You take a deep breath and wipe the sweat from your forehead. The clock is ticking and there is not a second to waste. Too many lives are at stake and they all depend on you. You may be a gamer, but this isn’t just a game — it’s time to step up.
You’ll find these high-stakes thrills in Santa Clara in Immersive Gamebox’s new Squid Game experience, a digital adventure consisting of six mini-games that mimic those played by the characters in Netflix hit series 2021. (But nobody actually dies here.)
It’s a uniquely immersive experience nestled right in that sweet spot between the fully digitized world you’ll find in virtual reality gaming venues and the physical world of set design and cast characters you’ll find in places like “Strange things” or “Bridgerton” experiences.
“It’s not the typical immersive experience,” says April De Leon, site manager for two of the game’s California locations. “It’s not a movie, it’s not VR, it’s not an escape room, it’s not an art show. All these things are kind of mixed into one.”
The experience is its own entrance to the world of Squid Game. These are ordinary people competing in a fierce race and desperate to come out on top. And thanks to Gamebox’s 3-D motion tracking technology, wall-to-wall touchscreens, and a partnership with Netflix, you can spend a fun and very challenging hour as one of these players.
“In the early conversations with Netflix, there was a lot of discussion and brainstorming,” De Leon says. Given that the show’s original plot was structured around a game, turning “Squid Game” into a highly interactive, immersive gaming experience “seemed natural.”
The setup works like this: every time you complete a challenge, an amount of Korean currency is dropped into your piggy bank, but every time you lose, one of your players is eliminated. You start with a few hundred of these virtual players, but once the game starts, those numbers start to dwindle, so keep an eye on your player count.
The first challenge in the game is the classic Red Light, Green Light from the playground days. You must race to a certain spot in the room before time runs out (and hopefully without tripping over any of your teammates). If you’re caught moving when the light is red, you’re toast—and those motion trackers are no joke! The slightest movement and you’re out.
Dalgona, the cookie-cutter game where precision is key, is followed by Tug Of War, a task where teamwork is crucial.
Next up: Marbles, a spatial thinking game that will test if any of your high school geometry really stuck with you, then Glass Bridge, a simple memory game (or so it seems). The final challenge is the Squid Game, where you madly dodge enemies while making your way through an obstacle course before finally tasting the sweet relief of victory (and let’s not forget the money… lots and lots of money).
With an hour of anxiety-inducing challenges, all with devastating consequences, this experience may not be for the faint of heart. But it’s also not quite like the Netflix series with its gruesome deaths. Unlike the show, it’s really just a game. “There is violence, of course, because of the nature of the show,” says De Leon, “and the idea is that your players die when you lose a challenge. But this is implied violence. There is no actual, visible violence depicted in the game at all.”
That said, it’s hard to say what’s creepier, actually seeing players die like you do in shooter video games, or having hundreds of people reduced to mere numbers on a screen, getting closer and closer. -close to zero every time you make even a slight mistake. In today’s modern age, where we constantly see people’s lives summarized in statistics and infographics that are easily dismissed with the swipe of a finger, the game may actually come closer to our current reality than some future dystopia. The game may not be intrinsically terrifying, but there is an eerie nature to something that hits so close to home.
However, if the Squid Game experience seems too heavy for your taste, Gamebox has plenty of other, more light-hearted fare in its game library, from Shaun the Sheep to the first-ever multiplayer Angry Birds slingshot game.
One thing worth noting is the accessibility of the Gamebox. Some virtual experiences—for example, games that use heavy equipment and sometimes disorienting headsets—can be difficult for some people. The only equipment the Gamebox uses is a light viewfinder and some hand and wrist sensors for motion tracking.
“The way we’re instilling immersion through projection mapping and touchscreen capabilities is much more demographically friendly than a lot of other experiences out there,” says De Leon, “which is something we’re really, really proud of. “
All things considered, Gamebox’s Squid Game experience is fun, accessible, and exciting. I managed to get by with the majority of my players still intact and a whopping, albeit imaginary, ₩74.90 billion in my pocket.
Immersive gaming box
Reservations are available between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily at the Westfield Valley Fair, 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd., Suite 2605, in Santa Clara. Tickets are $35 to $40 per person, and rooms can accommodate up to six people. Find tickets and more information at immersivegamebox.com.
Immersive Gamebox’s new ‘Squid Game’ experience: It’s all fun and games…until it’s not