Typical Games Idols Play On Variety Shows

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Authors: Seline Suriel Núñez and Anna Franco Ucar

One of the reasons why K-Pop is a genre that stands apart from the others is the variety of content that each group offers. While artists from other genres release material almost exclusively related to their music, it is very common for Korean pop stars to, in addition, frequently participate in various variety shows, and many groups even have their own reality shows. This allows idols to show all their different sides and, thus, makes fans feel like they know their favorite artists better. In variety shows, idols participate in activities such as cooking, doing interviews, playing sports, acting out comedy sketches, and, above all, participating in various games. Therefore, in this blog, we want to talk about some of the most typical games that K-Pop idols play on variety shows.

Whisper Challenge

To begin with, let’s talk about one of the most comical games within the wide range of variety shows that exist. The “Whisper Challenge”, also called Read my lips!. It is a recognized variety game that has gained a lot of popularity in the Korean entertainment scene, particularly in television programs and online videos where they present idols and other celebrities participating in the activity. Several recognized groups of the K-pop genre, such as BTS, have shown their skills within this game. Participants use headphones with music at a high volume to block external sounds, while another participant whispers a phrase or word to them in a low voice. The challenge is that the participant with the headphones must guess what is being whispered to them based solely on lip reading, since they cannot clearly hear what is being said.

This game has proven to be very entertaining and often results in comical situations and hilarious moments, since misinterpretations and unexpected responses are usually inevitable. Because of this, idols tend to exaggerate their gestures and facial expressions while trying to guess the right words, which adds a humorous touch to the game.

In programs such as “Running Man”, “Weekly Idol” and “Knowing Bros”, among others, the “Whisper Challenge has become one of the favorite sections for viewers due to its ability to show the personality and sense of humor of the participants, since idols often strive to understand the phrases in the midst of laughter and chaotic situations, which creates memorable moments for fans.

BTS participating in the Whisper Challenge. Photo taken from YouTube

Cham Cham Cham

Another staple of South Korean variety shows is “Cham Cham Cham”. It is quite a simple game, often played by two people at a time, that tests the contestants’ reflexes. In its most basic form, both players face each other, and the one who goes first (often decided through ‘가위바위보’ Rock, Paper, Scissors) holds their hand in front of the other participant while chanting ‘Cham, Cham, Cham’, and, upon the third ‘Cham’, the first player points to the left or to the right. If the other person looks in the same direction the hand is pointing, they lose the point and get hit on the head; however, if the second player looks in the opposite direction, they win the point, and then the roles are switched. This game has a few more complex variations incorporating a toy hammer and a small metal or plastic pot, in which the player who ‘attacks’ uses the hammer instead of their hand, and the other participant has the chance to block it with the pot. In one of these variations, both aforementioned items lie on a table between the players, the idols then have to play ‘가위바위보’ (Rock, Paper, Scissors), and at the same time, the winner has to grab the hammer to attack the loser, while the loser has to try to block it using the pot. A key part of the game is speed, so for those who do not have quick reflexes, it can result in very funny reactions, like trying to attack with the pot, or blocking with the hammer.

The intense Cham Cham Cham battle between Jihyo and Tzuyu from TWICE. Collage made by Anna Franco Ucar, using Canva. Photos taken from Youtube

Mystery Box

The next game to highlight is The Mystery Box. In it, the idols must put their hands in a dark and mysterious box, without being able to see its contents, and guess what is inside based solely on their sense of touch. The box itself is designed to contain various objects with different textures and shapes, which adds an element of surprise and excitement to the game. Some of the objects that could be found in the box include things like rubber balls, plastic toys, sponges, mud, gelatin, and food dishes with viscous textures, among other creative and surprising elements. The idea is that idols must face the challenge of identifying these objects through touch alone, often reacting in a confused or frightened way due to the uncertainty of what they might be touching.

One of the most comical and viral videos for its unexpected reaction is from Seventeen, where a member of the group, DK, at the time of exploring the content inside the box, screams hysterically as he withdraws his hand quickly and runs towards the wall while shaking his hand in front of it with the intention of erasing that feeling off himself. There was undoubtedly a moment of laughter between the members who accompanied him and the fans when they saw him.

Seventeen playing Mystery Box. Photo taken from Youtube

Pepero Game

Not all games are simply funny, some of them put idols in more intimate situations, like the famous “Pepero Game”. Pepero is one of the most well-known Korean sweet snacks, consisting of a long and very thin biscuit stick covered in all sorts of chocolate-based flavors. The game is played in twos, with one idol holding one end of a Pepero stick between their teeth and the other one having to eat as much of it as possible from the opposite end without using their hands at any moment. The goal is to end up with the smallest possible bit of Pepero stick, which gets measured and compared to that of the other pairs of idols who are playing the game, to see who managed to make the smallest piece. This one is a fan-favorite, but it is also a divider amongst K-Pop idols. Given the nature of the game, some idols hate it, since they have to get so intimately close to their group members, which on many occasions has led to accidental kissing, and it can make them uncomfortable. Meanwhile, other idols are not bothered by the closeness and decide to have fun with it, unafraid to go to any lengths needed to win the game.

Hyunjin and Bangchan from Stray Kids playing the Pepero Game. Collage made by Anna Franco Ucar. Photos taken from Youtube

The Heart Flutter

The Heart Flutter is another game that is often presented in variety shows starring idols. This game aims to create adorable and exciting moments while idols participate in simulated romantic situations. Among them is that of acting as fictitious couples in it. Idols pair up, creating combinations that may not have been explored in real life. These couples can be formed randomly or chosen by the producers of the program.

