Monday, April 9, 2012

Game Theory in The Hunger Games!

A couple of weeks ago I finished the first book of the The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. For those of you who don’t know The Hunger Games yet or who refuse to participate in The Hunger Games “hype”, I will first give a short summary. The Hunger Games is about sixteen year old Katniss Aberdeen, who is a “tribute” (contestant) in The Hunger Games, an annual event in which one boy and one girl from each district, between the ages 12 and 18,  are selected to compete in a battle in which only one person can survive. In this blog, I would like to share my thoughts about how game theory is related to the Hunger Games. More specific, I noticed that in the ending scene, Katniss and Peeta face a prisoner's dilemma. In the ending scene, Peeta and Katniss are the only tributes left and one must kill the other to win. However, Katniss doesn't agree with this "one winner rule" and threatens to eat poisonous berries. Since the prisoner's dilemma is such an important concept in Game Theory, I would like to discuss the prisoner dilemma, as depicted in the Hunger Games. As we have learned in lecture, in a prisoners dilemma, two players are presented with two choices: cooperate or defect (or betray). The outcomes will depend not only on whether or not player one cooperates, but whether the other player cooperates as well. In this scenario, the best outcome would be when both Katniss and Peeta would cooperate, but what if one defects and the other cooperates? The table below shows the possible outcomes for both parties (K= Katniss, P= Peeta):

In a prisoner's dilemma it all comes down to a matter of trust. What would Katniss and Peeta decide while the world is watching? Keep reading the book to find out how Katniss and Peeta solve this prisoner's dilemma... or go see the movie :)


  1. **SPOILERS**

    I'm not sure if Game Theory requires the participants to know all the possible outcomes, but in this case, Katniss and Peeta did NOT know that they would both win the games if they chose to "take" the berries. However, they would have won in the manner that the Capitol would not have winners to showcase for the year's Hunger Games. So perhaps if you changed the Cooperate/Cooperate box to "Katniss and Peeta win against the capitol", it might be a little more accurate? I'm not entirely sure, all I know is that it wasn't assured that they would win the games if they both cooperated.

  2. You're right! I thought about that but didnt know how to phase it (explains the '?') ' winning against the capital' might have been better..