Can Neuroscience Explain the Popularity of The Hunger Games?

We’ve learned more about the human brain in the last ten years than the previous ten thousand. Adolescence in particular is a time of dramatic change.

I’m currently pursing a master’s in social science and as I have two daughters on either side of the teenage spectrum (10 and 19), I decided to enroll in a course on Adolescent Brain Development.  

I’ve learned that from age 10 to 25, approximately, the human brain goes through significant structural transitions as it is both built up through the maturation of various areas of the cortex and the myelination (coating) of neurons, and thinned out through synaptic pruning, a kind of knowledge specialization.

The teenage brain advances in a back-to-front pattern. The prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for executive functions such as impulse control, emotional response, decision making, planning and judgement, is not considered fully matured until the mid-twenties.

Let me put it another way: it’s a lot like the Hunger Games. Continue reading Can Neuroscience Explain the Popularity of The Hunger Games?

Catching Fire: Seeds of Rebellion The Board Game

Catching Fire © Sophie Brown
Catching Fire © Sophie Brown

I’m always slightly wary of board games that exist purely as movie tie-ins. They often seem to be developed quickly and cheaply to cash in on the film’s popularity rather than having any real effort applied to the game mechanics. This was my fear for Catching Fire: Seeds of Rebellion, the latest board game from the Hunger Games franchise; but there is quite a bit more to this game than first meets the eye.

The first thing you might notice about this game is that the box—and indeed the board, playing pieces, and everything else included—features no artwork from the film franchise. Instead the game builds on the story in the books rather than the glossy Hollywood adaptation. There is absolutely no mention of Katniss, Peeta, or even the Hunger Games themselves in the game’s instructions. Instead the game focuses on the rebellion that is growing in the background of the main story throughout the second installment of the saga.

In Seeds of Rebellion you are cast as a rebel leader attempting to set up secret bases across Panem. Missions are distributed across all twelve districts and you are tasked with collecting the different resources (food, medicine, information, fuel, and people) required for each one. Acquiring all the resources for a mission allows you to complete it and place one of your colored bases in that district. Each mission is worth a number of rebellion points depending on the difficulty—the number of resources required to complete it—and the player with the most points when a mission is completed and cannot be replaced from the stack is the winner.

The board after a game © Sophie Brown
The board after a game © Sophie Brown

Of course there are a number of obstacles standing in your way. Players can send Peacekeepers to different districts, each one increasing the number of resources required to complete nearby missions. Whenever a player completes a mission they draw a new one from the stack to replace it. Each mission is specific to a district and every mission on a district must be completed together. That can mean that as you are about to complete a set of missions, a new one is added to that district forcing you to start collecting something else and stopping you from completing those already there and placing your base.

As well as obstacles that hinder you, the game also provides opportunities for bonus points to be gained. Each player is assigned a number of strategic objectives at the beginning of the game. These are cards that highlight a number of specific districts within Panem; establishing a base in your strategic objective districts awards you bonus points. You can also gain bonus points by becoming an expert in completing certain kinds of missions or by being varied and completing one of every kind of mission.

The game mechanic itself is very simple: collect cards with symbols on that represent the various different resources available, and, once you have enough, discard the cards to complete the missions. However this simplicity could be a huge boost to the game. Not only is it simple enough for non-gamers to pick up and play quickly, the game could also be inserted into a larger campaign game as a mechanic for gathering resources and establishing bases. The tiny board (no really, this is the tiniest board I have ever seen) is again very simplistic with just the district symbols marking out each region, so it could easily be incorporated as a map in a larger RPG or even a LARP game looking for a simple way of committing resources across an area.

It’s great to see a spin-off game whose developers have really thought about what the original story is about and designed the game to become part of that world. Winning Catching Fire: Seeds of Rebellion sets up the rebellion so that the events in the final book of the series, Mockingjay, have a chance at being successful. Lose and the Capitol will probably be victorious; honestly this game really should have been a co-op. There probably isn’t an enormous amount of replay value here so the price could be a little steep but if you’re looking for a game that really ties in well to its fictional universe or need one to play with family on Christmas Day then there are far worse choices.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes. 

