This article contains spoilers for Squid Game: The Challenge episodes 1-5.
Beyond the obvious cultural concerns (“Netflix is aware that Squid Game is bad, right? Like they know a post-capitalistic hellscape creating the conditions for a battle royale that murders 455 poor people is not a good thing, right?”), early reports from the set pointed to some rough conditions for the real life players to endure.
Then the series premiered, however, and it seemed to be pretty standard fare – a vaguely difficult physical challenge here, some manufactured dramatic tension there. Where, exactly, were all the trials and tribulations that justified this competition’s unprecedented $4.56 million prize purse? Well, you might want to sit down because, as it turns out, this reality television program may not have presented the full story with its editing choices.
Thanks to the magic of the modern social media age, several Squid Game: The Challenge players have taken to TikTok to offer behind-the-scenes looks at what competing on Netflix’s Squid Game reality show was like. In the process, they answer some big questions about the series that could also explain why some contestants have threatened litigation against the production.
Red Light, Green Light Was a Grueling Mess
One thing that every Squid Game: The Challenge contestant seems to want to make clear on social media is that the version of “Red Light, Green Light” that viewers saw is very much not reflective of the “Red Light, Green Light” they lived through. Getting 456 people to participate in one kinetic activity (while filming it no less) had to be a logistical nightmare. And the TikTok crew’s reports from the challenge reveal that it was.
Per 242, the very first challenge was held in a desolate WWII-era hangar in London that experienced extremely low temperatures. Additionally, the game lasted an astounding 17 hours according to player 191. Show producers indicated that players would have to hold their positions for roughly five minutes when “frozen” for proper shooting coverage but in reality players had to hold their position for up to 45 minutes.
This brings some much needed exoneration to poor player 385, who enters her freeze in a squat, mutters “why did I squat?” and then promptly tumbles over. All former players on TikTok agree that she held that squat like a hero for nearly an hour before her body couldn’t take it anymore.
The Umbrella Ppopgi Was Inevitable
In addition to 385’s “why did I squat?” moment one of the more harrowing scenes from the first batch of Squid Game: The Challenge episodes finds the players being assembled into lines for the candy game ppopgi and then having to accept the shape in front of them before the contest can begin.
For the first two rounds, the individual in front of the challenging umbrella shape revolts and all four players are eliminated. Then player 299 finally caves, allowing the game to start but condemning his whole line to certain umbrella death. Why couldn’t the players selecting shapes find a better way to negotiate? Certainly they could just agree to some sort of game of chance to settle the whole thing?
According to none other than 299 himself, that wasn’t an option. That game’s producers explicitly outlawed games of chance in determining who got stuck with which cookie. It was “come to a group decision or perish.”
Player 299 Is Gonna Be Alright
Speaking of 299 … is he, uh … is he good? Player 299 a.k.a. Spencer Hawkins really goes through the wringer in ppopgi. Merely accepting his team’s umbrella fate appears to put him through more stress than any human being has ever experienced. And then elimination from the challenge itself finds him rolling around in the dirt, loudly dry heaving.
Thankfully, Player 299 appears to be doing just fine. He’s also the most prolific and helpful former player we could kind on TikTok. Throughout several posts, he explains that he’s come to accept his body’s unique approach to anxiety and even reports that he doesn’t believe anyone wants to kill him for the umbrella thing.
Wardrobe Was … Limited
If you’re wondering what kind of Squid Game swag players get to take home from The Challenge, the answer is basically “just the clothes on your back.” And according to players 326 and 191 that’s all you get when you’re participating in the games too. All 456 players were provided a tracksuit with their respective numbers, shoes, a toothbrush, and little else.
Though the group bathrooms contained fresh infusions of generic underwear, the tracksuits received no such replacements. You know it had to smell wild in those barracks. Speaking of barracks, player 326 makes clear just how crushingly boring the living experience is in-between games.
Some Players Appreciate the Irony Of It All
Finally, to take things all the way back to the beginning, it seems as though some players recognize just how weird a Squid Game reality show is in the first place. “When I saw the casting call for this I was like ‘this has to be a joke, right?’ Because it obviously goes against everything that the original show was about,” Player 326 said on TikTok.
She goes on to say “The moral irony of the whole thing was definitely something I was thinking about on the show. Seeing the nitty gritty of people competing for money for other people’s entertainment was very dystopian.”
Squid Game: The Challenge episodes one through five are available to stream on Netflix now. Episodes six through nine premiere on Wednesday, Nov. 29. The 10th and final episode premieres Wednesday, Dec. 6.