Real-life contestants are ready to take on the iconic Squid Game challenges in Netflix’s competition series, Squid Game: The Challenge!
In the new reality adaptation of the Emmy-winning Korean drama series, a massive cast of competitors enter a challenge space designed to look just like the show, with towering bunk beds, a twisted, colorful staircase, and ominous masked guards.
The reality version of Squid Game premieres ahead of the postponed, highly anticipated second season in executive producer Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series about ordinary people forced to enter a secret competition, where they could either win a massive cash prize or lose their life.
“This is amazing — I was blown away by the set,” Hwang told ET’s Ash Crossan, who visited the sprawling production of The Challenge before the competition began. “It looks exactly like the set we shot — maybe a little better!”
Hwang admitted that he was initially skeptical of the idea for a reality adaptation of Squid Game — doubtful that the concept would translate well. However, he said seeing the set for the competition show was “amazing.”
“They kept all the original games as much as possible — they revived it a little bit here and there, and they did a great job,” he raved, adding that The Challenge producers asked him “a lot of questions” about the games and the logic behind them. “I gave them as much as possible.”
While of course the reality competition doesn’t have death as a consequence for failure, the contestants will be competing in the show’s iconic challenges for a life-changing amount of money — making Squid Game: The Challenge a game show unlike one we’ve ever seen before.
Here’s a look at everything we know about the intense competition
Who is competing in the show?
The massive competition show mirrors Squid Game in as many ways as possible, so just like in the drama, there are a whopping 456 competitors!
“I think the youngest person we’ve got is 18… And the oldest is 74,” producer Tim Harcourt told ET. “So we’ll see if youth is an advantage, or perhaps experience or wisdom of age.”
Producer Nicola Brown noted that the show was cast “predominantly” from the U.S., but shared that there are cast members from the UK — where the competition was filmed — and around the world. “We’re representing a lot of nationalities in this,” she noted.
ET’s exclusive sneak peek at the competition also revealed that there is a mother-son duo competing together on the show, and Harcourt hinted that “there are some people who may have relationships or prior contact with each other.”
However, there may be competitive advantages to keeping those connections secret, with Brown hinting that revealing that information to fellow competitors is “totally up to them.”
What are they competing for?
With an oversized cast, you need an oversized prize. Squid Game: The Challenge is setting a record for reality television and game show history with its massive prize of $4.56 million!
“It’s big money,” Hwang said. “It’s life-changing money, so you have to just do your best.”
Where do they stay, and for how long?
The 456 contestants take up a lot of space and producers showed ET a look at one of the massive dormitory-style rooms, with sparse metal bunk beds stacked five high.
“I think it’s 213 beds in here,” Harcourt noted. “And we can adjust the volume of it. By the end of the show, it’s going to be right down to three beds, upping the drama. Those three people within a hair’s breath of winning that incredible amount of money.”
As for the length of their stay, Harcourt shared, “If you win, you’d be here for 17 days.”
“This is definitely one of the challenges: living in this dormitory with other people day in and day out,” he explained. “Their noises, smells, their behavior, everything. That’s one of the challenges of Squid Game.”
And while the contestants will be able to generally tell the time of day based on their activities and sleep schedules, Harcourt noted that being sequestered in such a way is definitely a planned psychological challenge.
“Definitely there’s a timelessness to this dormitory. And I think we want to play with that and use that to our advantage,” he hinted.
Just like in the show, speaker announcements will be used to inform the competitors of updates and changes to the game.
“We do communicate with them, much like they do in the show. The guards will obviously communicate with them,” Harcourt explained. “And they will have a little bit of opportunity to talk to some of our producers in the interview room. So they’re not completely sort of bubbled away from the real world. But it is a really immersive experience and will push them and their behavior, possibly to the extreme.”
What Squid Game challenges are part of the competition?
“There are seven games but there are also many games, smaller games, among those games,” Harcourt teased. “Obviously the whole thing is a game in itself, but without getting sort of metaphysical about the whole thing, I’d say there’s about 10 actual games to get through to be in that position to win that amount of money at the end.”
Plus, he promised “plenty of surprises, twists and turns.”
“It’s a reality TV show,” the producer noted. “So it’s a bit more unpredictable. I think it will have a little bit more humor in it, maybe than the drama.”
ET’s exclusive sneak peek at the series showed the iconic “Red Light, Green Light” game, which Harcourt even offered a hint of how to win: “It’s a hare and tortoise game. The people who really try and go fast, just can’t seem to stop themselves and ended up being eliminated. So I think taking softly, take it easily, and you’ll get them in time.”
The Challenge trailer also showed teases of the glass bridge, marbles, a claw machine, and the infamous dalgona sugar candy challenge, which Hyuk revealed to ET was inspired by his childhood.
How do they film such a massive show?
Harcourt revealed that the show was shot on six massive soundstages in East London, as well as an airplane hanger-sized stage in Cardington where they set up the “Red Light, Green Light” game. Production designer Matt Weekes and a massive crew worked for months to recreate some of Squid Game’s most iconic visuals.
“Matt and his team have replicated the world of Squid Game. And it’s amazing,” Harcourt marveled.
“We have so much amazing creative to draw on from the drama, and it’s incredible to see it all brought to life, but it takes a long time and a lot of work from the team,” Brown agreed. “They’ve done an absolutely amazing job.”
Keeping eyes on so many competitors also requires a massive amount of cameras. Harcourt estimated that the production used around 30 cameras to film “Red Light, Green Light,” and guessed that there were over 100 cameras in the dorm alone.
The first four episodes of Squid Game: The Challenge debut Nov. 22 on Netflix. Four more episodes drop on Nov. 29, with the final episodes streaming on Dec. 6.