UPDATE — 9:00 p.m. ET, Feb. 3:
A Netflix representative reached out to Adweek with a statement refuting reports claiming the streamer’s Squid Game spinoff put players in harsh conditions.
“We care deeply about the health of our cast and crew, and the quality of this show. Any suggestion that the competition is rigged or claims of serious harm to players are simply untrue. We’ve taken all the appropriate safety precautions, including after care for contestants – and an independent adjudicator is overseeing each game to ensure it’s fair to everyone,” Netflix, Studio Lambert and The Garden said in the statement.
Squid Game: The Challenge, a reality-competition spinoff of the blockbuster Korean thriller, is a little too similar to the Netflix series for the competitors’ liking.
Multiple news outlets have reported contestants faced horrific conditions and trauma during their time on the show.
Former players opened up to Rolling Stone about their experiences, confirming earlier claims that they were subjected to inhumane treatment while competing in the “Red Light, Green Light” game. They reportedly endured periods of being unable to move for up to nine hours in a chilly airport hangar, with medical personnel rushing in to treat those who were unable to withstand the extreme cold.
Contestants were also allegedly deprived of bathroom breaks and production did not provide enough food on set for participants, causing some to go to bed hungry, according to Variety.
“All the torment and trauma we experienced wasn’t due to the game or the rigor of the game,” a former player told Rolling Stone. “It was the incompetencies of scale — they bit off more than they could chew.”
Netflix has previously acknowledged that three individuals required medical care, but that production had “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.”
Former contestants argue that’s not even close to the truth.
“It was just the cruelest, meanest thing I’ve ever been through,” one former contestant told Rolling Stone. “We were a human horse race, and they were treating us like horses out in the cold racing and [the race] was fixed.”
The 10-episode competition started production in the U.K. on Jan. 23. In the show, 456 real players play games inspired by the original series to win the grand prize of $4.56 million.
Prior to filming, Squid Game showrunner Hwang Dong-hyuk spoke out about Netflix’s planned reality competition based on the series.
“I think that even though our show does carry quite a heavy message—and I know that there are some concerns of taking that message and creating it into a reality show with a cash prize,” he said. “However, I feel like when you take things too seriously, that’s really not the best way to go for the entertainment industry. It doesn’t really set a great precedent.”
Former contestants also claim the Netflix series was rigged, with Netflix pre-selecting a few TikTok and Instagram stars to advance, regardless of how each challenge turned out.
One player admitted to Vice News that they had come to the realization that they could “never” win the game while it was being filmed and that they were truly just “extras” on the show.
The AV Club stated that during the filming of “red light, green light,” some candidates received microphone packs, while others received non-working packs, and several participants discovered they had been issued return flights before several of the scheduled games.
Things were bad enough that some former players are seeking legal counsel to see whether there was enough evidence to file a complaint against the production studios for carelessness, false pretenses, and violations of workplace safety, per Rolling Stone.