Finally, an original game! Three rounds in and more than halfway into the first season, it seemed like the Korean adaptation of Liar Game would, for the most part, just stick to the games and rounds as they appear in the original manga. But fortunately, in an unexpected twist, the fourth round of the Liar Game is not the Contraband Game but the President Game, a new and original concept that had not appeared in other Liar Game media ever before.
And for an original game, I have to say that it was done fairly well. It featured a number of interesting strategies by both Kang Do-Young and Ha Woo-Jin, and though it falls a bit short from reaching the bar set by the manga, it was a valiant and laudable effort.
The President Game – Rules
A basic summary of the rules of this round are as follows: the players may nominate any person outside the game to run for “president”. After the candidates have been chosen (3 in the case of the drama), the actual game begins.
The core of the game consists of 3 rounds of voting. For each round, each candidate gives a speech that contains a campaign promise, which is a promise regarding “treasury” funds that must be faithfully executed if he is elected. The catch is that the candidate is allowed one false promise, which can be indicated via a panel on the podium before the promise is given.
Then, each participant selects the “party” that he/she wishes to join. There is one party for each presidential candidate, as well as an independent party for those who are undecided. Depending on the party a participant chooses, they may be restricted in which other candidates they are able to talk to during the campaigning portion of the round, in which candidates and their supporters can talk amongst themselves or go out and convince members of the independent party.
Once campaigning ends, voting begins, and the candidate who receives the most votes win that round’s election. As the winner, he must execute his campaign promise (unless it was a lie), and he has the ability to eliminate one player from the game (two if it’s the last round) who did not vote for him.
What the President Game Got Right
There are quite a few things that made the start of the game very interesting to watch. For example:
- Kang Do-Young’s strategies around the distribution of money: Do-Young made everyone else think that he lied about distributing the treasury funds, where in fact he simply used a loophole in his own promise and gave all the money to a single person. Additionally, the original idea of collecting tax was quite ingenious as well.
- Ha Woo-Jin’s paper slip: Woo-Jin pulled a distraction stunt on the independent party in the second round, and during the chaos, he had someone in his party hand a paper slip to one of the members of the independent party. This is reminiscent of the strategies used in the manga’s Contraband Game, and was presented in-show very well.
- Candidate Kang Shin-Kyu’s strategy to surround the voting booth: Okay, so this strategy wasn’t all that clever or mind-blowing. However, it does give a nod to the stall-occupying tactic in the Pandemic Game in the manga and Jdrama, and arguably even to an event that occurred in the Musical Chairs Game in the manga.
Why it still Falls Short
Of course, there are also quite a few aspects related to the game’s rules and strategies that were handled very poorly:
- 2 Truths, 1 Lie: Why did the candidates have to declare their lie beforehand? And more importantly, why did any of the candidates bother to declare any of their promises as lies? The rules state that the candidates are each allowed only one lie that they must declare beforehand, but look at what happened with Jo Dal-Goo. Woo-Jin knew Dal-Goo wouldn’t get elected in the first round, so he had him declare the first statement a truth even though it sounded like a preposterous lie. This allowed him to retain his candidacy even though he wasn’t able to carry out his second promise. Since no one expected that Kang Do-Young made a slush fund, Dal-Goo could not possibly have declared his second promise a lie. It was simply a truth that became a lie. But this makes the game rule of having to declare the lie beforehand ridiculous. Why would anybody declare a lie beforehand if they’re allowed to do it after voting ends and after they figure out if their party won or not?
- Inconsistent side characters: The side characters actually did a lot of strategizing and rational thinking this round, which was nice to see, even if they were usually just acting the way that either Woo-Jin or Do-Young wanted them to. However, I feel that this “thinking” aspect of their character was undermined toward the end of the game, when Woo-Jin and Do-Young were arguing about showing the others Woo-Jin’s safe. Let me get this straight. Woo-Jin, who has full control of his own safe, is willing to show everyone, and Do-Young, who basically told everyone that Woo-Jin was a manipulative liar, doesn’t want him to reveal his safe’s contents. Doesn’t that sound a warning bell in anybody’s mind? If I were one of the game participants, I would have interrupted and demanded that Woo-Jin show his safe. Also, Woo-Jin doesn’t need Do-Young’s permission to open his safe. He could have just opened it and told everyone to go look.
- The coin flip challenge: This one is not so much a logical/reasoning-based failing of the President Game, but as an avid fan of the original Liar Game, this is the one thing that bugs me the most about the round. The key component of Liar Game that impressed me was that each round was won by ingenious strategies and mind-blowing psychological tactics, strategies and tactics that, despite the unrealistic setting of the game rounds, were always solidly grounded in reality. To put it another way, at the end of every canonical Liar Game round, I’m always thinking, “Wow, I could not possibly think of a way to turn the tables on that winning strategy.” However, this was not the case for the President Game’s coin-flipping conclusion. The coin flip challenge was decided on by the writers, who gave Kang Do-Young a superpower that tops Woo-Jin’s for the sake of the plot.
Next Round: The Smuggling Game
The next round is the Smuggling Game, which has a name that sounds a lot like the Contraband Game. Of course, because Do-Young gets to choose the teams, it might be very different from the Contraband Game seen in the other version of Liar Game. Again, I’m very excited.
I do have one concern, though. The whole Walden Two mystery and hints that Kang Do-Young is not “human” suggests that we’ll be taking a detour from reality into the world of human experimentation and the resulting powers that are gained through that type of experimentation (such as Do-Young’s ability to control his micro-expressions). Hopefully, the final game will not do more of that whole coin-flipping business that ended the fourth round and will focus more on the ingenious and mind-blowing strategies characteristic of the original Liar Game series.
You can view Episodes 7 and 8 of Liar Game on Viki.