This YouTuber recreated Squid Game in real life with $625k cash prize but people are divided

Screengrab from YouTube

As a pop culture phenomenon that has achieved zeitgeist popularity, Squid Game has inspired an avalanche of social media content with many content creators riding its wave.

Just when you think the hype is tapering off, YouTuber MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, seems to have reignited interest by recreating the set of the hit South Korean dystopian drama and inviting 456 participants for a real-life Squid Game.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e3GPea1Tyg[/embed]

Yes, these participants are competing against each other for a chance to win US$456,000 (S$625,563).

Before you start writing to the United Nations Human Rights Council though, there is no violence or deaths in this one. When participants fail a challenge, a contraption that is strapped to their bodies just goes off with a harmless 'pop' and it fizzles.

Like the show, participants go through the same sequence of games with the exception of two additional games — ddakji and musical chairs (to replace the final challenge).

At one point, the video attempts to recreate the emotional stakes by pitting friends against each other in the marble game.

Spoiler alert: Player 456 didn't win although he fought valiantly to the end.

[[nid:550428]]

This isn't the first time Jimmy is giving out money — he's made his online fame through stunt videos and extravagant giveaways. The 23-year-old has even earned the title of "YouTube's biggest philanthropist". However, his latest viral sensation isn't sitting well with everyone despite garnering more than 117 million views since its release on Nov 25.

Firstly, Jimmy's video drew flak on Twitter after fellow online content creator Jon Youshaei praised it, seemingly at the expense of the original series.

In a now-deleted tweet, Jon wrote: "More views, less time, fewer gatekeeping [sic]. That's the promise of creator economy."

Cue the influx of sarcastic retorts pointing out how flawed Jon's logic was. Netizens were outraged at the unfair comparison (between a produced series and a YouTube video) and pointed out that Jimmy's video wasn't original. Rather, it was based on an existing show.

[embed]https://twitter.com/catharticus/status/1465376957491662848[/embed]

[embed]https://twitter.com/BethElderkin/status/1465397892986851329[/embed]

Secondly, the video has been criticised for missing the point of Squid Game and its anti-capitalist message.

In fact, Vice Media described it as a "perverse" piece of media and wrote: "This doesn't just badly misunderstand the anti-capitalist message of Squid Game, it's a literal recreation of the villain's ultimate desire to watch desperate people compete for money purely for his amusement."

[[nid:546011]]

With no real stakes involved, and losers were given consolation prizes of a few thousand dollars, this critique rings true as there doesn't seem to be any meaning in this recreation aside from entertainment value.

One could argue that it might be an homage to the show. After all, the entire video cost around US$3.5 million (US$2 million to build and produce with US$1.5 million in prizes) and that requires a sponsor some investment and dedication.

However, it's hard to tell if the appreciation for the show runs deeper than just faithful recreations of the set and costumes.

Regardless, the one who gets the last laugh is probably Jimmy on his way to the bank.

bryanlim@asiaone.com