Several contestants from the Netflix reality show “Squid Game: The Challenge” are complaining publicly that the program was torturous and rigged.
This new game show is based on the hit Korean drama series of the same name featuring poor, indebted citizens who compete for a cash prize for the entertainment of rich people. On the fictional show, eliminated contestants are killed when they lose the game. Netflix’s real-life adaptation involves 456 players competing for a grand prize of $4.56 million.
The game show based on the drama series doesn’t involve actual death, but some contestants are complaining about harsh conditions and what they’re calling unfair treatment during filming. “I started to realize, this was never a game I could win,” a participant told Vice of the experience. “I’m not a contestant, I’m an extra.”
“The Challenge” is being filmed at a former military base outside London. Many participants complained about frigid temperatures in the massive airplane hangar where filming took place. They described how medical units were dispatched when some participants started collapsing. “People started dropping like f***ing flies,” an anonymous participant said of the chaos during the game Red Light, Green Light.
“People were suffering charlie horses and extreme cramps” because of the cold, one of the participants told Vice. “People were throwing themselves on the floor because their feet couldn’t move. It was getting ridiculous.”
Netflix denied that any serious medical events occurred, admitting that “while it was very cold on set – and participants were prepared for that – any claims of serious injury are untrue.”
“We care deeply about the health and safety of our cast and crew, and invested in all the appropriate safety procedures,” a statement from the company said of the allegations.
“The Challenge” participants also said they believed the game show premise to be something other than it was.
“My understanding was it was going to be similar to ‘Squid Game,’” one participant told the publication. “We’d be put in uncomfortable situations, living with 456 people and trying to form alliances. Except there would be no tolerance for bullying or harassment or physical violence or you potentially getting killed. So the ‘Real World,’ but a little more intense. That’s how I understood it.”
That person said participants started to suspect the game was rigged when they started talking – which was against the rules – and comparing notes. They realized that while some participants applied to be on the show, others were recruited, and that certain individuals had real microphones while others were fake. They also noted how some contestants had plane tickets booked for their return home sooner than others.
“People broke their lease to be on this show,” the now-eliminated participants said of the experience. “People quit their jobs. That’s the part to me that was sad. They made it seem like we all truly had a fair shot to actually win this money. It was already scripted. They already knew the people they wanted in the next round. That’s the part to me that was f***ed up.”
Former contestants also spoke with Rolling Stone about their experiences.
“It was just the cruelest, meanest thing I’ve ever been through,” one person told the publication. “We were a human horse race, and they were treating us like horses out in the cold racing and [the race] was fixed.”
“All the torment and trauma we experienced wasn’t due to the game or the rigor of the game,” another person agreed. “It was the incompetencies of scale — they bit off more than they could chew.”