‘Squid Game’ in real life? The competition is coming to L.A.—and you can be part of it

)ctober 31, 2023

When Squid Game: The Trials opens in Los Angeles this December, the immersive experience will have two lofty goals: one, to reflect the tense themes of the hit South Korean series in what is essentially designed to be a fun day or night out; and two, to ensure that at least one of the show’s subject matters—exploitation—isn’t present, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Crippling debt, financial desperation, and a general lack of prospects in all aspects of life were at the heart of Netflix’s global sensation, Squid Game. A mix of hopelessness, vulnerability and class warfare led the show’s participants to take part in a series of life-or-death challenges.

The stakes won’t, of course, be as high at Squid Game: The Trials, in which guests will opt-in for a series of simple-to-learn, excruciating-to-win games. Everyone walks out alive, but scores will be kept, no money will be won and, if all goes according to plan, everybody will likely be just a little bit poorer.

Designers of the immersive experience promise the series’ taut themes will be present and will be handled in such a way as to make sure that those who buy in don’t end up feeling like they’ve been had. The company says that Squid Game: The Trials promises a mix of theatricality, technology, and food, the latter courtesy of the acclaimed culinary team of downtown’s Yangban.

The experience, created in conjunction with experiential entertainment firm Superfly, will launch December 6. Don’t expect the equivalent of going to the gym, says Netflix. The goal is to bring guests lightly into Squid Game’s harsh world. To that end, Netflix will be hoping players buy Squid Game-inspired tracksuits to wear, which will allow for the look of the show to be replicated. And some games will be purely intellectual. Squid Game: The Trials will be hosted at the Television City complex, near the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles.

“We don’t want it to be purely based on a series of physical challenges,” says Josh Simon, Netflix’s VP of Consumer Products. “When you think of the gameplay, some of them skew a little more psychological. Some of them end up being individual. Some of them end up being more of a team. They might be with a team of people you showed up with, or you might be forced to work with a team of people you’re unfamiliar with. We’re trying to introduce more epic moral dilemmas into the equation.”

Although Netflix is keeping the full list of games close to its vest, expect some Squid Game staples, such as the series’ twist on childhood stop-and-go game Red Light, Green Light to appear. Concept art shared with The Times shows a re-creation of that game’s Young-hee doll, in the show a killer, motion-sensing animatronic. The event will intermix challenges from the first season of “Squid Game” as well as the upcoming unscripted series. There will also be some games and challenges that are created exclusively for the experience.

Still, Simon says the goal is to have zero physical fitness requirements. However, the experience is designed for those ages 13 and older. Those younger than 13 will not be admitted. “We want to keep it as broadly accessible as possible,” he says.

For most days, tickets will be sold throughout the day in 30-minute increments, with entry points on some as early as 10 a.m. and as late as 9 p.m. Each player will be outfitted with a wristband featuring radio frequency identification technology, a first for Netflix’s immersive experiences. The band will keep score, and a winner for each group will be announced.

“We’ve developed a point system,” Simon says. “People will accumulate points as we go through. One winner will be crowned atop a leaderboard. We want to play with some of that really great iconography from the series.”

Simon was asked about how the experience will deal with some of the series’ darker elements. “There’s only so much tension and the stakes of the show that we would personally want guests to experience,” Simon says. “But the psychological stakes of it—especially when you’re in these environments—really start to feel elevated. We’ve developed a lot of fun concepts that I think will keep people slightly off guard throughout the experience. There’s a mystery, and some psychological intrigue that we’re going to introduce.”

Netflix says the games should last about 70 minutes, and said they will be designed as a “series of escalating challenges.” There will be a total of six games. In addition to Young-hee, Squid Game’s  masked antagonist the Front Man will figure heavily into the event and, “obviously, the guards, in a variety of sort of pink jumpsuits will be throughout,” Simon says.

Tickets for Squid Game: The Trials are on sale now through January 31. They start at $39 for midweek trials and increase to $54 on the weekends. A VIP experience also is available for $99.

Research contact: @latimes