The Dystopian Games: A Teen Library Event

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I think I love dystopian stories because I've always kinda wanted to be in a rebellion. I read the Giver along with everyone else in junior high, took a class on dystopias in college (where I was introduced to the lovely "Uglies" series), and latched onto The Hunger Games and Divergent when they got big. At our library we've done a few Hunger Games programs before (read my posts about the training here and the games here), but I wanted to do something a little more complicated. A little more in depth. Honestly, I wanted a rebellion.

After a fair bit of brainstorming with our teen workers, we were able to come up with a format for a teen program that would capture the essence of the whole dystopian trend: basically, the oppressive government against the brave rebellion. We wanted to do this in a way that was fair, fun and (sneakily) educational. I think we accomplished all three!

This event was broken into three phases. The first phase was sorting. One common practice in modern dystopian fiction is to sort the general population into classes/districts/factions. I always feel like this enhances the immersion of readers, mainly because you're left wondering "what group would I belong to?" I knew that this was something we definitely wanted to include in our program, so that night started out with the participants taking a quiz to find out what "sector" they would belong to. The quiz was just one I had found online and edited a bit to fit our purposes. We then "labeled" the participants with bracelets that said what sector they belonged to (pictured at the top of this post).

The participants also got a list of dystopian books and highlighted the ones they had read. We counted them up and put the number on their bracelets, telling them it would determine their "rank" in whatever group they ended up in. This made sorting them into "rebels" and "government" easier for us because we could make sure the teams were evenly matched. We thought we might have trouble convincing the "government" group, but it turns out they were as excited to be the bad guys as the rebels were to be the rebellion!

Phase two was the "battle planning" stage for both groups. Once we had them sorted to our satisfaction, I led the rebellion downstairs while my co-worker led the government group upstairs. We informed them that the battle would consist of three parts: the intelligence test (a quiz in dystopian knowledge), the physical test (a game of ninja, a current favorite of theirs), and then a debate (which we basically wanted to be a fun mudslinging campaign). I also told them they needed to think of a name, a slogan, and design a flag. The Rebellion decided that they were the "Elementals" and the government named themselves the "Capitol."

Phase three was battle time! We started out with a game of trivia, using just little facts I had gotten from the internet. I tried to focus around the series that I thought they had read, but I totally missed the mark on some of them (apparently Matched wasn't that popular with this crowd!). They still had a lot of fun, and we ended up with a tied score.

We then took them downstairs to a sort of fighting ring to play a few rounds of "ninja." I don't think I can explain in a way that does this game justice, so just take a look at this guide if it looks like something you'd like to try with your group. Again, there was no clear winner of this game. It was just a bunch of hilarious fun.

The last part of the battle was the mudslinging campaign. We had encouraged the groups to think of silly little remarks to use against the other groups. We told them that the debate would be decided by the amount of laughs their comments got, rather than how mean they were. I have to say, some of the things these teens thought of made me laugh quite a bit. While they were debating both teams held up their flags to show some team spirit. They were great!

In the end there was no clear winner, which they didn't seem to mind at all. As we herded everyone out the door, we kept hearing exclamations of "already!?" and "can we do it again?" That's when I knew that our event was a hit.

If I did it again:

I'd make a playlist for both areas. I know it's a small detail, but music is a big help in setting the atmosphere, as well as a being a big deal to teens. It's a subtle way to keep them in the loop. Find someone on the outside of the group? As them if there's a song they'd like to add to the list.

I'd be prepared for more people! We thought that our event would have 15 kids, tops. We ended up with 40! I'm not complaining, but there were a few moments that were complete chaos. If I had known how many were going to show, I probably would have planted a few kids that had prior knowledge of what was going to happen, so they could steer the group in the right direction without us having to shout every few minutes.

More time! Our event was 2 hours, which was 30 minutes longer than we had originally planned! I would give more time for planning, letting them really get into it. I felt like I had to cut them off short so we could get the games in at a reasonable time.

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