The record-breaking success of “The Hunger Games,” which raked in $155 million in its opening weekend, means a mountain of merchandise must be close behind. And no major franchise is complete these days without a video game.
The Hunger Games Adventures for Facebook and Hunger Games: Girl on Fire for Apple devices have already amassed loyal followers, despite the exclusion of a full-fledged arena in both games. The Hunger Games Adventures has 200,000 monthly users, according to Facebook. But Lionsgate, which owns the rights to “The Hunger Games” film series, wants to bring the high-budget and high-definition excitement of the movie to a console game.
While the Facebook and Apple games have been simple and successful, a console version could be dramatically more detailed – and profitable. But how graphic should a “Games” game be?
“Outside of the name that has ‘games’ in the title, it’s [a] no-brainer that you’d make a game based on the book or movie,” Lionsgate digital marketing vice president David Hayes told Forbes. “But we’ve been careful and cautious that when we do embark on a new project, we’re doing it the right way and delivering an experience that fans will enjoy.”
Lionsgate has reason to be cautious. Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” describes the annual Games as a fight-to-the-death. Twenty-four children enter – only one can survive. The PG-13 film was tactful in portraying these deaths, often leaving them up to the viewer’s imagination. That didn’t stop parents and bloggers from debating whether the film was appropriate for children.
But video games are notoriously graphic. Designers have been unafraid to show blood and gore before – especially in first-person shooter games, which would be a reasonable format considering Katniss is the most prominent character. The red flag? Kids killing kids is more controversial than adults killing robots or faceless enemies.
“Killing in a Hunger Games game needs to feel specific,” writes Owen Good on the popular video game blog Kotaku. “It should not be lost on the player that these are other human beings that are dying, that they have names and stories and are not simply faceless ... cannon-fodder. That means that every fight will have to be hard-won.”
Others argue that instead of attempting to make gamers feel bad for killing kids, such as option shouldn’t even exist.
“While parents might be able to talk themselves into letting their kids see the movie, because the violence is masked by various PG-13 filmic techniques, there isn't much chance of that happening in video-game land,” writes Matthew DeBord on the Southern California Public Radio website.
Regardless of the game’s aesthetics, it could face another problem – the age-old curse of the game based on a movie. Electronic Arts’ “Harry Potter” game series was widely panned by critics, as were “Enter the Matrix,” “Jaws,” for PS2 and Xbox, “Tomorrow Never Dies” (an unfortunate descendent of the excellent “GoldenEye 007”), and countless “Star Wars” duds.
Whatever comes as a result of Lionsgate’s game will fuel the debate among parents, gamers craving authenticity, censorship advocates, and fans. Its designers have an uphill battle to face, but the marketability of “The Hunger Games” ensures that the game will be at least moderately successful.
May the odds ever be in their favor.