The odds weren't exactly in Stephanie Engle's favor going into Lycoming College's first Hunger Games competition.
The Lycoming College senior missed the training day the night before, and almost immediately after entering the arena, she "lost" an arm.
But Engle was able to push past these disadvantages and was crowned the games' victor.
A team of participants constructs a shelter to stay safe from a storm with dodge ball sized hail at the Lycoming College Hunger Games.
Lycoming College students recently participated in their own version of “Hunger Games” as a fundraiser for Project Hope Alliance to fight world hunger and poverty. Each player dressed in black with flags attached to their bodies that opposing team members and teammates could pull off to earn points and kill opponents. Game rules are read off from behind the banner, as shown at top. Shown above, players chase each other “to the death.”
"I didn't think I was going to make it past the first two rounds, to be honest," Engle said. "I'm just really excited, because I didn't expect to make it this far."
Engle represented District 11, a combination of two campus religious groups, and was one of 24 tributes that took part in Nigel Barnes and Taylor Kendra's re-imagination of the popular book and movie series.
With Barnes acting as president and Kendra as head game maker, the two faithfully adapted the elements of the fictional world to fit a college environment, with a charitable twist. The games raised money toward Project Hope Alliance, which fights poverty and hunger on a global scale, as well as a can drive, which gathered food to be donated locally.
Along with a team of five other game makers, Kendra and Barnes transformed the college's Recreation Center into an arena for the competition.
They designed rounds to challenge the competitors, employing elements from the books like "mutts"-genetic mutations that threaten the tributes' lives (but in the College setting, friends in masks who chased the contestants)-and annoyances to speed the killing along like playing viral song "What Does the Fox Say?" until 5 tributes were killed or $50 was donated to Project Hope Alliance.
"Sort of like how the actual games in the movies, how the game makers call the shots, we've designed the rounds so they're not one hundred percent concrete that that's what's going to happen," Barnes said.
Of course, there was also the pesky issue of tributes not actually being allowed to kill each other, as they do in the source material.
To get around that, the two masterminds gave tributes nine flags: three around the waist, one for each limb, one on the heart and one on the neck. Losing one of your "vitals" (the heart or neck) or losing all three of your waist flags equaled death. If an arm or leg flag was pulled, tributes had to compete in the rest of the games without using that limb.
"It's like battle royale flag football," Kendra said.
To help tributes, lifelines were made available through sponsor points, which friends of the tributes and observers could build up through their donations.
"We've got sponsors that can help make things better for the tributes in the arena, and maybe it will be giving them back an extra flag they've lost or if they need something else that will help them in the arena for something that we throw at them," Kendra said.
"And as the games go on, certain things that they want or need will cost more sponsor points. And each district has provided a mentor that will be controlling when the sponsor points will be used for them. And some things they can't be helped with. You know if you get your heart ripped out, we're not saving you ... but a limb, yeah, we might be able to buy you a limb again."
Engle benefitted from the sponsor points, regaining a waist flag and eventually an arm flag.
Going into the games with a strategy was just as important as it is in the books, and the tributes were eager to play along.
"At first I wasn't going to go in as an alliance, but it just kind of happened," Engle said.
Engle teamed up with her fellow District 11 tribute Peeta and Katniss style and tried to help her stay in the games, but was unable to help her teammate secure a pair of goggles needed to avoid an airborne "poison" in one of the rounds.
While the games may seem divisive, they served in uniting the college campus and raised $235 in online donations, 80 pounds of canned food and a yet undetermined amount of money through in-person donations. At the end of the day, that was Barnes' goal.
"One of the main things that I really wanted to stress is that even though it's all these clubs and fraternities and sororities competing against each other, it's also a chance to bring the entire campus together in one event for something that's bigger than everybody, really," he said.
The games will continue next year with planning already in the works for the event.