It looks like we’re one step closer to the world The Running Man warned us about back in the ’80s. As the Telegraph reports, contestants for the upcoming Netflix series Squid Game: The Challenge were convinced that their reality show version of the Korean horror-drama was the real deal.
That’s right, folks, we are officially living in a world so dystopian that contestants on a game show had no trouble believing that they were competing for their very lives.
Squid Game Commentary
Squid Game, for anyone not in the know, is a Korean-made Netflix series in which a group of contestants competes in a series of schoolyard games from their youth. The winners get to progress through the game, and the losers are just straight-up murdered.
The series is a great commentary on entertainment, the lengths people will go to earn money, and an increasingly voyeuristic society willing to watch people fight to the death because it amuses them. The good people at Netflix missed the whole point of the show and made a real-life version.
Squid Game: The Challenge
The Challenge follows its source material to the letter, perhaps too faithfully, as it turns out. Contestants are confined to their rooms when not competing and kept there by armed guards.
The contestants are told when to eat, sleep, exercise, and forced to share a bunk with strangers. Essentially, it’s the reality show version of an Army boot camp.
For all their trouble, the 456 people get a chance to win a prize of $4.56 million—the single biggest prize in gameshow history.
Sure, winning sounds sweet, but what of the losers? Surely they aren’t murdered in cold blood as if they were on the real Squid Game? Well…
A Little Too Real
Obviously, it’s illegal to kill gameshow contestants on camera—for now—so the creators of Squid Game: The Challenge did the next best thing.
The show’s producers kept the crew hidden at all times and instructed the guards to act slightly menacing so that contestants quickly forgot they were on a TV show. They gave into the fantasy that they were really competing in a life-or-death skill game.
As the cherry on top of the messed up ice cream sundae that is Squid Game: The Challenge, all the contestants had radio-controlled “blood pack’s” hidden under their clothes that were then detonated upon elimination.
This led to the losing contestants dropping to the floor and convulsing as if they had just been gunned down in cold blood. “I promise we didn’t tell them to drop like that. They just did,” says one Netflix insider.
While it’s gross enough if the contestants were told to act like they were being murdered when they were eliminated, the alternative proposed by the anonymous Netflix exec is even worse.
The idea of contestants spontaneously collapsing as a blood pack—technically black “squid ink”—explodes on their person like a bullet wound suggests a level of psychological breakdown not present on, say, Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune.
The way the creators explain the creation of Squid Game: The Challenge makes the whole experience sound more like psychological torture than opposed to—we don’t know—maybe competitive sport?
“The dorm took on a prison yard chemistry. It seems such an unnaturally strange environment, to have that many people living, sleeping, eating, hanging out the whole time together. There was never any let-up for them.” explains Mathieu Weekes, Squid Game’s set designer.
Squid Game: The Challenge On Netflix
The whole thing sounds like PTSD: The Gameshow to us, but we admit we’re slightly ignorant when it comes to the concept of The Hunger Games as a documentary.
The good news is that the people at Netflix know what Squid Game: The Challenge looks like. The bad news is they don’t care.
“There’ll be people who say stuff like, ‘Oh, Netflix are missing the point because it was an anti-democratic thought piece,’” says executive producer Tim Harcourt, quite correctly, we might add.
“Well, I’ve got two teenage boys and that wouldn’t even enter their mind as to what that show is about. They see it as being a fantasy game world.”
Welp, media literacy is officially dead. Squid Game: The Challenge starts November 22 on Netflix.