For Italian Squid Game fans, dying is just for fun

There are childish games, red-clad guards, and a single winner – but for Italian fans of Netflix’s ultra-violent hit “Squid Game,” the dying is thankfully just imaginary.

About fifty thrill seekers gathered in a hangar near Milan transformed into the universe of the South Korean television series which has become a global phenomenon.

It portrays hundreds of marginalized people forced to participate in traditional children’s games. Sadistic “VIPs” watch as they clash, the only eventual winner earning a fortune – and everyone else suffers brutal deaths.

On a cold and humid November night in northern Italy, a masked guard in a red jumpsuit yells at a crowd of fans to “Line up!” “

The masked Front Man, who runs the game, fires a shot in the air, and it’s silence.

“You are there to satisfy the VIPs, this game was organized for them,” he said, pointing to two masked people sitting in a corner.

The first game is “Red Light, Green Light”, where, in the television series, participants have to crawl on a terrifying robot doll when she has her back to it – with the risk of being shot if she sees them move.

The bullets here are plastic pellets and the guards say they are aimed at not hurting anyone. Participants wear masks to protect their faces, as well as a T-shirt with an identification number.

People take part in a Squid Game-inspired event hosted by the Enigma Room escape game in Milan on Sunday. | AFP-JIJI

But many are quick to get into the spirit of things. “Can I make 45.6 billion won ($ 38 million) here?” enthused Stefano, a 42-year-old doctor, referring to the silver prize of the South Korean series.

Laura Tatolo, a 27-year-old waitress who came with a friend, told AFP: “The series fascinates me and I was looking for a game to find the atmosphere!”

“Squid Game,” directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, became Netflix’s most popular series at launch, drawing at least 111 million viewers into its dystopian nightmare.

There are Squid Game fans all over the world crafting merchandise and murals, while “escape games” such as Milan have popped up all over the world.

“It was supposed to be a Halloween event, but it’s so well done that we kept it going,” said Anna Kovalova of Enigma Room, the Milan-based company that organized the evening’s entertainment.

As with the television series, the game has its detractors. “We have received emails from indignant parents,” she said, adding that people under 16 are prohibited.

There are six challenges in total – including a tug of war which in the TV series puts you at risk of falling from a vertiginous bridge – and the experience lasts two hours.

The final duel in Milan was won by the number 15 candidate, Federico Alemanni.

“We got back the atmosphere, the adrenaline rush of ‘Squid Game’,” he said.

The price isn’t quite the 45.6 billion won offered on the show. The winner gets free entry to another game.

Players re-enact the scene from the game of marbles in the South Korean TV series
Players re-enact the scene of the marbles game in the South Korean TV series “Squid Game” during an event hosted by the escape game Enigma Room in Milan on Sunday. | AFP-JIJI

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