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The Dark Truth Behind-The-Scenes Of The Squid Game Reality Show

It was the dream — and payday — of a lifetime for 456 people, which turned quickly into a 15-hour nightmare.

Netflix's "Squid Game: The Challenge" was pegged as the ultimate reality show cash grab, with over $4.5 million at stake. But what was supposed to be a two-hour shoot for the half-thousand contestants involved allegedly wound up evolving into something much more sinister and "Squid" than anyone could have ever imagined.

First announced in June 2022, Netflix's adaptation of its South Korean hit show "Squid Game" was originally touted as a real-life take on the popular survival drama, without all the killing and surviving, of course. Company exec Brandon Riegg released a statement at the time, saying director Hwang Dong-hyuk's story would serve as the ultimate inspiration for a reality game show (via The Hollywood Reporter). "We're grateful for his support as we turn the fictional world into reality in this massive competition and social experiment," Riegg said. "Fans of the drama series are in for a fascinating and unpredictable journey as our 456 real-world contestants navigate the biggest competition series ever, full of tension and twists, with the biggest-ever cash prize at the end," he explained. But not everything was as it seemed — or advertised — according to numerous players.

Speaking to Variety in an explosive new article, these contestants expose the dark truth behind Netflix's "Squid Game: The Challenge" and the unacceptable playing environment that the streaming giant allegedly provided, including reports of dangerous conditions, an unbearable filming schedule, and multiple trips to the hospital.

'The conditions were absolutely inhumane'

According to Variety, multiple contestants who spoke to the publication under the condition of anonymity alleged that the showrunners and producers of Netflix's "Squid Game: The Challenge" forced them to endure cruel and unruly conditions, which came after they lied about numerous rules and details pertaining to the show.

"The conditions were absolutely inhumane and had nothing to do with the game," said a UK player who Variety identified as Marlene. According to her and others who spoke to Variety, multiple things about the game environment were either changed or not as advertised. As soon as the "Red Light, Green Light" game started, people were told they couldn't have coats on and that their iconic "Squid Game" tracksuit jackets must be open at all times. It was reportedly around zero degrees Celsius, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, on the day of filming (via Variety).

"This is not a Bear Grylls survival show," blasted a contestant identified as John. "If they had told us it was going to be that cold, no one would have gone through with it," he seethed. Marlene added, "It's not like we signed up for 'Survivor' or 'Naked and Afraid.'"

According to Netflix, it was, in fact, very cold on set that day, but "participants were prepared for that," the company said in a statement to Variety. In a story from January 2022, contestants told The Sun that the frigid conditions had people dropping left and right. "It was like a war zone," one person said. And what made everything worse was how long they were all forced to play the first "Squid Game."

Contestants had to play 'Red Light Green Light' for hours

According to contestants who spoke to Variety, the entire "Red Light, Green Light" game took upwards of seven hours to shoot for some people and another eight hours of prep time, all in the freezing cold. Initially, the "freeze" or standstill times for the game were promised to be around two-minutes-long. But that number was quickly changed to 10 minutes and then 15 minutes. The player identified as Marlene said she had to wait more than 25 minutes during one round. Sources at Netflix confirmed the time increase and claimed it for independent adjudicators "to assess the gameplay," (per Variety). 

"The second time the song played, I saw in my left peripheral vision that this girl was swaying," Marlene recalled. "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." Another player identified as Jenny, from the UK, told Variety that the experience was brutal. "I've never been that cold for that long a period in my life," she said. "It was ridiculous." According to her, water wasn't even allowed during the hours-long shoot. "There were some things I guess [producers] didn't think about," Jenny asserted.

"Even if hypothermia kicked in then people were willing to stay for as long as possible because a lot of money was on the line," one player recalled to The Sun. "Too many were determined not to move so they stood there for far too long." This, as you can all expect, wound up leading to serious complications and health problems for many people involved, several of whom had to be treated by medics.

Medics were allegedly called eleven times

Throughout the filming of "Squid Game: The Challenge," a total of eleven people were allegedly treated by medics (via Variety). Several contestants were said to have fainted or collapsed on set due to the inhumane conditions and intense playing rules.

"There were people arriving thinking they were going to be millionaires but they left in tears," said one anonymous participant to The Sun. "People were getting carried out by medics but we couldn't say anything. If you talk then you're out ... You could hear someone yell 'medic' and the crew would rush on," the player said. "We ended up standing there for 30 minutes between takes. Some were crawling by the end. At least one was carried out on a stretcher." John, the player who spoke to Variety from earlier, said: "You can't tell people they have to stand in below freezing temperatures in just a tracksuit and two pairs of socks. Come on."

Sources close to the production reportedly denied that medics were called eleven times when contacted by Variety, but they did confirm to The Sun that at least three people who took part in "Squid Game: The Challenge" received medical treatment. According to show insiders, not allowing breaks during filming is standard practice. Netflix insists that any "claims of serious injury are untrue," along with the allegations of inhumane conditions (per Variety). All the contestants want from the streaming network is some accountability.

"Take some responsibility for the fact that you were ill-prepared for this kind of thing, with this number of people," Jenny said. A television executive who spoke to Variety under the condition of anonymity concluded: "It sounds like this got completely out of control."