Unfortunately, MrBeast’s Squid Game Simulation is Perfect YouTube Content

YouTubers make careers in the simulacra of traditional media

Jamie Cohen
4 min readNov 26, 2021

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screengrab from mrbeast’s squid game recreation on his youtube channel
MrBeast’s “$456,000 Squid Game in Real Life!”

In 1946, Jorge Luis Borges wrote an allegorical short story about cartographers who had become so advanced they were able to create an exact map of another city, precise in size and territorial accuracy, basically creating a replica of the original. As the story goes, future generations came upon the decaying map in the desert and saw it as useless and broken even though it still remained accurate.

In the 80s, postmodernist Jean Baudrillard updated Jorge Luis Borges’ story in Simulacra and Simulation to explain that we now live on that decaying map, having believed it to be the real territory, not the copy. Or, as Baudrillard writes: “The desert of the real.”

Baudrillard depicts our reality as so comprehensively overwhelmed by visually-dominated media that it creates a “generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.” Most of us know this story through its adaptation in The Matrix wherein advanced robots construct a virtual reality that completely replaces our reality with a fully mediated simulation.

However, in the absence of our robot overlords, we have YouTube to overwhelm our senses. So that may explain why it seems so natural the the 23-year-old YouTuber MrBeast, who earned a massive audience and millions of dollars producing viral giveaways and stunts, built an accurate simulation of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Squid Game sets — to be specific, MrBeast built the death game arenas.

Hwang Dong-hyuk’s series is an allegory depicting some of the the economic disparity in South Korea and the existential struggles of survival there. Squid Game’s simulated “accuracy” was so poignant that some South Korean viewers found the series “hard to watch” and “repulsive.”

But that matters little to MrBeast and his more than 130 million followers across his media channels.

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Jamie Cohen

Digital culture expert and meme scholar. Cultural and Media Studies PhD. Internet studies educator: social good, civic engagement and digital literacies