‘Squid Game’: Explaining Every Childhood Game Used in the K-Drama

The Korean drama on Netflix, Squid Game, turns a person’s fondest memories of childhood games into their worst nightmare. The 2021 K-drama revolves around 456 players who are desperate to solve their debt problems and rectify their lives any way they can. Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-Jae) becomes one of the players who must stay alive for six days and win each round of the Games. He and the players never expected the games to be based on the ones from their childhood.

Besides the riveting storyline of Netflix’s Squid Game and the surprise twists, fans enjoyed the idea of turning an adult’s innocent memories into a survival deathmatch. Some fans might be familiar with the childhood games the K-drama uses. But, a few of the games are catered to South Korean culture. Carving out a shape from Dalgona candy never looked so terrifying.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains mild spoilers about Squid Game.]

Lee Yoo-Mi as Ji-Yeong and Jung Ho-Yeon as Kang Sae-Byeok for Netflix's 'Squid Game' wearing green tracksuits and holding marbles
Actors Lee Yoo-Mi as Ji-Yeong and Jung Ho-Yeon as Kang Sae-Byeok for Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ | via Netflix

‘Red Light, Green Light’ resulted in the death of half the players

The first level in Squid Game is “Red Light, Green Light.” The childhood game is also called “Statues” in the United States and “Grandma’s Footsteps” in the United Kingdom. The rules of the game are fairly simple. The “curator” faces away from the other players and says, “green light.” The other players must get as close as possible to the curator before it is too late. When the curator turns around and says “red light,” the other players must freeze. If a player is unable to keep still, they lose.

Squid Game tweaked the rules and had a motion sensor doll scan for any movement and eliminate players. The K-drama’s first game eliminates over half the participants as they run in panic. According to Insider, the giant robotic doll inspired a new TikTok trend. On social media, fans claimed the director copied the premise of the game from a Japanese movie.

Players must pick the right shape for the Dalgona candy challenge in ‘Squid Game’

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In episode 3 of the K-drama, most of the players return after many voted to stop the Game. The new game they partake in involves one of South Korea’s popular sweet treats. Dalgona candy is melted sugar combined with baking soda to create a crunchy treat. It can be compared to honeycomb candy. In South Korea, the treat is poured onto a metal surface, flattened, and stamped with a shape.

The players in Squid Game must choose a shape from a star, umbrella, triangle, and circle. They then learn they have to act out a game many children play with Dalgona candy. Using a needle or sharp object, the players must find a way to carve out the shape in one piece. Failing to win the game leads to death. Gi-Hun finds a secret trick to the game before time runs out.

A game of ‘Tug of War’ leads to victory for an unlikely team

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Tug of War requires skill, strength, and resilience. Two teams are battle against each other, holding onto one rope between them. Each group must pull with enough strength to inch the rope farther away from the opposing team. Once the flag in the middle passes a certain distance, the other team loses.

Squid Game episode 4 adds a deadly circumstance to the game. The players go to two separate towers with a bridge to play Tug of war. The bride has a gap in the middle where the losing team falls to their deaths. Gi-Hun and the main characters form the weakest team, including Oh Il-Nam (Oh Yeong-Su), the only elderly player. They never expected Il-Nam to have the perfect strategy to win and earn them another day alive.

A game of ‘Marbles’ leads to an upsetting end

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One of the most emotional games viewers had to get through was episode 6 of Netflix’s Squid Game. The outcome of the game changes the tide for the rest of the show. The players must pick partners, and Gi-Hun chooses Il-Nam out of the kindness of his heart. Gi-Hun and the other players did not expect their partners to be their rivals. The players must play a game of marbles against each other.

Squid Game uses a different version of the game. One version of marbles has players knocking the glass balls outside a ring to declare a winner. But in the K-drama, the players use the marbles in a guessing game. Each player must pick an odd or even number of marbles to conceal in their hand. One player has to guess the odd or even number of the other player. If they are correct, they win the loser’s marbles. The objective of the game is to win all of the opposer’s marbles.

The players realize they are allowed to change the rules of the game to their advantage. The episode had one of the biggest betrayals in the drama and the death of many well-liked characters. Fans unknowingly did not realize it also teased Il-Nam’s true identity as the set for the game was a replica of his childhood neighborhood.

The VIP members watch the participants play ‘Glass Stepping Stones’

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By episode 7 of Squid Game, the viewers meet the secretive VIP members. The VIP members are wealthy men who take pleasure in using civilians for their entertainment. They watch the participants play “Glass Stepping Stones.” Fans are unclear what childhood game it represents. The design is similar to hopscotch but with different rules.

The remaining participants pick a number from 1 to 16. Their number designates the order in which they play the game. The doors open to reveal a transparent bridge. Between the players and the other side is a bridge with glass panels. One panel is safe while the other is fake. Picking the wrong tile results in the player plummeting to their death. Fans on Reddit had interesting theories of how a player could win the game. The game had a morbid lesson of what people are willing to hide for their advantage.

The final game in Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’ is specific to South Korea

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The K-drama’s final game might not be familiar to non-Korean audiences. Gi-Hun and Cho Sang-Woo (Park Hae-Soon) are the Game’s final players. Sang-Woo reaches the finale by betraying the people he became close to. It creates a tense rivalry between Gi-Hun and Sang-Woo. Both players take part in a Korean childhood game called “Squid Game.”

Fans could have guessed the final game as Gi-Hun monologues about his childhood at the beginning of the drama. Squid Game is more common in South Korea. Screen Rant breaks down the history and rules of the popular game amongst children in the 70s and 80s.

The rules of the game can get a little complicated. Drawn shapes on the ground mimic a squid. The players are split into offensive and defensive teams. The offense’s objective is to tap the head of the squid with their foot. The defense must stay within the boundaries of the head. They must tag the offense or push them outside the boundaries to be eliminated. Instead of a team, it becomes a one-on-one game with a twist ending fans did not expect.