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Chapter One

Chapter one is about breaking down and analyzing some of the main decision-making points in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Trilogy. Game theory is about studying the interactions between rational decision-makers who can be called players, and it considers these interactions as games. Whenever a player is making a choice, he is making a decision and choosing according to the things that matter to him the most or what he likes and needs. This analysis will point out the players, shedding light on their rationality, their preferences, and how far they can go to satisfy their needs. The results of this analysis will help in evaluating the players’ strategic plan and may explain their cluelessness in the next chapter. Some of these decisions are: the aftermath of the Dark Days, training Days before the games, or the coordinating games that are played inside the Hunger Games contest, and the last one is the war between Katniss and the Capitol.

The first decision is the aftermath of the failed rebellion which can be described as a “Dictator Game” using the Game Theory terms. The term Dictator game was developed by Daniel Kahneman, Jack L. Knetsch, and Richard H. Thaler, according to them, this game is about two players, the first is “The Dictator” who decides how much to share with the second player “The recipient” who has no role in the outcome of the game at all. The dictator as a self-interested player will try to maximize his gains and may even prevent the other player from any profits. G. E. Bolton et al stated that “The standard economic analysis of the dictator game pivots on the assumption that individuals prefer having more money to having less: the dictator should take all the money for himself, leaving nothing for the recipient” (270). This is exactly what happened in Panem after the “Dark Days” (HG 18). The situation was told by Katniss that seventy- three years ago, Panem consisted of thirteen districts ruled by the Capitol. The thirteen districts started a rebellion against the Capitol under the leadership of District Thirteen. The reason behind the rebellion wasn’t fully clarified. They fought the Capitol but failed. Near the end of the war, District Thirteen figures that there are no longer any possibilities of winning, it abandons the other districts and makes a secret deal with the Capitol. The deal is, that the Capitol leaves it alone and independent or it will fire its nuclear weapons and the destruction will be mutual. The Capitol has no choice but to accept, on one condition, to appear as if it destroyed the district entirely on the surface and they aren’t allowed to build anything on the ground (MJ 17). Losing the support of Districts Thirteen, the remaining ones gave up and returned to the mercy of the Capitol. These events were called the “Dark Days”, because of them, the capitol took extreme measures. A “Treaty of Treason” was signed by the defeated districts. As a result, the Capitol created the annual “Hunger Games” as a reminder and to ensure the rebellion would never be repeated. Here the Capitol is the dictator depriving the districts (recipient) of any benefits.

In the rest of the chapter, the researcher will continue examining more games using the suitable terms of Game Theory.

Chapter Two: Strategic Thinking Versus Cluelessness.

This chapter will focus on the strategic thinking concept comparing it to the concept of cluelessness. The second is introduced by Michael Suk Chwe in Jane Austen, Game Theorist. According to him, cluelessness is defined as “the absence of strategic thinking, has particular characteristics, and is not just generic foolishness” (14). He argues that Austen was the first to recognize this concept and she has many reasons explaining it according to his assumption:

Austen offers five explanations for cluelessness. The first is lack of natural ability … The second is social distance …The third is excessive self-reference … The fourth is status maintenance: a higher-status person is not supposed to think about the intentions of a lower-status person …The fifth is that sometimes presumption, believing that one can directly manipulate another’s preferences, actually works; you do not have to think about another person’s preferences because you can change them. (220)

The researcher cannot agree more with these interpretations especially the last three because they can be applied to the main characters in the Hunger Games series. In the first book Hunger Games and almost the entire second book Catching Fire, the game is between the Capitol and Katniss and there are no other players. President Snow’s cluelessness can be attributed to his social distance; he lives in the Capitol away from the miserable conditions back in the least favorable districts.

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On the other hand, strategic thinking can be found almost in all the daily interactions between people, many people take into consideration the reactions of other people when they are deciding their own choices. It seems to be a natural ability that can be developed as stated by Vincent P. Crawford et al: “Strategic thinking pervades human interaction. As soon as children develop enough “theory of mind” to model other people as independent decision-makers, they must be taught to look both ways before crossing one-way street suggesting that they instinctively assume rationality in predicting others’ decisions” (2). Crawford et al argue that it is a natural skill, children learn it from childhood and which is developed over the years. In the Hunger Games series, Katniss’s skill is developed by her years of secrecy because of her forbidden hunting in the woods. Her reflexes, speed, and ability to notice the external clues around her are much better than the untrained children of the other districts who don’t stand a chance. Strategic thinking is used by the oppressed young Katniss to fight for her life and the freedom of Panem.

To act strategically, players need all the available information to use and make their plans, and because the story is told from the first-person perspective (Katniss’s point of view), it gives a hint about the amount of known information to her or shared with her. Although the available information is too limited, she manages to survive one hunger game and a Quarter Quell almost by herself. She can think creatively under pressure. She knows her aims and comes up with suitable plans to achieve them, she can assign simple tasks to those who might help her effectively. Like the incident in the first Hunger Games, with the help of Rue, she blows up the food supply of the other players to prevent them from advantage of and forces them to enter the woods where she can easily hunt them down. (HG 216-221).

By the end of this chapter, the player’s characteristics and abilities, that lead them to the final stage will be completely demonstrated, and the reasons behind their cluelessness will be clarified, setting the stage for the outcomes of their decisions to be fully discussed in the next chapter.

Chapter Three: The Payoffs.

Now in chapter three, the outcomes of the games will be pointed out, the big game between Katniss and the Capitol on one hand and the other, the hidden game between her and President Coin. As will be pointed out in Chapter One, the kind of game between President Snow and Katniss is a zero-sum game with imperfect information. One of them has to win while the other loses all at the same time. The two are taking their decisions often simultaneously, other times one of them is waiting for the other to move first to react. Because of President Snow’s cluelessness and his inability to fully understand and accept Katniss as a powerful opponent, he loses his position as a ruler of Panem and his life at the end, “On President Snow: He’s being held a prisoner, awaiting trial and execution”. (MJ 351). By entering the capitol and capturing Snow, the war between him and Katniss is finally over.

Another game appears for Katniss, it is the hidden war between her and the new president (Coin) who seems to be just another copy of the cruel Snow. She will do anything and sacrifice many lives to get her revenge and be in a powerful position. After talking with President Snow where he is imprisoned, Katniss recognizes how Coin and Snow are the same because they share a similar thirst for power, Thus, she has to be sure about the truth before deciding any further moves. Once she understands the truth, she cannot forget Coin for killing her sister, “Was it your bomb?” “I don’t know. Neither does Beetee,” he says. “Does it matter? You’ll always be thinking about it” He waits for me to deny it.; I want to deny it, but it’s true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites her, feel [sic] the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to separate that moment from Gale. My silence is my answer.” (MJ 367). After that, when President Coin decides to set another hunger game having the children of the capitol competing against each other, Katniss has to make a dangerous decision that will not only affect her life but also the lives of the people of Panem.

The rest of the chapter will focus on how the game’s outcome is or is not consistent with the players’ decisions and strategic abilities.

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