Four Speculative-Fiction and Fantasy Foodie Blogs

Food Through The Pages
Food Through The Pages

Looking to bring a little fiction to the dinner table? These four blogs have you covered:

Food Through The Pages

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel cooked her way through Game of Thrones, not to mention books by Scott Lynch (Lies of Locke Lamora), Steven Brust (the Vlad Taltos series), and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games). Her gorgeous photos and progress notes make it possible to reproduce Neil Gaiman’s Button Cookies (Coraline) and Laura Moon’s Chili (American Gods), and many more dishes.

The Inn at the Crossroads

Dedicated to food from George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer have recreated meals from all across Westeros. Their recipe book, A Feast of Ice and Fire, comes with an introduction by GRRM himself.

Bryton Taylor’s Food and Literature Blog

Offerings include fairy tales (like Snow White), food from The Hobbit, and Willie Wonka meals, both homemade and professionally prepared.

Rollings Reliable

Olivia Youngers has been posting great SciFriday recipes, including food related to Fringe, Seanan McGuire’s Deadline, and Futurama.


GeekMom reviewed A Feast of Ice and Fire in May 2012.

Fourteen Fictional Foods You Can't Have (And Recipes For Them)

This picture is a lie. Image credit: qwrrty

Our favorite fictional worlds are often fantastically full of fantasy flavors–some better than others. It’s hard to resist creating Earthly versions of them, so why fight it? Here are fourteen foods from fiction and ways to make them yourself, along with three you can find without much invention.


Of the myriad Middle Earth munchies, lembas seems to be the most popular to recreate. (Maybe because “cram” is a less appealing name, especially when eating it is described as “a chewing exercise.”) Lembas, on the other hand, has a description similar to hard tack, a cracker sort of thing we don’t see much of in the US. Here’s a lembas recipe based on what we know about it. At the end of the experiment, you will be baked andthentherewillbe cake.

Fruity Oaty Bars

I wouldn’t fault you for printing Fruity Oaty Bar wrappers and putting them on your Clif bars. That seems reasonable, and less likely to have any ill effects from consuming Blue Sun products. But if you want to make your own, they tell us right there in the name that they likely contain something resembling fruit, something resembling oats, and are bar-shaped. How convenient! Even more convenient–a recipe using oats and the fruit puree of your choice. I invited your best friend, the Companion Cube. Of course, he couldn’t come because you murdered him.


Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the post. This is your fault. I’m going to kill you. And all the cake is gone. You don’t even care, do you?


Leave it to the Klingons to name a delicacy with the sound a human is likely to make when eating it. Short of actually eating live worms (which I really don’t recommend, despite enjoying How to Eat Fried Worms), you can recreate the look with Jell-o Blood Worms. If your tongue is brave, try this recipe made with ginger and cocoa. And if you’re really yearning for the sensation, I think you could get close with casu marzu.Momentum, a function of mass and velocity, is conserved between portals. In layman’s terms, speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out.


Really? Really? You want to eat spoo? Babylon 5 fans are so weird. (I love you anyway.) How about some gnocchi spoo? It’s not worms, but we covered that particular taste with the gagh. Did you know you can donate one or all of your vital organs to the Aperture Science Self Esteem Fund for Girls? It’s true!

Food cubes

Dear Future,

Nutrition is important, but food is supposed to look good as well as taste good. Please remember this.

The present

I’m all about space travel, but you won’t see me spending long on any planet that thinks food cubes are a good idea. Claudia Black, who played Aeryn Sun on Farscape, says they used “hawanalis.” A poster on the RPF suggests that what she really meant was haw flake candy.That thing you burnt up isn’t important to me. It’s the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit; it makes shoes for orphans. Nice job breaking it, hero.


