Well, shit. Your name has been drawn from the glass bowl / spinning lottery cage / polished human skull. Your number's up. It's time to fight several strangers to the death.

Know The Game

Are you being thrust into an arena with nothing but a loin cloth and a short sword? Does a vivid-and-deadly VR stadium await you? Will James Caan be rolling inexorably towards you like spike-adorned death on wheels? WILL HE?

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Obviously, you need to know what kind of situation you're getting into. Odds are there's only ONE deadly-sport-for-amusement going on at any given time, so you should have plenty of time beforehand to get acquainted with it. Death games usually take a predominant spot in your pop culture; it doesn't pay to keep your nose in a book and avoid watching on principle.

On Training, and Why It's Basically Worthless

Let's face it. If you're not already in phenomenal shape before your name comes out of that polished human skull, you're fucked. The only stretching you need to focus on is bending over far enough to kiss your butt good-bye.

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If you're lucky, you'll just be put into an arena where you'll be fighting round by round, or match by match, staining your hands and your soul with the blood of other poor suckers chosen by fate to die for the amusement of the shallow elite. These games have precious downtime.

If you're unlucky, you'll be thrown into a wide-open arena where you'll be struggling against the elements, as well as bloodthirsty teenagers. So yeah. If you get a chance, bone up on survival skills, hunting, shelter building, foraging, etc. But again: if you don't already know this stuff like the back of your hand, you're not going to make it to sweeps week.

Work The Crowd

Depending on the blood sport, you may or may not have face time with the slavering degenerates awaiting your demise. Make the most of it.

There's only one rule, you worthless redshirt, and that rule is SURVIVAL. Make 'em laugh, make 'em gasp, make 'em LIKE YOU. This is important in two separate scenarios:

  1. If the crowd can be skimmed for sponsors, folks who can help you survive in the games. They're worth their weight in gold, or bread, or credits, or whatever the hell it is you people value in your post-apocalyptic society.
  2. In the event that you kill your way to the top and slaughter your cruel taskmaster, earning your freedom; this marks the difference between the throng shouting and cheering your name, or a panicking, shrieking riot that tramples you to death.

Don't Enjoy Yourself

Look— ordinarily, I would be the first and loudest proponent of Living For the Moment, Loving What You Do, blah blah blah. This isn't ordinarily. Your freaking life is on the line, so whatever you do, do not enjoy the wanton murder of your fellow contestants.

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Statistically, if you look like you're having a miserable time, you're more likely to get out alive. It's a protagonist thing. Which brings me to my next point:

Look Out For the God-Damned Psychos

As if chipping away at your dwindling humanity on a grisly island of corpses weren't bad enough, you've also gotta watch out for the jerk-asses who are actively gunning for you with a blood-stained smile on their lips, and a song in their heart. In brief, these assholes are THE WORST.

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The only advantage you have here is this: the psychopaths never hesitate to announce themselves. Whether you're flecked with the blood of kids who barely hit puberty, or wearing an ear-necklace cropped from your fallen foes, now is not the time to be subtle.

Common Telltale Signs of God-Damned Psychos

  • Constant smirking in your direction, I hate that
  • Prevalent smugness, as if their bloodthirst has a keener edge than your WILL TO SURVIVE
  • They travel in packs, until they've killed each other... leaving only one
  • Frequently heard shouting "Kill him/her, [name]! Kill him/her now!"
  • Chapped lips from constant licking of knives
  • They sleep soundly. They sleep the sleep of the dead
  • They consider Fifty Shades of Grey to be high literature

Find Allies, Save Them For Last

No man is an island, especially on the aforementioned grisly island of corpses. You're going to need someone to watch your back, protect you when you sleep, and so on.

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If they have a crush on you, great. Work that angle for all its worth so when the time comes, they'll have their guard down as you slip that knife between their ribs, counterfeit your side of a suicide pact, or 'pretend' to accidentally let go as you try to pull them up the cliff side. Any of these will work. The important thing is that you come out on top.

Drink Heavily, Drink Often

Once you've clawed your way to victory, there's only one thing to do: silence the ghosts of those you've murdered in your quest for survival!

Depending on the era, you may have options:

  • Pharmaceutical strength pain-killers
  • Enough anti-depressants to mellow out Genghis Khan
  • A never ending stream of empty, meaningless sex
  • Good old fashioned whiskey, and LOTS OF IT

Whatever path you choose, you're sure to stumble through the remainder of your days in a pleasantly numb fug, offering slurred advice to your successors as they face your same dread fate.

Good luck! Go get 'em! And may the odds be ever in your favor!

~

Casey Jones is a screenwriter and author with a day job. You can follow him, or find more of his work here.

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