Sunday, August 18, 2013

As many of you may be aware, Matt and I recently planned a Hunger Games for our friends to play and enjoy this past July. I have been wanting to do a several part blog post on what went into planning the games along with some pictures and samples of our documenting and script planning throughout.

This is the beginning of an answer to everyone who asked me, "Wait, you're playing the Hunger Games? Are you really killing people? How do you even do that?!"

If you'd like to plan your own Hunger Games, feel free to read this and plan away, I'll try to share what worked and what did not. If you need insight or have questions please comment below or find some other way to get in touch with me.

If you aren't interested in how we planned, don't bother reading below because this will be incredibly tedious for you.


PLANNING THE GAME (March 2012-July 2013)

I cannot take credit for the original idea for this. Matt suggested that we bring the books to life with a real life version (I'm trying hard not to liken it to LARPing) about a year and a half ago. The idea was simmering in our brains for a bit and we decided to make a version that kind of was a mash-up between capture the flag, flag football, hide and seek, and ... I dunno... mud wrestling.

To start off, we created a Facebook invite in April 2013 (games were in July 2013) and this is what it said:

You have been chosen to compete in the First Annual Hunger Games. 
Spots are given based on who replies "going" the quickest. Clicking "maybe" does not guarantee you a spot. 
This is exactly what it sounds like. Once you accept your invitation and your name goes on the list it is your job to clear your schedule for the day in order to participate. We are giving you ample time to adjust your schedules. 
The games will begin in the morning and end sometime in early evening, most likely after dinner-time. 
Once we have a final list there will be a reaping about a week prior to the event in which we will choose which district you belong to and your partner. At that time we will disclose the final location and time details along with any other particulars that you may need to know.
Cost will be $15 to play. Half will go toward supplies and half will go toward a prize. May the odds be ever in your favor.

The time and location were left as TBA and the tributes were given no other information. We kept a list of the 12 men and 12 women that was updated whenever someone confirmed their spot on the page. We did manage to find 24 players with an equal gender split. This was very fortunate for us. 

Next step was to find an arena. It's important when you pick an arena to make sure that there is a large area, varied terrain, and that you (as a game maker) are familiar with the location. It doesn't really look like it here, but the area where the barn is up to the forest is probably just shy of the length of a football field. We were lucky enough to have a local business volunteer to let us use their property. I was familiar with the area and Matt was not, so before we could go do a site visit, I made a map for him to get a feel of things. 

After we had a player list and an arena, Matt and I got together and created a skeleton of how the game would go. The entire thing is a numbers game, from the game maker's perspective, and we needed to create rounds of play so that it wouldn't be just a giant free for all game of tag. We decided that the basic form of play would be that all players would begin as tributes. As they died, they would turn into sponsors and compete in inter-dispersed "sponsor challenges" to win an "influencer"  that could be used in play in the following tribute round. 

This is what our skeleton of the game looked like (click for larger image). Notice, we recorded how many tributes and sponsors would be competing in each round. This helped us with planning and making sure we were on track on game day. Each challenge's directions and other info was recorded in a detailed script we used on game day as well. 

Throughout the game planning process, we kept a couple lists of supplies we would need to get. We each spent our own money on supplies and then reimbursed ourselves with the money that the players paid to play on game day. We had 24 people bring $15 each, so we were able to split it: $70 Matt supplies, $70 Gabby supplies, $150 winning tribute and $50 winning sponsor.

After we had an idea of what our game was shaping up to look like, we assigned districts and we assigned each player a person whom they would sponsor. We tried to make sure that the person a tribute sponsored was not one of their good friends. The districts were picked based on a mix of how well people knew each other, how well we thought they would work together, etc.

We made districts 1-3 careers, and they were chosen based on athleticism or how well we thought that a person might be able to play strategically. All of these players were anticipated to be potential threats in the game. All of these players also were given information sooner than everyone else and extra information about the games to give them a leg-up, just like in the books.

Some of the supplies like the flags, tokens, and district bags to hold the tokens needed to be pre-made because, obviously, this wasn't just stuff we could buy and bring to the games. Matt and I enlisted the help of Joe to help us make some of these items. This part took forever!

We also sent out bits of correspondence to the tributes in the vein of what to bring, actual location, etc. throughout this whole planning process to keep them informed, involved, and excited.

I would like to announce your official supply list for the games, please read this carefully. 
- white tee-shirt or tank top
- solid colored tee-shirt or tank top
- black or navy shorts, pants, or leggings
-water bottle. 
-sunblock/bug spray 
-a dish to share with everyone (try to bring something low maintenance, we aren't going to have time to warm up 24 dishes in the oven)
-and $15 cash (exact change please)
YOU MAY NOT USE THE FOLLOWING DURING THE GAME:cell phones, hats, sunglasses, any other kind of footwear other than sneakers
If you want to bring these items, you can use them after you die.

The hunger games will be played at [ADDRESS]--

We ask that you be at this address no later than 9:45 am on Saturday. 
Just a reminder, this is private property so no one is to go to this address until the 27th. We don't want to bother the owners and lose permission to play 



Matt and I arrived on site at the arena at 7:00 am, three hours before the games were to start. We had to organize the supplies, set up the cornucopia, set up "home base" and make physical boundaries for playing especially since the woods in our arena went back a few miles and we didn't want anyone getting lost.

To make the boundaries, we had wooden stakes (for field areas) and brightly colored yarn (yellow and orange) to tie around those and trees in the forest in order to help establish where the arena was and out-of-bounds areas. Making this boundary in the forest was awful. Poor Matt had to bush-whack through brier patches, swampy/flooded areas, poison ivy, thickets, etc. in the attempt to get a relatively reasonable boundary line while I stood at the edge of the forest sinking in 3" of mud and yelling so he could follow my voice roughly parallel to the field. We wanted to make sure that you could hear someone in the forest (if they were yelling) from the field in case anyone got hurt or turned around since there were no cell phones allowed in the game.

Staking out the cornucopia/starting spots was also challenging. We numbered paper plates 1-24 and then staked them to the ground in a circle around the cornucopia. I will say that it's difficult to eyeball a circle where 24 points on it are split evenly from the middle and from point to point. Below is a pretty good shot of everyone getting into position at the cornucopia on game day. They were about 10'-12' from the person on either side of them and probably 25' from the center.

This prep did take us about 2.5 hours and by the time the tributes started arriving we were already covered in mud and gross so it was kind of a sign of things to come for them.

More to come later. Much more.

Click here for part two

Click here for part three


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