I've just watched the Ender's Game movie, I've not read the book though.

At the end of the graduation simulation, why is Ender so shocked? Surely he knew that once he graduated his purpose was to destroy the Formics? What did he think was going to do after graduation?

I know he thought:

it was a simulation, (I was trying not to be too spoilery), and had no idea that it was a real battle, and I understand why he was tricked like this. But surely he knew that at some point he'd graduate and start commanding a real battle?

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    Comment: go read the book. The movie entirely skipped a major reason for why he acted as he did -- he was literally trying to do something so outrageous they wouldn't ever put him in command.
    – DougM
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 1:08

5 Answers 5


*******. SPOILERS AHEAD *******

The book explains it very clearly - the "Game" in the title, while referring to many things, mainly refers to the fact that Ender — while fighting real battles — thought he was merely fighting in a simulator game.

He was only told that he destroyed the Formics once he won the last battle.

Graff and Mazer explain it to him later in the book:

"Of course we tricked you into it. That's the whole point," said Graff. "It had to be a trick or you couldn't have done it. It's the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn't do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough."

**"And it had to be a child, Ender," said Mazer. "You were faster than me. Better than me. I was too old and cautious. Any decent person who knows what warfare is can never go into battle with a whole heart. But you didn't know. We made sure you didn't know. You were reckless and brilliant and young. It's what you were born for."

As far as "his purpose was to destroy the Formics? What did he think was going to do" - as per the book, that is also wrong. Ender very explicitly said to Graph, after finding the truth:

** Ender grabbed Mazer's uniform and hung onto it, pulling him down so they were face to face. "I didn't want to kill them all. I didn't want to kill anybody! I'm not a killer! You didn't want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it, you tricked me into it!" He was crying. He was out of control.

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    It may also be worth mentioning that Ender was trying to go out in style. He expected to get expelled after the last battle for cheating (targeting the planet, presumably full of Formic civilians, would be and was a major war crime).
    – Kevin
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 21:47
  • Amusingly, he knew he could and WOULD have defeated the Formics in general, outside the context of the tricked last battle. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 23:09
  • @DVK true, but it was 'Xinocide' what he did in the last battle. He did so, so that he would not graduate. However instead of 'not graduating', he wiped out a whole race. In later books this point is being pushed a lot more.
    – Jeroen
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 15:10

Here there be spoilers!

Ender had no idea what he was doing. He is surprised because he assumed after going to Command School, he would now be leading a fleet against the Formic enemy.

This is part of the great discussion being held by the leaders of the Command School.

The book would have had a bit more explanation regarding the idea that Ender really believed he was involved in a game, not a real time simulation that was actually engaged in fighting and destroying the enemy. This is part of the deception that makes it possible for Ender to do what is necessary to completely devastate the enemy. The belief by the Command School leaders is if Ender knew what he was doing, he would hesitate to sacrifice his men AND in the destruction of the enemy.

  • Excellent answer! This is the whole point of the story! What is a perfect tactician capable of, and of what is he NOT capable?
    – Matt
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 22:56

During the opening Credits there was an A E Wiggin quote basically saying that if you want to defeat your enemy, you must love them. I think that at the point where ender was doing the final exam, he was feeling compassion and wanted to watch and study them before engaging them. Also, the bigger lie was that Ender and the whole world were being told that the buggers were coming for a second invasion. The final test of invading their home world was supposed to just be a scenario. I love everything Ender and quite frankly came into this movie with low expectations and found myself pleasantly surprised.

  • 2
    *3rd invasion. The buggers had already invaded twice. But good point
    – childcat15
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 9:17
  • 2
    @childcat15 : The movie only has 2 invasions, only 1 from the formics and the 2nd one being Ender's...
    – C.B.
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 22:24
  • Book has 2 buggers' invasions, and Ender's is 3rd
    – Envite
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 14:41
  • "When I understand my enemy well enough to defeat him, then in that moment, I also love him" A.E. Wiggin this is the exact quote. I found it quite a deep statement to study so I had my husband put the DVD back in to write it down. Not, if you want to defeat your enemy... totally different meaning. No "if". It is stated as a done deal.
    – user22738
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 1:23

It's called Enders Game because he thought it was just that, a game. He thought it was all a training exercise.

If he knew it was "real" then it would have been highly unlikely that he would have chosen the tactics he did.

How would you feel if you were told after playing Halo or Mass Effect or any other computer game that it was all actually real? You were remotely controlling a super-soldier who killed hundreds of aliens.


Ender had to learn to understand the Formics in order to defeat them. He thought he was being tested.

In real life he would never have wanted to commit xenocide of an entire species he had come to understand as intimately as his own. He wanted to protect earth and humanity, not utterly eradicate an entire alien race. Also in the book he thought he was training to stop the Buggers from launching a third invasion.

  • Isn't this the same thing the other answers already said? Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 16:36
  • Pretty much, I was just trying to simplify it a bit.
    – sevvack
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 18:35

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