Making lanyards, roasting marshmallows and taking swim lessons are all standard fare at summer camp, but what about a post-apocalyptic death match where campers hunt each other to their doom? That’s just what participants are doing at one Florida summer camp. Inspired by the wildly-popular The Hunger Games book-turned-movie trilogy, the Country Day School in Largo, Florida, established a Hunger Games summer camp with a twist sure to reassure parents: There’s no actual killing.
While the books focus on the harrowing ordeal of 16-year old Katniss Everdeen who is forced to fight gladiator-style against other teenage killers in a frightening glimpse at a dystopian future, at summer camp, the games are more akin to flag football. The campers collect flags from other children to signify a “killing.” When counselors balked at the violent rhetoric, the camp opted to alter the meaning of the flags to the more euphemistic “collecting lives.”
Changing the purpose of the captured flags is just one of the concessions that the camp had to make in order to try and cut out the violence in an inherently violent pop culture series. As the camp week progressed, counselors and the camp director grew concerned about the violence that the kids were expressing and counselors had to keep reminding the day campers that there would be no actual violence and no fight to the death. The camp’s head counselor, Lindsey Gillette, told the Tampa Bay Times that “the violence the kids had expressed was off-putting.” Half-way through the week-long exercise, the camp decided to re-think its mission and focus instead on team-building activities, which suited participants just fine. If only President Snow of Panem had the same change of heart.