Proof The Hunger Games Author Sucks at World Building

March 24, 2012 | | Comments 13

I am willing to forgive many sins in a film, book or game  campaign but there is one thing that is unforgivable: lousy world building. Good world building involves creating an unreal place with internal logic that works. That is not to say that it has to make sense in “our” world, but it is internally consistent. The “Dune” series revolves around abilities powered by spice and the various political maneuvers to control spice and its attendant power.   Personalities, ideology, organizations and even biology adapted to melange’s evolutionary pressure. All well and good and it was a classic of science-fiction.

Which brings me to “The Hunger Games.” Every year an oppressive government drafts 24 teenage sacrifices from 12 districts to murder in a very public show of power.  All to maintain power and prevent a revolution.

This is quite literally the most asinine idea ever conceived. You are  fomenting your own revolution.  Just not for the reasons your think…

Yes, murdering children pisses people off and they riot. You quickly put the riots down violently, but that is a short-term solution masking the real danger. It is subtle and hard to stop and it will end with a very bloody revolution.

Since no parent wants their children to die young and there is (apparently) no way to avoid the “reaping” your best bet is for your child to win and survive.  Excluding volunteers, which the film claims are relatively rare, every parent faces the reality that their child might wind up in the games.  There is only one solution.

Turn your child into a killing machine from the day they are born.

Raise the child harshly, test them physically and mentally, push them to the breaking point and then go beyond. Endless weapon drills and survival training, perhaps done in secret, but still no parent will allow their child to go unprepared. Look at the lengths  parents go through to get children into college or professional sports in the real world. Now stack life or death stakes on and watch the competition really kick in.

Other parents want their child to survive as well and they immediately start “keeping up with the Joneses” and start training their little angel of death as well. It is a true zero sum game.

The “reapimg” day rolls around and one of these little angels of death goes to fight and an entire group of his/her 18-year-old peers age out of the lottery. Safe from any chance of going to the games, they can now move on to mundane jobs like baker and coal miner and totally forget years of paramilitary training, routine violence and the yearly possibility of  a pointless, violent death.

Yeah, right.

Within three generations, every adult is a highly trained killer with decades of combat training and a vendetta against the central government. History has a name for this citizen.


The evil overlord is toast in three generations, max.  Oh, if anyone gives me the “overlord has better weapons/technology” argument, go read a history book. Specifically look at the British wars in Afghanistan or Africa in the 19th century.  Technology is an edge certainly, but numbers, training and sheer force of will won out more than once.

Humans evolve and adapt.  Ignoring this fact creates a ridiculous world that insults your audience.

Since the book is so popular, I have to ask if the internal logic any better in the book?

Trask, The Last Tyromancer


Filed Under: rant


About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.