Is the ‘Squid Game’ a Real Korean Children’s Game?

Netflix’s Squid Game has been making waves since its September 17 release on the streaming platform. The dark K-drama has been sucking in fans with its gritty premise — 456 players with life-ruining debt are invited to participate in a winner-take-all blood sport featuring six children’s games. The show is named after the game protagonist Seong Gi-hun talks about in the show’s first episode — a schoolyard game featuring an arena shaped somewhat like a squid. But is the “squid game” a real children’s game?

Is the ‘Squid Game’ a real children’s game?

Actor Lee Jung-Jae as Seong Gi-Hun in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ -- is the squid game a real game?
Actor Lee Jung-Jae as Seong Gi-Hun in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ I Netflix

Squid Game is a Korean television show but has found international acclaim since its Netflix release. While most of the children’s games involved are known to a variety of nationalities, there is one that many non-Korean viewers wonder about — the eponymous game itself. Is the Squid Game a real Korean children’s game? 

Director Hwang Dong-hyuk has confirmed that the squid game is a children’s game he played in the past with his friends and that other Korean children played it in the 1970s and 1980s. 

How does the game work? Protagonist Seong Gi-hun explained it during the first episode of the series.

“Children are divided into two groups, the offense, and the defense. Once the game starts, the defense can run around on two feet in bounds, while the offense outside the lines is only allowed to hop on one foot. But if an attacker cuts through the waist of the squid past the defense, they are given the freedom to use both feet,” explained Gi-hun. 

“When we were ready for the final battle, the attackers gathered at the entrance to the squid,” he added.

“In order to win, the attackers must tap the small, closed-off space on the squid’s head with their foot. But if someone on the defense manages to push you outside the squid’s boundary, you die.”

Hwang Dong-hyuk drew inspiration from ‘Battle Royale’

Characters Gi-Hun and Sang-Woo in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’
Characters Gi-Hun and Sang-Woo in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ | via Netflix

Squid Game viewers may recognize some similarities between the core concept of the series and other media, like Battle Royale. Hwang Dong-hyuk explains that’s because he drew inspiration from the “death games” type of genre.

“I freely admit that I’ve had great inspiration from Japanese comics and animation over the years,” Hwang Dong-hyuk told Variety.

“When I started, I was in financial straits myself and spent much time in cafes reading comics including Battle Royale and Liar Game. I came to wonder how I’d feel if I took part in the games myself. But I found the games too complex, and for my own work focused instead on using kids’ games,” he added.

Is there a ‘Squid Game’ Season 2 on the way?

When it comes to a possible Squid Game Season 2, Hwang Dong-hyuk remains vague. The director has explained that Squid Game was a challenge to make, and he’s not sure if a second season is in the works or not. 

“I don’t have well-developed plans for Squid Game 2. It is quite tiring just thinking about it. But if I were to do it, I would certainly not do it alone. I’d consider using a writers’ room and would want multiple experienced directors,” he told Variety.