Cue the creepy intro music because Netflix has started filming their reality show modeled after 2021’s breakout Korean thriller, Squid Game.
Aptly named Squid Game: The Challenge, the 10-episode reality competition series was announced in the summer of 2022 as a “massive social experiment” that would build upon the show’s unexpected success. Dubbed the “biggest reality competition series ever,” Squid Game: The Challenge will feature 456 contestants competing for a prize of $4.56 million by playing some of the most famous Korean childrens’ games featured in the show — as well as some new games fans have yet to see.
Obviously, the stakes are a bit lower this time around. No one’s getting killed off for failing to stop when a giant mechanical doll yells “Red Light,” but we’ve already seen reports that a few contestants needed medical assistance thanks to freezing temps while filming games on studio lots around the U.K. So, bodily harm isn’t completely off the table.
Before we completely ignore the anti-capitalist messaging of director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s masterpiece in favor of a sanitized American reality show that ironically proves its point about humanity’s worst impulses, let’s break down the games the competition series will be asking people to win for our entertainment.
Red Light, Green Light
This was the first group-play game introduced in the show and it sounds like it will be the first competitions event we see play out on the reality series. Reports contestants (that frostbite) needing medical intervention during play happened during a particularly cold couple of days earlier this month. The game is fairly simple: as a clock counts down, contestants must run across a vast, open field to cross a finish line on the other side. When the watcher — in the show, an oversized robotic doll with laser-focused vision — yells green light with their back to contestants, that’s when you move. When red light is called and the watcher swivels back around, you freeze. In the original game, if the doll caught any sign of movement once red light was called, you died. On the reality show, you just get kicked out of the competition. This game culled half of the contestants on the drama series, which is why it’s likely to be the first competition our real-life gamers must play. Netflix needs to cut the unusually large group down, and fast, before the rest of the games are introduced.
In episode three’s “The Man with the Umbrella,” contestants were forced to play a deadly game of Dalgona, which is actually an innocent-enough Korean children’s game with a tasty reward at the end. Dalgona is a honeycomb-type candy made from sugar and baking soda. It’s got a toffe-like consistency which makes it perfect for carving intricate shapes. The goal of the game is to carve out a predetermined shape — on the show it was a circle, a triangle, a star, or an umbrella — without cracking the candy. This competition is likely to be another one fans see early on in the reality series simply because it’s decievingly difficult and will probably mark the end of the road for plenty of gamers.
Tug O’ War
Again, no one is falling to their death like they did in the show’s version of this strength vs. strategy competition but we expect the reality show will up the stakes to make a very common outdoor activity entertaining to watch on TV. Tug o’ war is exactly what it sounds like — two teams take up opposite sides on a long piece of thick rope. The goal is to tug a flag tied in the middle of said rope across your own finish line. On the show, some teams made the mistake of thinking brawn was the only way to win the challenge, but everyone who lost was pulled over a cliff, falling to their death while the winning team looked on horrified and more than a little relieved.
This is another nonthreatening form of play that quickly became sinister thanks to the Squid Game treatment. We expect to see this later in the reality series competition as contestants are dwindled down and the stakes become higher simply because we’ll have competitors we’re rooting for at this point. Each player is given a set of 10 marbles and the option of playing any game of their choice. The objective: to win all of your opponent’s marbles before time runs out.
The Glass Stepping Stone Bridge
Squid Game took a favorite childhood pasttime and turned it into a nightmare with this late-in-the-series competition. Completing a round of hopscotch is easy enough, but the show made things infinitely more dangerous by forcing players to traverse a glass bridge with tempered and weak tiles that could give way any moment and plummet them to their death. The goal was to figure out which tiles would hold your weight and avoid the ones that would shatter immediately using the other team’s parallel bridge as your guide. We’ll stick to the sidewalk, even though we doubt the reality show’s version will.
The final competition for which the show was named might also mark the last event played on the upcoming reality series. Also known as Ojingeo, Squid Game takes place on a playing field drawn to resemble, well, a squid. There are two circles, one at the top and one at the bottom, with a triangle and a square intersected both, respectively. The show saw the final two contestants play this game which meant they had to modify the rules a bit because normally, Ojingeo is played in teams. That might be a clue that more than one person will have the opportunity to take home the reality competition’s massive cash prize. During normal play, there is a defense group that is allowed to operate within the squid, and an offense group that can only move outside of the lines, while hopping on one foot. If an offensive player manages to get inside the squid, they can move on two feet.
The objective is simple: the defense group tries to push offensive players out while offensive players try to touch the head of the squid with one foot.
We expect more games will be added to the reality competition but at least you know a bit of the chaos in store when Squid Game becomes … real.
Netflix’s Squid Game: The Challenge does not have a premiere date as of yet.