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Every year, each district must supply, through a lottery process, two "tributes" (both aged 12 to 18, one male, one female), who are forced to fight to the death in a large outdoor arena until one victor remains. The expectation is that the Hunger Games be treated as a spectacle, a great source of entertainment that all citizens are obliged to follow as audience. The Games illustrate how thoroughly Panem citizens are at the mercy of the Capitol, since it keeps them subdued by making them complicit in the atrocities as audience.
Each child, age 12 to 18, is required to enter his or her name for the district's lottery, with the older children putting their names in proportionally more times. However, Panem uses a system wherein children can enter their names extra times in exchange for tesserae, vouchers for a year's worth of meager grain and oil. Obviously, this system discriminates against poorer citizens who need the extra resources and hence make themselves more likely tributes.