During the game, each couple immerse themselves in an interaction of affection in the form of activities or scenarios designed to make the hearts of the participants and the spectators beat faster. These challenges show those who cause the heart to flutter making expressions of tenderness and shyness, such as “Aegyo”; improvised dances, which give a touch of fun at the moment; or small hand rubbing between them, which makes it especially entertaining to observe the reactions of the idols to these situations. Since many idols are close friends in real life, their reactions often include comical and adorable moments. Nervous laughter, shy smiles, and playful jokes can make viewers feel closer to the idols.

The exciting and romantic moments created during this game often become fan favorites. Followers can get excited and support these fictional couples, creating an emotional connection between the idols and their audience.

Han blushed by the interaction with Seungmin during the Heart Flutter Game. Photo taken from Youtube

Paper Kiss Game

Finishing up with the more intimate games is the “Paper Kiss Game”, or “Mouth to Mouth”, which is perhaps one of the most daring games present in variety shows. Similar to the “Pepero Game”, it requires a lot of physical (and emotional) closeness between the idols. In this case, idols are placed in a line, and they have to pass a thin piece of paper from one to the next until reaching the last player, but only using their mouths. This means that the idols have to employ a technique of sucking and releasing the paper at the right moments, which a few of them have mastered, but, in most cases, it leads to awkward situations in which it looks like the idols are strangely kissing, and sometimes there is even lip-to-lip touching if the paper falls down at the last moment. For this reason, many idols dread having to play this game, since it puts them in a very vulnerable situation, but fans love seeing these interactions, perhaps because it shows a more personal side of the idols. It is also great to see some idols being so confident and comfortable with each other that they do not mind tightly embracing their fellow group members, and making fools of themselves, having fun, and providing hilarious content for their fans.

Mark and Youngjae from GOT7 playing the Paper Kiss Game. Collage made by Anna Franco Ucar. Photos taken from Tumblr

Random Play Dance

This is an exciting and challenging game starring our favorite artists. In this game, idols demonstrate their knowledge of choreographies by dancing to fragments of their songs at random, which are played without prior notice.

The game begins when a mixture of fragments of songs by various groups and artists is played. When the music changes to a specific song, idols must quickly recognize it and start dancing to the corresponding choreography on stage. The challenge is that idols must be able to identify the song in a matter of seconds and perform the correct choreography without errors. The excitement of the game comes from the need to act instantly and accurately while facing the pressure of time and the possibility of making funny mistakes. Some idols demonstrate an incredible muscular memory and knowledge of their own songs, while others struggle to remember the choreography in the midst of the adrenaline of the game, which makes it even more entertaining for fans to see the gracefully improvised movements by the members who play.

This game has become a favorite for both idols and viewers, as it allows fans to enjoy their favorite songs and choreographies in a fun and often unpredictable context. Reactions when idols do not recognize a song or when they make a mistake in the choreography can produce laughter and tenderness in their fans.

Stray Kids participating in the Random Play Dance Game. Photo taken from Youtube

Mafia Game

Finally, one of the most iconic games in which idols participate in variety shows is Mafia. With a longer duration and a relatively high complexity compared to other games, Mafia is a strategy game in which friendships do not matter and where anyone can betray you. The game works like a story, in which an idol plays the role of narrator/moderator, which consists of assigning roles to the other participants and recounting the events as the game progresses. In the beginning, all the players sit in a semicircle with their eyes closed, except for the narrator, who remains standing and walks among the other idols, assigning the mafia roles, whose task is to eliminate the rest of the players without being discovered; the detective/police, whose objective is to discover who the mafia are before they have eliminated all the other participants; and the doctor, whose power lies in the chance to save a player from being attacked by the mafia. The rest are simply citizens or townsfolk.

The first round begins with the narrator asking everyone to ‘wake up’, that is, to open their eyes and look at each other. Then they declare that night has come and that everyone must ‘go to sleep’ (close their eyes); next, the narrator asks the mafia to wake up, –and if there is more than one, to acknowledge each other–, and to decide which player they want to eliminate. When the mafia is/are finished, it is the doctor’s turn, who must decide who they want to save. Lastly, the detective wakes up, and they can ask the narrator if one of the players is a mafia member or not. After all this, the narrator says that morning has come and announces who has been eliminated, unless the doctor saved the correct victim. It is then that all the players must put their deduction skills into practice to find out who the mafias are, and in turn, the latter must convince the other participants that the mafias are someone else, because at the end of the round, they must choose someone who they believe is the most suspicious to eliminate. All the rounds follow this same pattern until the mafia have managed to eliminate everyone without being discovered or until someone discovers them.

 Without a doubt, this game guarantees hilarious scenes, where chaos reigns and nobody trusts anyone. Idols live it with such intensity that it allows fans to get to know new parts of their favorites’ personalities, and undoubtedly, the kings of the Mafia Game are Seventeen. As there are so many members, all with different personalities, but equally hilarious, their games are always highly varied, entertaining, and full of madness. Also, their ‘돈’t Lie/Don’t Lie’ (play on words, ‘돈’ means ‘money’) variant, where they incorporate a treasure hunt, adds another level of excitement to the game.

Seventeen’s Jeonghan, Hoshi and The8 having won one of their Mafia games. Photo taken from Koreaboo

In conclusion, the variety games in the shows focused on the idols are not limited to being mere recreational activities; rather, they become significant moments and merge to create a genuine and lasting connection between artists and their fans. As these young talents immerse themselves in ingenious challenges and hilarious experiences, the audience not only rejoices in contagious fun, but also experiences a sense of intimacy when seeing their idols in authentic situations. This is why we wanted to show you, through the activities mentioned in this blog, how these games shed light on the hidden aspects of these young artists, humanizing them and allowing the audience to feel closer to their lives and experiences.

Reading pairs: Andrea Ramirez and Adriana Mercado

Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero


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