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Katniss Everdeen and the Birth of Battle Royale

Mark Twain once famously said, “There is no such thing as a new idea”. To prove his point, bestselling Historical Romance author Jude Deveraux is quoted as saying “There are no new stories. It all depends on how you handle them”.

So it is with novels, so it is with movies, songs, and even video games. Take, for example, the current hot thing in games – Battle Royale.

Fortnite and PUBG are the kings of the Battle Royale hill at the moment, but Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is making waves before it even gets released, putting the crown in contention (see our story on it!). Whoever ends up being the leader of the Battle Royale pack, the industry is pretty sure the game mode will stay popular for a long time.

But where did it come from? How did this new style of gameplay suddenly explode onto the scene seemingly overnight? Well, like so many overnight sensations, it took decades to happen.

Life is a game. So fight for survival and see if you’re worth it.

Battle Royale Japanese Film

In 1999, Koushun Takami published his first novel, Batoru Rowaiaru. For those of us who don’t speak Japanese, that translates to Battle Royale. The book, which takes place in an alternative history where Japan got real into fascism after World War II, is focused on a group of 50 classes of high school kids who are dropped off on an island and forced to fight to the death until there is only one student left from each class.

Takami’s book was a huge hit in Japan, and soon became a hit around the world. Not long after the book was published it was adapted into both a manga series and a movie. The movie gained a big old cult following, with the poster sure to be found in almost every film school student’s room for a good ten years.

The thing with Takami’s story, and the forms it took after the novel was released, that kept it from being a huge success in the US are two-fold. First off, Americans, in general, tend to ignore foreign made art. Second, the matter of fact violence and horror that takes place in Battle Royale is not something American audiences run to en masse.

That’s where Suzanne Collins comes in.

I volunteer as tribute!

Hunger Games Team

Suzanne Collins says she came up with her trilogy while watching TV. She was flipping through the channels, going back and forth between a reality show and news coverage of the Iraq War. The spark of an idea grew when Collins thought about Theseus, the mythical founder of Athens who took on the social order of the time to create a new society.

And while it can be hard to believe that Collins wasn’t inspired by Takami’s story, remember that Mark Twain quote. Also remember that Takami’s story has a lot of similarities to, among other things, William Goldman’s classic novel Lord of the Flies.

Back to the point. The first book of Collins’ young adult tale – The Hunger Games – hit shelves in 2008 and was a smash success. The story – if you missed out on the phenomena – follows 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen. Katniss lives in District 12 with her mom and sister. When the annual Hunger Games starts up – a yearly competition where kids are forced to fight on live TV – Katniss volunteers to take part in the event in order to save her sister.

The books were huge, and the movies – starring  Jennifer Lawrence – were astronomical. The four films grossed just under three billion dollars across the world.

Katniss becomes a symbol of hope in a dystopian future where just about everyone is oppressed. Her strength, kindness, and confidence have made the character a role model to millions of teens. The impact of the books, movies and the character in specific couldn’t be ignored by the rest of the entertainment industry. That’s how Katniss’ story was taken and while being different enough to not get sued, made into faux 8-bit blocks for Minecraft.

Mine those Crafts, Pub that G and Fort that Nite!

Minecraft Stuff

Not long after the release of the first Hunger Games movie, a server plug-in was added to Minecraft. At first, this plug-in didn’t even bother hiding where the inspiration came from – it was straight up named Hunger Games. Soon enough, the name changed to Survival Games. I guess Famished Games was still too on the nose?

Survival Games became a huge hit in the already huge hit that was Minecraft.

Not long after the release of Survival Games came DayZ, a mod for ARMA 2. Created by Dean Hall, the open world mod put the player in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Your goal is to survive by scrounging for supplies and killing zombies or, when needed, other players.

DayZ was a big hit, selling more than 300,000 copies of ARMA 2 before being turned into a standalone game. Still, one issue some players had was how slow the gameplay was. One player, Brendan Greene – better known as “PlayerUnknown”, created his own mod for the game that focused on faster gameplay and quick rounds. While his wasn’t the first mod to do this, Greene didn’t take his inspiration from Hunger Games like so many others did, he took it from Takami’s Battle Royale. So that’s what he named his mod – Battle Royale.

Greene’s mod found an audience and in time he decided to create his own game – PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, better known as PUBG. By the end of 2017, PUBG had sold 20 million units.

Also released in 2017 was Epic Games’ Fortnite. Despite coming out after PUBG, Fortnite was quickly able to take the Battle Royale crown, due in no small part to the game being released in a free-to-play format, making its money off of microtransactions. If you’re wondering, those microtransactions have built up to be a whole lotta green. Since the game’s release in September 2017, Epic has made over $1.2 billion dollars.

The games industry is betting big on the Battle Royale format. We already discussed Activision’s first stab at the genre with Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, but there’s more on the way. EA has promised that Battlefield V will have a Battle Royale mode when it is released, and  Grand Theft Auto OnlinePaladinsDota 2, and Battlerite have already added Battle Royale mods to their games.

Making Battle Royale even cooler is that our soon to be overlords in China hate it. The Chinese government stated that the Battle Royale game mode “deviates from the values of socialism and is deemed harmful to young consumers”. 

If you’ll allow me to steal a line from Woody Guthrie and mangle it for my own needs, according to China this game mode kills fascists. That kinda makes it worth playing even more, doesn’t it?


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