‘Hunger Games’ Themed Summer Camp Raises Eyebrows

Generally, parents like to think their children are being taught important life lessons at summer camp, like the value of teamwork, comraderie and concern for others. But if parents who sent their kids to Florida’s Hunger Games-themed summer camp really expected their children to be doing trust falls and sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya, they must not have read the books.

The Country Day School in Largo, Florida, inspired by the popular dystopian book series/movie franchise, recently established a week-long summer program, in which kids prepared to compete in a Hunger Games-esque tournament. The competition, set to take place at the end of the week, would be won by the child who had “killed” the most of his/her competitors by overcoming trials and taking flags from other kids (each flag collected symbolized a successful kill).

Though the rules of the game itself didn’t differ that much from other common camp games like capture the flag (the counselors repeatedly reminded the children that there was to be no actual violence or fighting to the death), it became clear rather quickly that the children were determined to more accurately reenact the violent events of the source material. “The violence the kids had expressed was off-putting,” the camp’s head counselor, Lindsey Gilette, told the Tampa Bay Times.

In order to dissuade the campers from taking the theme too literally, the rules of the tournament were tweaked mid-week to focus a bit more on team-building, and the terminology of the final game’s goal was changed from “killing” to “collecting lives.”

While some feel the program is harmless — or at least no more harmful than the countless other games kids take part in than involve fake death — others find the concept disturbing.

Counselor Simon Bosés pointed out to the Tampa Bay Times that at a camp next door to the Hunger Games camp, about two dozen kids played a computer game where they built structures to protect their lives from monsters. Kids can fake-die in nearly any game these days, he said. Meanwhile, Susan Toler, a clinical psychologist specializing in children’s issues and an assistant dean at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, called the camp idea “unthinkable.”

“…when they start thinking and owning and adopting and assuming the roles, it becomes closer to them,” Toler said. “The violence becomes less egregious.”

So what do you think, readers? Is it harmless fun and games fostering imagination and competition, or is the program glorifying violence? Is all the recent media coverage a PR disaster for the camp, or will it just make the program more popular?