The Korean-made Netflix hit Squid Game is about the desperation of survival in a system rigged against you if you’re at the bottom, and the dark labyrinths of human psychology that lead us to become strangers even to ourselves. The Squid Game itself is gory for sure, but the most uncomfortable parts in the show may be the complex games played in the “real world.”
Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk had to fight for a decade for his vision to come to fruition. His project was passed on for years, but the worldwide conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic made his show concept look more attractive to producers. It has certainly paid off, as the show has hit a nerve with the global zeitgeist, and led many to ask “Is the Squid Game real? Could the Squid Game really happen?”
While there is no real-world equivalent to the Squid Game depicted on the show, the fiction works so well because it’s rooted in real problems and experiences. Creator Hwang Dong-hyuk is no stranger to desperation. At some point he had to quit writing the script for Squid Game because he needed money and the only thing he had to sell was his laptop. He let it go for $675, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Real Squid Games will happen in real life
Although there is no known precedent of world elites organizing and betting on a game where debtors fight each other to the death for a massive cash prize, The Korean Cultural Center in the United Arab Emirates is currently putting together a real world “Squid Game”-themed event. While this event will mimic the four of the s children’s games from the show, there will be no death or violence involved. There is also be no prize money.
50-year-old Dong-hyuk came up with the Squid Game show concept over ten years ago while living with his mom and grandmother. He started planning it in 2008 and finished it in 2009.
At first, studios bristled at the dark premise of indebted people willing to die for a chance to win money. “The idea of a game-winner who strikes it rich was unwelcomed. The brutality and cruelty of the games were of concern. I had to put the scenario on the shelf,” Dong-hyuk said of his previous rejections.
Now, it all seems more plausible as the gap between the rich and the poor has grown more and more over the years, with deadly consequences. The wealth gap isn’t just about differences in comfort and convenience, it’s often about life and death. The difference isn’t just on an individual level. There are rich countries and poor countries in our global economic ecosystem. Dong-hyuk has pointed out, according to the WSJ, that even vaccine rollouts are based on a countries’s wealth.
What are the influences of Squid Game?
Dong-hyuk has said that he was influenced by “survival manga” like Battle Royale, As the Gods Will, Liar’s Game and Alice in Borderland. He spent years reading these mangas in cafes during a time when he was undergoing financial hardships. He no doubt drew from his own experience, and witnessing the struggles of those around him to inspire the insidious world of Squid Game.
The real life game behind Squid Game
Although Red Light, Green Light, the first bloody game played by the desperate characters in the show, Squid Game isn’t really known in the U.S. It was, however, Dong-hyuk’s favorite childhood game. He picked it as the title because of his fondness for it, and because it’s so physically demanding.
To play Squid Game, which is a kind of tag, a squid-shaped board is drawn in the dirt. Players are formed into two teams: offensive and defensive. The objective for the offensive players is to get their foot into the section that represents the squid’s head without being touched by the opposing team.
The defensive players have to remain in their lines while tagging the offensive players. Until the offensive team members get to the squid’s midsection, they have to jump on one foot.