The Squid Game virtual reality experience is coming, and it completely misses the point of the Netflix show

Squid Game
(Image credit: Netflix)

Squid Game may be Netflix’s most popular series ever made, but it seems the streaming platform has completely missed the point about what made it such a phenomenon. The poignant drama created by Hwang Dong-hyuk told the story of hundreds of poverty-stricken contestants tricked into a deadly game to win a cash prize.

Faced with no other option than to take part in sadistic twists on children’s games, each contestant was given a number and forced to fight to survive. Over its nine bloody, brutal episodes, audiences watched beloved characters die in increasingly horrifying ways.

For me, watching the first season was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve had as a viewer. It forced me to grapple with what humans may do when pushed to extremes by poverty and, thanks to its extraordinarily talented cast and incredible writing, made me fret over the moral question, "What would you do in this situation?"

It was a masterpiece of television storytelling, and that’s why I find it so uncomfortable to see it reduced to a fun virtual reality game you can play with friends. A new trailer has been released that’s been labeled a "fully immersive VR experience" from Sandbox VR in collaboration with the streamer, which you can watch below.

As seen in the short clip of what it’ll look like, players are invited to take part in the "full body VR" when it launches on September 29 in select Sandbox locations. The experience invites participants to enter different scenarios from the show, including the chilling ‘Red Light, Green Light’ scenario and the horrifying ‘Cross the Glass Bridge’ section. In the trailer, we see players laughing as they fail and are "eliminated" in the game which pits teams against each other. 

And per its press release, it’s also an experience that Michael Hampden, Creative Director at Sandbox, describes as something "approachable and fun for fans" to take part in, which will expand the world of the series.

Now, deep breath, I’m all for allowing fans to find new ways to experience shows and films. I personally love the idea of channeling Joel and Ellie at Universal’s Horror Nights and getting into the world of Stranger Things at an immersive screening. But there’s something about the nature of this one that feels just very icky.

For me, this is all down to it feeling like an antithesis to what the show stood for. There’s no way I’d classify that viewing experience as "fun", instead it was confronting and powerful. I don’t want to laugh as I fall to my death in an intimation of one of the most deeply uncomfortable scenes I’ve seen on screen.

By reducing the series to just a series of games, it’s stripped a hugely complex discussion to just entertainment (if you can even consider torture-based games as entertainment). It’s also not building on this world, as its press release argues, but watering it down.

Franchising success is nothing new. It’s not even new for Squid Game, which we know has been made into a dubious competition game show due to air on the streamer at some point. But instead of creating something that may engage with its great art, it feels Netflix has instead taken the opportunity to capitalize on it. And that’s the real shame.

For what to stream on Netflix, check out our guide to the best Netflix shows and the best Netflix movies.

Fay Watson
Deputy Entertainment Editor

I’m the Deputy Entertainment Editor here at GamesRadar+, covering TV and film for the Total Film and SFX sections online. I previously worked as a Senior Showbiz Reporter and SEO TV reporter at Express Online for three years. I've also written for The Resident magazines and Amateur Photographer, before specializing in entertainment.