Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pairing It Down: Happy Hunger Games

                                             Image by muffincheese and taken from www.DeviantArt.com

By Kiel Howell

     Hello all you readers out there! After our short break here at the Pincushion we are ready and raring to go. This week’s theme is The Hunger Games. I’ll be honest, because I feel like we are friends dear reader, I haven’t read the books. I didn’t even know about them until the first movie came out in theaters. I have only seen the first movie (at the time of this writing).

     Still, The Hunger Games is a very compelling world to game in. There’s a horrific government, wanton slaughter, no freedom, class disparity, and still there’s hope—the only thing greater than fear. In many ways we as gamers like to explore the depths of darkness and grim insanity and what our responses to that would be.

What creates a good place to explore those kinds of things? Does it have to be grimdark? Horror?

     I would argue that the answer is no. In a prior week we covered Firefly as a theme. That show was very witty and could be described as light-hearted. But it had a pretty grim universe. Government oppression, banditry, and class disparity. Sound familiar?

     That’s what we can focus on pairing down. What kind of setting do we want this to be and how we convey it. The Hunger Games features the title of the series as a terrible annual event that occurs in the world. Selection of two children from each of the different sectors to fight to the death. That’s an awful thing...and yet it has attractiveness in terms of wanting to explore that world and (likely) save it. As a writer you have to prey upon emotions and human tendencies. It’s part of the job and it sounds bad but it’s all in how you think about it. You have to be calculated and clinical to pick a topic or a theme that others will react to. That’s the key, reaction. Positive or negative, an elicited emotion is what brings people back for more.

     Does your world have a history of brutal cannibalism stemming from an eternal tyrant? Does your world feature a timed event where people must make a deadly pilgrimage to avoid catastrophe for everyone? Does your character have murderous tendencies because they grew up in a fighting arena or a gang?

     Sit down and think about your world. What drives the most prevalent nation on your world? Is it a fear generating government? Is it religion? There should be one thing that each significant populated place has or does that shapes life for the people there. “Teldip has a few shops, an armorer, and a castle” isn’t nearly so exciting to explore (multiple times) as “Teldip is famous for its Gastro Games every year where people are the meal”. The physical stuff can come later, but figuring out what is the center of the story, world, city, or person will make sure that someone wants to come see that physical stuff.

     I challenge you, the readers, to leave a comment about what makes YOU want to come back to a world time and again. Until next week in which I try to pair something down from Dr. Who. (and I’ve only started watching it a few days ago!)

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