The Hanging Game is so deliciously dark and terrible. (Not terrible as in it's a bad story - terrible as in the story's subject matter is unpleasant.)
The game itself is bad enough, but there's also a magical realism element to the story, which doesn't give the reader a definite answer. Does the game foretell the future? Is there really a bear god that exacts payment for each of his people? Maybe, maybe not. But there's an awful lot of coincidence going on in bear country.
The story captures the innocent stupidity of children, the lack of foresight they don't seem to possess. The children see absolutely nothing wrong with playing a game where they nearly hang themselves. Although when the game finally *does* go wrong, the children act as though they had been expecting it - they had been waiting for the bear god to claim his price.
In the end, that's all they can do, whether the god is real or imagined.