The problems with popplers are plentiful, and not limited to MEAT protests. There’s the lack of transportation to Omicron Persei 8, the difficulty of eating animated food, and the fact that I can’t stop thinking about my fond 80s feelings for Popples. Searching for imitation recipes of this Futurama universe delicacy will yield you everything from seafood bites to hush puppies to chicken nuggets, so choose your favorite deep-fried, ball-shaped treat and sing along. You can pick ’em, you can lick ’em, you can chew ’em, you can stick ’em. If you promise not to sue us, you can shove one up your nose!” The Enrichment Center is required to remind you that the Weighted Companion Cube cannot talk. In the event that it does, ignore its advice.

Ice planets

Your food is problematic? Let us solve your problem! Make your own Firefly ice planets to torture your kids all afternoon. Anyway, this cake is great. It’s so delicious and moist. Look at me still talking when there’s science to do.

Continue reading Fourteen Fictional Foods You Can't Have (And Recipes For Them)

Win a Hunger Games Giveaway Pack!

Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games movie

As readers and fans of the The Hunger Games books are gearing up for the movie coming out March 23rd, GeekMom has a giveaway, courtesy of Lionsgate, to help your preparations.

Included in the package is:

– 1 Softcover book of The Hunger Games
– 1 Hunger Games pin
– 3 Mini posters (Katniss, stadium, final)
– 1 Trading card pack
1 Copy of the soundtrack

The last one really caught my eye. Given the trailers for the movie, the soundtrack looks absolutely killer.

To enter to win, in the comments below, tell us why you’re looking forward to the movie. U.S. residents only.

We’ll announce the winner next Monday.

ETA: The winner was announced on Monday, March 19th. The contest is now closed.

Hunger Games Trailer: What’s Your Take?

What do you think? Our first extended look inside the movie…seeing Katniss salute the TV viewers gave me goosebumps. But Woody Harrelson’s floppy hair made me yell at my screen. That’s not my Haymitch. He needs to be straggly and grizzled, absolutely, but that hair is just silly.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket: spot on. And Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman: not at all the picture in my head (I saw him as more of a Liberace figure), but I LOVE this glimpse of the character. Awesome. It’s Tucci’s powerhouse charisma, just perfect.

New Hunger Games Posters Reveal Characters

The Hunger Games movie posters (Katniss and Peeta)

Today’s release of the new posters for The Hunger Games movie couldn’t be more timely for me. I began the trilogy on a whim Monday during a long flight when I found my husband had added the books to my Kindle. Three days later, I’m finished, thanks to books that refused to be put down, even when I knew I should be sleeping.

Never have I seen a set of actors in a movie or TV adaptation so precisely match the image I had of a book’s characters in my mind. The only exception is Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, and as soon as I saw the glint of gold eyeliner, Kravitz took the place of my previous mental image of Cinna.

See all eight posters, including Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch, Gale, Cato, Rue, Effie, and Cinna.

Other Hunger Games goodies:

The Hunger Games premiers in theaters March 23, 2012, giving you plenty of time to pick up these amazing books if you haven’t already. May the odds be ever in your favor!

The Hunger Games Trailer: “You Know How to Hunt.”

If your teen is anything like mine, she’s been counting the days until the release of the Hunger Games movie next March. Heck, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been counting!  We got our first peek at the film in a short trailer that aired at MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night.

What did you think? It’s a brief tease, all right…there’s a hunted, haunted-looking Katniss running through the woods, dodging flaming tree limbs. We hear Gale on the voiceover: “They just want a good show, that’s all they want. You know how to hunt. Show ’em how good you are.” I love the wicked hiss of Katniss’s arrow as she releases her bowstring in the trailer’s final seconds. The trailer conveys her isolation and fear, but I found something jarring in Gale’s instructions; I’d have liked to hear Katniss’s voice. She’s the one telling the story, after all.

No glimpses, yet, of Katniss’s competition in the Games, nor of the spectacle outside the Arena. We’ll be living in suspense, these next few months…