MrBeast’s Squid Game goes hyper viral

Mr Beast, a YouTuber with over 84 million subscribers, published a real life Squid Game competition. The video is based on the hugely popular South Korean Netflix drama, Squid Game, and has gone hyper viral.

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Jason Ng
December 15, 2021 1:15 pm

There is a good reason the video has gone viral. It is brilliantly produced. Great videography, lots of suspense and funny commentary. It’s not easy to encapsulate the best parts of a Netflix series into a 25-minute video. The cost of production was $3.5 million. Enough money to do justice to the original Squid Game.

Personally, MrBeast is a kind of YouTube inspiration to me. I’ve written about my ongoing battle with YouTube here and here. The cards are stacked against small creators and we’re all trying to crack the algorithm. Of course MrBeast was a small creator too at one point.

He tried to grow his first channel by partaking in the well-known ‘sub for sub’ strategy. YouTubers still follow this flawed strategy of ‘You scratch my back, I scratch your back’. The idea is to subscribe to a creator and they will subscribe back. The problem is the subscriber count you build up isn’t really interested in your content. MrBeast found this out when he posted videos and got only 2 or 3 views despite having built up hundreds of subscribers. He deleted his channel and started again. Lesson learnt.

He did things differently in his new channel. He experimented with different kinds of content from gaming to guessing how much the bigger YouTubers of the day such as PewDiePie were earning. Some videos were popular and some weren’t. His big breakthrough came at a time when a sponsor was offering him $5,000. He stayed on the phone for 3 hours, pushing the sponsor to give $10,000 instead. MrBeast planned to give away the money and promised it would go viral if the sponsor doubled their original offer. The sponsor agreed and the video did indeed go viral.

MrBeast’s trajectory has been on the up ever since, filming crazy stunts and making massive philanthropic pledges. His latest Squid Game video has pushed the boundary, taking YouTube videos to the next level. For me, the inspiration comes from the very visible fact that he was a small YouTuber who made mistakes and tried out different kinds of videos until he found his niche. It shows that the average person can reach the echelons of their chosen path with experimentation, consistency and a bit of luck.

MrBeast Squid Game.jpg
Alex Bakalov
December 18, 2021 7:39 pm

I’m not a MrBeast subscriber. His videos have great production value, but they’re not for me. I’m guessing most of his fanbase are children and teenagers. I heard about his Squid Game video and watched it because of the controversy surrounding it. I enjoyed his video. I think the criticisms against it are reaching for something to complain about without much substance. I’ll discuss some of these criticisms now.

The biggest criticism I’m seeing is that MrBeast’s video lacks the depth of the original Squid Game. Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Squid Game is a critique of modern-day capitalism. I totally get this. The lengths people go, to kill and to be killed, to get their hands on money. It’s a powerful message about how modern day, competitive society has winners and losers, and the losers are cornered to make unimaginable choices just to survive. But to say that MrBeast’s video badly misunderstands the message of Squid Game is a strange argument. Who says MrBeast’s video was meant to convey the same message as the original series? MrBeast’s video had no intention of recreating a critique of capitalism. It’s just a fun video with a lot of energy. In fact, I think it is pretentious to assume what MrBeast was trying to achieve with his video and more so, it is arrogant to impose what he should have been trying to do.

My biggest gripe with the criticisms of MrBeast’s video is the hypocrisy in them. They complain that it’s a rip off of Squid Game, but they also complain that the video leaves out elements of the original series, for example the critique of capitalism. What? So now you do want him to copy the original series. Make up your mind! You’re complaining that he copied the concept and then you’re complaining that he hasn’t copied it enough. The hypocrisy in this argument makes me think these critics are complaining for the sake of it.

Another criticism that I read was that Squid Game highlighted the theme of desperation and MrBeast got a bunch of desperate followers to participate in his video. These critics really are expert in making unwarranted assumptions. Who said they were desperate? Did the critics interview all of them afterwards and measure their levels of desperation? If I were a MrBeast fan and I had the opportunity to participate, I would. Why? Not because I’m desperate but because it looked fun. Yes, people can take part in things because it’s fun, believe it or not. Of course I’d want to win the money too. But just because people are competing to win a lot of money doesn’t mean they are desperate. Is everyone who buys a lottery ticket desperate? It’s an absurd criticism.

I believe the critics have really missed the mark here. They complain that MrBeast has badly misunderstood the message of Squid Game. I counter that by saying the critics have badly misunderstood MrBeast’s video.

Irvin Blake
December 16, 2021 3:53 pm

MrBeast’s ‘$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life’ video is a great watch, no doubt about it. If I may make a criticism, I think things are getting out of control on YouTube and other social media. Jimmy stepped it up a notch for this video. That’s great, pushing the limits and all that good stuff. How will other creators react to it?

