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The Hunger ‘Game’ Theory

The recent gore-meets-romance-meets-teenage-thriller-blockbuster ‘The Hunger Games’ has prompted millions of fans to ask the unsettling question: “What would I do?”  In a future dystopian world, the government maintains order by forcing 24 teens from various ‘districts’ to fight to the death in an artificial arena to earn glory and riches.  Survival against the elements and fellow competitors results in alliances, betrayals, bloody murders and, somehow, romantic entanglement.  Lets be honest, most of us read the book because of the last one…  But if it were you in the arena, what course would you choose (aside from subsiding into a complete mental breakdown)?

This website gives an interesting insight into the mathematics behind the pre-game opening chapters:

I want to look at the games themselves and, more specifically, the alliance that forms between some of the most skilled and lethal of the competitors: the “careers” who voluntarily enter the games.  Player A has trained with a sword in his home district.  First chance he gets he grabs this weapon from a stack provided early on in the games.  Player B is stealthy.  She can steal supplies and weapons from other players and she can get around pretty unnoticed.  Say Player A and B run into each other.  Here comes the choice: team up and trust the other one, or immediately go for the kill…

If the two team up, they will both survive a bit longer.  However, the superior hand-to-hand combat skills of Player A gives him the advantage if Player B decides to attack Player A or vice versa.  In this situation, it is in Player B’s best interest to form an alliance with Player A.  Player A’s decision requires us to add some more details to the game.  Moral implications aside, Player A must choose to either eliminate Player B as a threat or use Player B’s skills to his advantage to increase his survival odds.  Lets look at the benefits of this alliance over time:

Player B’s stealth gives them the advantage in this alliance.  She will have the element of surprise if they decide to turn on Player A.  Player A won’t make it long without Player B’s ability to procure food and supplies.  Even if Player A turns on Player B, he will not survive long afterwards due to exposure.  If they do form an alliance, the best on seems to be a completely trusting one.  The success of this choice is evidenced by the survival of the books two main characters who form a completely trusting alliance that utilizes each player’s unique skills.  However, when the alliances of the Players decay, there is no telling what will actually happen.  Perhaps that is what makes the novel so gripping…

Well thats enough morbidity for today.  There’s more than just game theory in this film and novel phenomenon, but I encourage you to watch it with an eye for strategy.  Check out the trailer here:  watch?v=SMGRhAEn6K0

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