After questions sprung up about Squid Game: The Challenge's authenticity, one of the series' producers responded, addressing just how real or fake some of these potentially staged scenes were.
Based on the hit Netflix show, Squid Game (a Korean thriller centered on a dystopian competition where people take on deadly takes on childhood games), The Challenge is a reality show with real people doing toned-down versions of the set pieces from the original series for a cash prize.
Released on November 22, Squid Game: The Challenge - while not a Season 2 of the Korean drama - allows fans to dip their toes back into the beloved franchise and see moments of the show recreated for real people to navigate.
How Real Is Squid Game: The Challenge?
Squid Game: The Challenge executive producers Stephen Lambert, Stephen Yemoh, John Hay, and Toni Ireland revealed how real the Squid Game reality show actually is.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), Lambert addressed the use of staged scenes in the reality series, remarking "People expect the show to be quite like the scripted show."
Because of this, choices like the use of "fake" scenes like the control room inserts seen throughout the show were used to "build that sense of it being an immersive experience:"
THR: "During Red Light, Green Light, you try to make it look like the entire competition happened in just five minutes when obviously this takes hours to shoot. Combined with some shots such as showing the masked guys 'controlling”'the action in a control room … was there any concern that the game might seem staged to viewers if you fictionalized certain elements?"
Stephen Lambert: "We made that judgment. If somebody else was making it, they might have made a different judgment call. We think it works for us. People expect the show to be quite like the scripted show. I think the use of the guards was something we are very pleased with — they helped build that sense of it being an immersive experience for the contestants."
He continued, "They did a lot of the communicating of the information to the players, rather than having producers doing it," as the team tried to strike a balance of "convey[ing]... a kind of presence" without breaking the reality show format:
"They did a lot of the communicating of the information to the players, rather than having producers doing it, or having a host. And they looked good. I think one of the best decisions we made was hiring a choreographer who worked with them to ensure that they move in the right way to convey authority and a kind of presence. We worked very hard trying to get that balance right."
When asked if contestants were told to dramatize any moments in this authentic reality show experience, Stephen Yemoh, John Hay, and Toni Ireland told EW "We talked about that a lot," revealing they wanted "something that was instant" and "tangible" but "didn’t want to pretend that people were dying:"
Hay: "We talked about that a lot but for Red Light, Green Light, we had to have something that was instant. It had to be tangible, it had to feel like it belonged in the 'Squid Game' universe, but we didn’t want to pretend that people were dying. I enjoy the moments in the edit where somebody looks down at their squib and goes like, 'Oh, s---.'
There’s the enjoyable awareness about the process. The decision to in the end go with black as the color was partly a nod to squid ink, of course, but it’s also signaling that we’re not pretending people are dying. We’re just trying to do something that is true to the game."
"It was down to the players to decide how much they wanted to act out their elimination," the producing team added, seemingly confirming the reactions seen on-screen were real and not faked thanks to some clever direction:
IRELAND: "It was down to the players to decide how much they wanted to act out their elimination if they wanted to. Some people don’t have big reactions and others really go for it, and it’s their moment. If they wanted to do that, that’s absolutely fine by us."
YEMOH: "We never told them to act in a big dramatic moment."
Hay: "They were told to react however they thought was appropriate, and it was amazing watching how people interpreted that."
Why Fake a Reality Show like Squid Game?
While Squid Game: The Challenge is not inherently fake, as confirmed by its executive producers, there are some fake elements.
But that is pretty par for the course when it comes to reality-based fare.
One would think with the word 'reality' in the title reality TV would be 100% authentic with no staged scenes or clever editing tricks, but that is not the case.
Humans are not that inherently entertaining on their own. They need the work of producers, directors, writers, and editors to make these reality-style shows as gripping as they are.
When it comes to the Squid Game spin-off, it is not one of the worst offenders when it comes to faking it for the audience at home.
For the most part, it is a pretty real experience for both the viewer and the participant.
The 'fake' scenes or moments that were included were used to improve the immersion of the show's contestants within the world of Squid Game.
As for sneaky editing tricks and camera moves to heighten the tension, these are a must for a show like Squid Game: The Challenge.
Some of these 'games' take hours upon hours to shoot, and have to be cut down to make the product fit into its hour-per-episode box that it has to sit in on Netflix.
Real or fake, fans are loving Squid Game: The Challenge as its first four episodes are streaming now on Netflix, with the next batch coming on Wednesday, November 29.