Squid Game: Hunger Games in the Playground

Ashley Chan, Staff Writer

Step aside Queen’s Gambit and Stranger Things, there’s a new Netflix show that has conquered the number one spot. Squid Game, the nine-episode Korean thriller, released on Sept. 17, has everyone begging for more. 

According to Today, Flix Patrol reported that “Squid Game is the number one show in 82 of the 83 countries it is available in. (It’s number two in Denmark.)” 

Not only is it currently the number one show on Netflix, but Squid Game is also receiving astounding reviews with a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

NBC News has even written that “it is on course to overtake ‘Bridgerton’ as Netflix’s most-streamed series of all time in the U.S. and around the world.”

This new Korean drama follows Seong Gi-Hun, portrayed by actor Lee Jung-jae. Seong is an impulsive gambler that is in debt with a sick mother and young daughter whom he lost custody of. Like Seong, 455 other indebted and desperate individuals were approached by a strange man who offered a money incentive whenever someone could beat him in a game of ddakji, a traditional Korean game that requires flipping paper tiles. Once these individuals won a good sum of money in exchange for a slap for every loss, they received a business card with a phone number from the man. They were told to call the number if they desired an even greater amount of money, with the knowledge that they only had to play a couple of games. Obviously, the money-hungry individuals wanted more, and so, they called the number. Once the number was called, masked men in red tracksuits picked the players up at a meeting place, knocked them out with sleeping gas, stripped them of their clothes that were then replaced by green tracksuits, and woke them up in a room with the other 455 players. From there, the series gets far more grotesque. 

The participants were all numbered from 1 to 456, with Seong being number 456, indicating that he was the very last contestant to join the games. From there, the individuals were escorted to a large, open room with a giant robotic doll across the room. The participants were informed that they would be playing Red Light, Green Light. If they wanted to pass the game, they would have to make it across the room to the doll without getting caught. If they were caught, the participants would be eliminated. However, the participants were not aware of the true stakes of the game. When the participants moved after the red light was already called, losing the game, they would be shot with a rifle. So yes, “eliminated” truly means being eliminated. 

Red Light, Green Light was the first game out of six that would determine the winner of the 45.6 billion South Korean won cash prize, which is approximately $38 million. Want to take a guess at how the demented, unknown creator of the games decided that number? Well, everytime a contestant is eliminated, 100,000 won is added to the humongous piggy bank that is suspended in the dormitory room. Essentially, the participants are reduced to dollars and cents, and act as a form of entertainment for the “VIPs” who the audience meets in episode seven. The other five games consist of honeycomb shape cutting, tug of war, marble games, glass stepping stones, and squid game. These are all games nostalgic to the players since these are games that have been played by children in Korea for years. However, of course, there is the brutal and bloody twist. With the accumulation of deaths from the six games, murders among the participants, and suicides, only one individual remains and is left with the 45.6 billion won prize. 

This is a show reminiscent of the Hunger Games, in regards to the fact that a higher entity is organizing the gruesome game, that there is a cash prize, and that numerous lives have been lost. With a large exception regarding how Squid Game had contestants willingly join and participate. But, is it really a choice for these indebted individuals who have nothing back in the “real world” except pain and suffering? 

Squid Game is a series that sheds light on what humans would do to survive. It’s a game of kill or be killed; would they crumble under fear or would they kill to win the money? 

The Washington Post describes this series as “a haunting microcosm of real life, unpacking the many implications of inequality, which has in some way drawn each of the players to this battle for their lives.”

To the audience’s delight, Squid Game season two is likely to happen since not all questions and logistics of the games have been answered. Even students at Arcadia High School (AHS) have glowing reviews for the show. 

I love the series Squid Game because of the suspense and numerous Easter eggs embedded into scenes that leave the viewers wondering,” junior Terry Cheung claimed. “What makes Squid Game so addicting is how you never expect something to happen but it does, and it’s not cliche like many of the shows out there.” 

“I fell in love with Squid Game because of the characters, especially Sae-byeok and Ji-yeong,” said junior Ethan Schmid. “Their relationship was memorable.” 

“As a Korean myself, I can relate to the series because it shows traditional Korean games that I used to play when I was younger,” remarked junior Benjamin Oh. “It felt very reminiscent and nostalgic in that way.”

If you enjoy drama, action, and thriller, this new Korean series with never-ending plot twists has to be added to your Netflix must-watch list!