hunger Games hitting theatres this Friday. Despite how many red flags the phrase “young adult bestseller” might raise, there’s a lot more going on in Suzanne Collins’ obscenely popular book trilogy than you might think. Between the massive shrines in every bookstore and the foaming praise of rabid fans, it’s impossible not to know a little bit about the series, but we’ll be giving you a crash course all week to bring you up to speed on the “Hunger Games” phenomenon.

We'll begin by taking a look at the world of The Hunger Games, a dystopic future where appointment TV is a bloodsport that pits 24 teens against each other in a battle to the death.

Welcome to Panem

Much of the history preceding The Hunger Games is shrouded in mystery, but a certain, terrifying, approximation of events still exists. In the modestly far-flung future, North America, or what’s left of it, isn’t looking too great. Following some fatal combination of nuclear war and climate change, civilization as we know it is eradicated. Major landmasses change shape and the seas rise to unfathomable levels, all but wiping out humanity in the process. But ever-tenacious humans aren’t going to treat the apocalypse like the end of the world, and several centuries following the calamity, civilization once more takes root.

From the wet, mutagenic ashes of our world rose Panem. Based out of the west half of the U.S.A., the nation went on to become the only civilized game in town, seeing as no one was in particular rush to check how any the other continents were handling their radiation situation . Following another unspecified passage of time, Panem grew into a well-oiled nation state, with modern conveniences including television and nuclear technology making the world a gloomier parallel of our own times.

Only a world as messed up as Panem could turn the loveable Donald Sutherland into a ruthless dictator

That’s because the folks responsible for re-establishing society threw out our centuries worth of political discourse in favor of the simplicity offered by a dictatorship. That the year could very well be 2984 gives you a clue as to what life in Panem is like. The nation is split into 12 separate districts, each forced to specialize in order to support the other 11, as well as The Capitol, a fortress city where the more privileged denizens of Panem reside. Currently headed by the manipulative President Coriolanus Snow, the upper-classes of Panem engage in decadent food and bizarre fashion while many of the other districts are subject to extreme poverty.

Not everyone stood for the oppression of the government, and some 74 years before the events of the books, a rebellion was hatched among the 13 districts. That the events of the revolt are known as The Dark Days gives you an idea about how things went. Despite their superior military strength and fortified position in the Rocky Mountains, The Capitol found itself matched by the combined strength of the districts. The war culminated in the total annihilation of Panem’s 13th district, leaving it a toxic wasteland. Faced with mankind blowing itself up with nukes again, the resistance quickly buckled.

The Games Begin

With a population more than a little miffed that one of its neighbor states just got obliterated, the government of Panem decided they had been too lenient with the people, and found cause to further tighten their hold on Panemian life. Since the government had already proven itself pretty good at being evil and morally bankrupt, it wasn’t much of a shock when they decided that the best way to control the people was by showing them that no one—not even their children—was outside of Panem’s grasp.

So began The Hunger Games, an annual “contest” that pits 24 teens, ages 12 to 18, against one another in deadly free-for-all. A male and female from each district is chosen at random via a lottery known as The Reaping (apparently all the good PR people were from District 13), with each successive year resulting in greater odds of being chosen. Potential Tributes can also have their chances of selection increased in exchange for government rations, a necessary risk for many of the poorer district inhabitants. The contestants, known as Tributes, get makeovers and are forced to do TV apperances to please Capitol folk and increase the appeal to the masses. They are then trained by their district’s past champions before being sent to a remote location with one objective: be the last one alive, or die trying.

Once in the arena, it’s every guy and girl for his or herself. The opening moments of the games are often the bloodiest, as contestants fight over an available stock of weapons that make the killing process a little more efficient. From there, the games can devolve into a cat and mouse hunt, though the Gamemakers overseeing the event often devise ways to keep the blood flowing. They’ll organize “Feasts” at the centre of the battlefield, offering food, weapons and medicine to any Tribute willing to risk going to a party where everyone on the invite list wants to murder you. There are also the devious traps and mutated animals (referred to as “mutts”) set up on the battleground to eliminate careless Tributes.

The event itself is made as mandatory viewing for the citizens of Panem, and by the time we come into the story of The Hunger Games, it’s become an accepted part of life. And like any sport, it breeds rabid fandom amongst the districts, with some even becoming “Career” districts that train their kids to excel at the games, which is simultaneously very thoughtful as well as psychotic.

Now that you know your Capitol from your Districts and a Tribute from a Gamemaker, it’s time to meet the young adults that will be risking their necks to slake the bloodlust of the audience. Tune in soon for our continued coverage of The Hunger Games, and as always, may the odds be ever in your favor!



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