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The Moral Challenges of Making A Hunger Games Video Game

The Hunger Games is a popular media franchise that has not been adapted into a game, and that may be due to its subject matter.

The Hunger Games is one of the most popular young adult franchises of the last decade, standing alongside properties like Harry Potter. While The Hunger Games may not be quite as popular as Harry Potter, it is still a media juggernaut in its own right, with millions of book sales and four blockbuster feature film adaptations produced so far.

Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games franchise is still going strong, with a new book having just released earlier in 2020. The prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is set to be adapted into a feature film of its own, which should ensure that The Hunger Games remains a constant fixture in pop culture for years to come.

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Despite The Hunger Games’ success, there hasn’t been a major video game adaptation of it to date. Despite The Hunger Games concept seemingly lending itself well to a video game, much more than many other young adult book franchises, nothing has been announced to date. And while it’s never been made clear why a Hunger Games video game hasn’t been made, it’s possible it has something to do with the moral issues that surround making one.

Single-Player vs. Multiplayer

moral issues making hunger games video game

The biggest hurdle a Hunger Games video game would need to overcome is handling its subject matter in a respectful way that doesn’t undermine the message of the source material. Having a bunch of kids and teenagers murdering each other in a battle royale video game is not great optics, especially since many video games shy away from including children at all, as is the case with titles like Grand Theft Auto. Or if a game does have kids in them, players aren’t able to commit the same level of violence against them as they can the adults in that same world, as is the case with Bethesda’s Fallout and Elder Scrolls games.

Considering this, it may be best if a potential Hunger Games video game was single-player only, as opposed to a multiplayer battle royale game. While there would be a huge financial upside for a Hunger Games video game to be a battle royale, such a mode would glorify the violence as opposed to presenting it in a way that echoes the source material’s themes. While there is plenty of violence to be found in The Hunger Games, the books have a firm stance that these “games” are morally reprehensible, and there are anti-war themes that permeate throughout the entire franchise.

A single-player Hunger Games video game could put players in the role of a tribute that has to go through the horrific ordeal. Maybe it could even adapt the existing books and films, with players taking on the role of Katniss Everdeen as she attempts to survive the Games, keep her friends alive, and eventually rebel against the antagonistic Capitol. Alternatively, the game could allow players to create their own character and attempt to survive in one of the many other Hunger Games, most of which have not been detailed by author Suzanne Collins.

Perfectly Set Up for Gaming

moral issues making hunger games video game

Narratively, there are some big questions the developers of a Hunger Games video game would need to grapple with, and some moral hurdles to overcome. But looking past the moral issues of having young children kill each other in a video game, The Hunger Games concept and world are perfectly set up for gaming. And in fact, we’ve seen the game’s concept applied to gaming already through the many battle royales that are currently dominating the market.

As it so happens, The Hunger Games deserves more than a little credit for inspiring the battle royale craze in gaming. While the Japanese film Battle Royale may have originated the general last man standing idea, The Hunger Games popularized it for a global audience. And with no official Hunger Games video game to play, gamers started making mods for Minecraft based on The Hunger Games.

The Minecraft Hunger Games mods would go on to inspire mods for other games with similar rules, and eventually full-fledged video games started getting released based on the battle royale concept. The success of the battle royale genre proves that there is an audience for a Hunger Games video game, but those games are able to run with the idea without having to deal with the darker themes of The Hunger Games.

Most battle royale games feature adult characters, whereas The Hunger Games requires teenagers and kids. Other battle royales have characters that are so cartoony they don’t really come across as “human.” The majority of Fortnite’s characters would fit in that category, with Epic Games’ battle royale also including plenty of fictional characters on the roster as well to really drive that point home. There is nothing realistic about Fortnite and so it doesn’t have to deal with the same kind of moral quandaries that The Hunger Games does.

Fortnite’s battle royale matches are meant to be fun. Matches of PUBG and Call of Duty: Warzone are meant to be fun. The titular Hunger Games are not meant to be fun. They are supposed to be a serious, terrible ordeal for those who are forced to compete in them, and it’s hard to see how that could be accurately reflected in a large-scale multiplayer video game. Especially since a Hunger Games video game would almost certainly be filled with microtransactions, goofy cosmetics, and weird events that would further separate the game from the important messages of the source material.

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