How ‘Squid Game’ Designed Its 5 Deadly Challenges: ‘The Set Is Ironically Dazzling’

Article Image
Photo Source: Courtesy Netflix

The inherent expectation of games is that they should be fun—which is why “Squid Game” production designer Chae Kyoung-sun had a devilishly good time creating the megahit’s life-or-death challenges. Ever wonder what went into the fan-favorite moments of the contestants playing red light, green light or tug of war? Here, Chae breaks down her design process for each set piece.

Red Light, Green Light

“The concept for the first game was confusion about what’s real. I tried to create this space with fantasylike images from children’s stories. The robots were designed after Chul-soo and Young-hee, the Jane and John Doe in Korean textbooks from the 1980s. A mysterious tree was used as a motif for a childlike but horror-filled atmosphere. The surrounding walls were colored with fake yellow reed fields and a blue sky with clouds, another allusion to children’s books. Once the game is over, the doors of the game room close from the ceiling.”

Dalgona

“Dalgona was a Korean pastime for children who gathered on playgrounds in the ’70s and ’80s. People probably remember the playground being a lot bigger when they were children, as opposed to when they revisit it as an adult. The space for this game exploited that feeling—that the structures in the playground felt huge as children—and distorted the scale.”

Tug of War

“The main concept for the design of this space is “people on the road.” It is set on a street to highlight the tragedy of the participants, who are lost in this desperate situation and neglected on the cold asphalt. The street was placed on top of a steel structure tower. The set was built as high as possible for filming and completed with the help of our CGI team.”

Marbles

“Gganbu is the theme of this game. The word means ‘longtime friend’ and is symbolized by two people who wrap their fingers together as a sign of friendship. Each piece on this set is a collection of memories that tells the story of one person. The alleys that recreate these pieces were prepared as a flat, one-dimensional set of a stage from a play. We also needed to add some volume to the flat set, so we used townhouses and roofs with repeating patterns and front gates.”

Glass Steppingstones

“Different from the other games, Glass Steppingstones is watched by an audience. Participants must cross a glass bridge as if [they were] on a tightrope. The concept of this space was a circus. We used layers of draped curtains and a huge, circuslike tent. Vivid colors like green and purple were used, along with colorful lights from amusement park rides to add to the splendor. This set is also like a circus in that the participants must act as clowns and perform dangerous stunts, merely for the entertainment of VIPs. The set is ironically dazzling, as it is a space where the contestants make the last decisions of their lives.”

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

Author Headshot
Casey Mink
Casey Mink is the senior staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
See full bio and articles here!