Some of them will keep doing their own thing, understanding that they have their niche and MrBeast has his. Others, however, will be threatened. Their thought process could go like this: That MrBeast video was crazy and it got MILLIONS of views. We need to do something crazy too to stand out. The worrying part about this is when you keep pushing the limits, lives are put at risk.

Sophia Cheung, a Hong Kong Instagram influencer, died while taking a selfie at a waterfall and falling off the edge. Death by selfie has taken hundreds of lives and tourist destinations are being encouraged to impose no-selfie zones. You could say the origins of this come from planking, an online trend in which people pictured themselves lying down face first on the floor and other objects. It started out innocently enough, but then people started planking in questionable places such as high-storey balconies. Mistakes were bound to happen and lives were lost.

In one of the crazier stunts I’ve heard about, small YouTuber Pedro Ruiz pressured his girlfriend to shoot him with a handgun at close range. The catch was that Ruiz would be holding a thick encyclopaedia in front of him. He convinced his girlfriend that the bullet wouldn’t go through it. The gun was shot and the bullet went through the book, fatally wounding Ruiz.

In Nashville, Tennessee, another small YouTuber Timothy Wilks was performing a prank where he threatened a group of people with butcher knives. Unknown to the group that it was a prank, one of them took out a gun and shot Wilks, killing him.

Although these examples are eye-opening and caution us to be prudent, the competition to stand out on social media is stiff. None of these influencers imagined that their photos or videos would be their last. Which means that people will continue to push the limits to achieve the success that MrBeast has now. We can’t blame Jimmy for the actions of others. That wouldn’t be fair. But I think by creating videos that fall into the #MindBlown category, he’s affecting the culture of content creation, especially as one of the biggest YouTubers on the platform. Many people, including many impressionable kids, will see crazy stunts as the way to make a name for yourself. This is why I think we should be careful to celebrate shock-value videos and try to steer content creation in a way that doesn’t put lives at risk.

Abi Ortega
December 17, 2021 8:58 pm

Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast, is a very well-liked YouTube personality. His popularity is rare in that he has millions of subscribers but relatively few haters. I’m using the world relatively because having haters and trolls is an accepted part of being an internet celebrity, or any celebrity for that matter. He will most certainly have people who dislike him and what he does. If an influencer approval poll were sent out, chances are he’d be near the top of the list.

Much of this comes down to his charitable work. #TeamTrees is one example. This is a charity that plants one tree for every dollar donated. As of this writing, #TeamTrees has raised more than $23.5 million and planted 9 million trees so far. Some well known donors include…

  • Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla & SpaceX, donated $1 million
  • Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, donated $900,000
  • Jack Dorsey, CEO of Block (and former CEO of Twitter), donated $350,000
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, donated $200,000

Another charity is #TeamSeas, which is removing trash from oceans, seas and rivers. So far, 18.4 million pounds of trash have been removed. These are impressive numbers, just like MrBeast’s view stats, and they contribute to the positive image many have of him.

Though since his Squid Game video, I have read quite a lot of criticism about him and the video. One comment by a fan got me thinking. The fan wrote that you can do all the good in the world, but if you make one mistake, everyone is ready to turn on you. MrBeast doesn’t have to do philanthropic work. Many other influencers in his position would probably pocket the money. He’s making a lot of positive difference with the audience and platform he has. The success of his Squid Game video will also probably contribute in some way to more philanthropic activities.

I guess the criticism is to be expected. When a video has 171 million views, it is impossible to please everybody. It would be better to see more deliberation in our online interactions. We don’t have to turn against someone the moment they do something we don’t like, particularly in a case like this where the intentions of the video are innocuous.

Anita Chan
December 19, 2021 2:06 pm

I loved Squid Game. I was on the edge throughout the series and was genuinely upset when characters died because I got so attached to them. The last episode ended in a cliff-hanger and I can’t wait for Series 2!

I think a lot of anger is coming from MrBeast’s video being a carbon copy and the celebration of that success. John Youshaei’s now-deleted tweet celebrated 100m+ views for both productions, but pointed out that Squid Game took 10 years to make and MrBeast’s video took 7 weeks. Understandably, many people didn’t like how this was communicated. Clearly it would never have been possible to make MrBeast’s video in 7 weeks without Squid Game in the first place. So a side-by-side comparison is unfair.

It also neglects the hurdles Hwang Dong-hyuk faced in getting Squid Game into production. He wrote the script in 2009 but it was rejected for being too unrealistic and violent. But now “the world has changed into a place where such peculiar, violent survival stories are actually welcomed” (Source: Interview with Hwang Dong-hyuk, Korea Times). MrBeast didn’t face this hurdle at all.

Squid Game is another success of Hallyu or the Korean Wave’s global impact. For some people, a celebration of MrBeast’s video is equivalent to a celebration of plagiarism and it can come across as advocating for unoriginal content.

John Youshaei MrBeast Tweet.jpg