When the South Korean series Squid Game first premiered on Netflix in 2021, it quickly took the world by storm because of its intense story of a group of contestants risking their lives to play deadly children's games for money.
Following the hit show's success, Netflix has been preparing to release a Squid Game reality competition with 456 players from all over the world battling for $4.56 million (P248 million). While it was touted as not having any deadly consequences like the series it is based on, a report from Variety seems to say otherwise.
According to the report, contestants who have decided to participate in the reality show have been subjected to "inhumane" conditions.
One of them, identified as John for the sake of anonymity, spoke with the news outlet and said that he signed up for the competition as he had a certain love for such games.
However, during day one of the production, John felt like he was "dying" while playing the very first challenge: a game of "Red Light Green Light." This was because they were all subjected to freezing temperatures that resulted in others collapsing from the cold.
"All of this was carried out in an unforgiving U.K. cold snap that saw temperatures drop to zero degrees Celsius in Bedford on the day of filming. A number of contestants collapsed on set—likely due to a combination of cold and fatigue from the eight hours of prep time before the game even started," Variety wrote.
While the production team initially allowed the players to wear coats and other thermal wear, these were taken away once the games started, and the contestants were instead left with an exact replica of the Squid Game tracksuit in the drama. But the suits themselves were not designed to withstand the cold weather.
John emphasized, "This is not a Bear Grylls survival show. If they had told us it was going to be that cold, no one would have gone through with it."
Another player, identified as Marlene, said that the reality show was "definitely not as minimal as is being conveyed by Netflix" and that "the conditions were absolutely inhumane and had nothing to do with the game."
One more condition that added to the "cruelty" of the reality show was that the actual games took almost seven hours to complete for some contenders, even if the crew had told them that it would only take roughly two hours.
For instance, in the "Red Light Green Light" game, the waiting time for the giant doll to start singing so that the players could move took longer each round.
This resulted in some players fainting, as Marlene recounted, "I saw in my left peripheral vision that this girl was swaying. Then she just buckled, and you could hear her head actually hit the ground. But then someone came on the [microphone] and said to hold our positions because the game is not paused. After that, people were dropping like flies."
"Imagine you’re playing 'Red Light Green Light' for six hours. What game is that? This isn’t a game," John said. "The fun is now gone. You can’t tell people they have to stand in below-freezing temperatures in just a tracksuit and two pairs of socks. Come on."
"We care deeply about the health and safety of our cast and crew, and invested in all the appropriate safety procedures. While it was very cold on set—and participants were prepared for that—any claims of serious injury are untrue," a spokesperson for the streaming platform said.
But another contestant, identified as Jenny, said, "I’m infuriated by the narrative that Netflix is putting out there, that only [a few] people were injured…we were all injured just by going through that experience."
Squid Game: The Challenge first announced its casting call in June last year, where interested participants must be over 21 years old, have a valid passport, and be free for four weeks of filming in early 2023.