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Let the Squid Game begin!

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Photo courtesy of Sandbox VR
Photo courtesy of Sandbox VR

Nothing brings people together quite like an action-packed game. Last fall, families around the world streamed the smash hit Squid Game, a Korean action-drama series following down-on-their-luck citizens who choose to participate in a competition involving deadly children's games. Now, thanks to Sandbox VR, superfans can immerse themselves in a high-tech virtual reality simulation.

The experience allows up to six participants at a time to enter. A player begins by choosing an avatar, which is what the others see when you move around inside the game room. Sandbox offers a variety of avatars, but for personal reasons, I chose to play as the Old Man. True fans understand.

Photo courtesy of Sandbox VR  

Before the game begins, a Sandbox team member helps everyone in the group gear up. As one of the leading VR experiences in the nation, Sandbox has several pieces of equipment for each player to wea: movement trackers for one's ankles and wrists, a weighted vest to provide the full-body sensations the characters would feel in the game, and a VR headset with gaming headphones. The gear may be heavy for smaller players, but once the experience begins, most forget they're wearing it.

During the activity, players can see each other's avatars and hear their voices through the headsets, but also, the once-plain room becomes something completely different! In the Squid Game experience, we were instantly transported to the colorful and whimsical playgrounds of the show, with various nods to the original series, from scenes in the bunkroom to nonplayer characters getting in tricky fights and allegiances. Luckily, our group made it to the end without any backstabbing.

Although the action happens within the confines of a small, empty room, safety procedures are laid out to ensure that players don't run into walls or each other. Still, being aware of your surroundings is something to remember. The realistic graphics can be so convincing that it's easy to forget that there is limited space in real life. On a few occasions, I bumped into fellow players, though that may say more about my spatial awareness than the game itself.

Many of the experiences at Sandbox VR are story-driven. Players compete or work together to survive a zombie attack, complete a mythical quest, or, as in Squid Game, win the (virtual) cash prize. This particular adventure set us up as competitors. We played several games from the series, including Red Light, Green Light and the Glass Bridge. There were also others the series hadn't included, some of which were my favorites, such as Four Corners.

While the experience was virtual, the special effects and attention to detail made everything feel real. At one point, every member of my group staggered or fell to the ground in real life after a virtual platform broke beneath our feet. Beforehand, the game attendants had warned us that we might feel such a realistic falling sensation, and that anyone uncomfortable with that could activate a setting that would disable the feature.

It was easy to get lost in the fun. Although my group was all adults, by the end, we were laughing, sweating, trying not to fall, and teasing each other like children. After nearly an hour, our experience wrapped with a freestyle dance party. The incredible experience had us raving for days to come.

The Squid Game offering was great for my group, which consisted of adults of various ages, sizes, and abilities. Those with glasses could still wear their spectacles under the headset without any issues. Everyone came prepared with comfortable clothes and running shoes, but none of us were quite ready for the workout we got in. For anyone hoping to try out the Squid Game experience, bring something you wouldn't mind sweating in!

Play is one of the most essential ways humans connect. Sandbox VR is changing how adults do so by transporting them to places they haven't experienced since childhood. Embracing the silliness and imagination that once came so easy to us as youngsters feels natural here, thanks to the lifelike illusions.

While the game only lasted a relatively short time, my group left with photos, videos, and fun memories to last a lifetime.

Tickets for Squid Game (or other experiences) at Sandbox VR start at $50 Monday through Thursday ($55 on weekends). Groups should book ahead of time. There are various locations in the Seattle area.