Written by: Anastasia Salter, Pop-Culture Editor
If I had to pick a movie release from this year to make a Facebook game out of, I probably wouldn’t have picked The Hunger Games. Yes, it’s insanely popular, even among people who haven’t read the book series that inspired it all. And yes, it does include “Games” in the title, along with plenty of arbitrary-rules-based conflict that’s begging to be translated into either the most violent reality TV show yet or a multiplayer first-person Halo-esque bloodbath. But nowhere did the bloodthirsty genetically-engineered “mutts” or vicious fights to the death suggest “animated, adorable social game.” And yet, “The Hunger Games Adventures” is now on Facebook…and it’s not nearly as bad as you might think.
Previous tie-ins to The Hunger Games on Facebook have been disappointingly marketing based, like the Capitol and District ID Cards in a vague AR-game leading up to the film release. The free iOS game, “Girl on Fire”, is a retro style reflex game, is already a better than usual tie-in. The action-oriented gameplay, not to mention the playing as Katniss, makes more immediate sense than this idea of being another person in Katniss’s world, living in District 12, Facebook style. The player starts with a home base for foraging, archery, healing, and fishing under Katniss’s tutelage. Katniss, on the other hand, is remarkably inactive…she spends her time giving the player orders and advice, while standing and watching.
Don’t get me wrong…The Hunger Games is the weirdest mix of a faithful adaptation and a cutesy “for kids” version of a story (like those illustrated classics with all the blood edited out) I’ve seen in a long time. The most disconcerting part of the new Hunger Games social game is how cute everyone is—check out Katniss and a crying(!) Prim to see how the game makers visually stuck to the looks of the main actors, through a lens of animation:
So far, there’s a very limited set of “missions” to play, and the story is taking place before the book even started. However, the intention seems to be to continually release updates, and maintain the game all the way through the film trilogy. Frankly, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. One wonders if the developers have even read the series ending and considered what they are up against. They are a long time from getting into that, of course—the latest content release includes Prim’s missing cat:
The gameplay is the very casual end of social—mostly it involves clicking on objects, and those objects aren’t even hidden. An option on every quest will bring you right to the necessary objects. “Hunting” is also a matter of clicking repeatedly on enemies, and there don’t seem to even be any skills-based minigames to break up the point and click and this stage. Perhaps later, when the game leaves its tutorial levels, we’ll see more variety.
Facebook social games of this genre have some familiar hallmarks, and The Hunger Games Adventures is no exception. Many actions can only be completed by waiting, often through very long periods, for resource timers to reset. The “energy bar” governing the number of actions that can be completed in any one visit is also very slow to refill, and of course real money can speed up the game and open premium items. So far, it seems to be playable without harassing friends to join or spending real cash, but that might change in the future.
Right now, it’s hard to tell where this is going. It could potentially be fascinating if it diverges from the book, following the story of Gale and Prim and the rest of District 12 while Katniss goes to The Hunger Games. As enemies don’t die in the game (rather like in Pokemon), that might also save them from confronting the story’s reality while also allowing for the chance to tell more of the story at home than the novel originally showed. The design team behind the game is impressive, and perhaps the story will be worth watching. As it stands, for Hunger Games fans, taking a moment to admire the adorableness that is animated Peeta and Gale alone is worth the inconvenience of connecting the game to a Facebook account.