When Hwang Dong-hyuk's Squid Game debuted on Netflix in 2021, it took the world by storm, literally. The story follows 456 financially struggling competitors - especially gambling addict Seong Gi-hun - who use strategy and luck to compete in common South Korean children's games for 456 billion won 45.6 (that's $38.2 million USD). The twist? If you fail a game, you die, and only one person can win.
Squid Game quickly became the platform's most-watched series - nominated for 14 Primetime Emmys. And actors O-Yeong Su, Lee Jung-Jae, and HoYeon Jung received SAG and Golden Globe awards for their performances. Despite being a fully-subtitled show, it had such a cultural impact that Mr. Beast created his own live Squid Games (sans death)...and then, Netflix of course couldn't resist releasing Squid Game: The Challenge.
456 contestants come together to compete for $4.56 million reward in iconic challenges like Red Light-Green Light, carving a shape out of dalgona (honeycomb candy) without cracking it, marbles, and jumping over the Glass Bridge. It's the largest cash prize in gameshow history, enough to make people do the unthinkable. And while I wasn't sold at first, the controversy surrounding the show is enough to get me to tune in.
Controversy Behind Squid Game: The Challenge
Now that players have been eliminated from the games, we're getting the bigger picture of what went on during production. Contestants reported eating under 1,000 calories per day, which makes sense considering the one meal we saw them eat was a leftover-sized container of rice and egg. Temperatures were so cold that one contestant suffered from hypothermia, while others were using lubricated condoms in lieu of chapstick.
The iconic green tracksuit uniforms (which must be returned to producers after elimination) were not enough to keep the competitors warm, especially during Red Light-Green Light...where they filmed over nine hours, staying frozen in place for up to 45 minutes at a time. Time goes much quicker when you watch, which is why one contestant caught fire for not being able to hold a squat (now we know she is a modern-day warrior.)
@curiouslymedia What it was ACTUALLY like being on Squid Game: The Challenge #squidgame #squidgamethechallenge #netflix #reallifesquidgame ♬ original sound - Curiously
The editing of the show itself has caused its own issues. And thanks to social media, contestants are sharing their own version of Squid Game: The Challenge. While a series villain like Ashley may have appeared selfish for refusing to step forward during Glass Bridge for Trey, reports have indicated that Trey blindly jumped tiles on his own accord.
It's a dystopian show - inherently creepy in its message that people will quash any natural, nurturing instincts just to achieve financial freedom. You slowly watch these people go insane, building mistrust amongst themselves and against the producers, the all-knowing Big Brother voice, and eerily always-in-character guards. And now that we're taking a peek into what it's like inside the Games, you can understand how someone would lose their mind.
I can confirm that this gameshow is the ultimate entertainment for viewers, and the controversy behind the conditions only fuel the fire. This show has everything: betrayal, likable characters, despicable characters, and moments that will make you hold your breath and scream at your television like it's the Super Bowl.
Who Will Win Squid Game: The Challenge?
It's the season finale of the games tonight, December 6, when we find out which of the three finalists - Player 287, Mai; Player 451, Phill; or Player 16, Sam - will win the coveted cash prize.
It's also been reported that the show has been renewed for a second season, so you know we'll be tuning in.