Squid Game has become a sensation in dozens of countries. The Netflix K-drama is known for its brightly colored set and costumes. The series also wouldn’t be the same without its attention-grabbing name. Initially, Netflix was concerned that the title might alienate some audiences. The show’s name was almost switched to something more straightforward. However, writer-director Hwang Dong-hyuk pushed to keep the show’s unique title.
Is Squid Game a real game in South Korea?
Squid Game is a real children’s game played in South Korea. Netflix described the game as “a type of tag where offense and defense use a squid-shaped board drawn in the dirt.” The “board” consists of a circle at each end. One circle is intersected with a triangle, the other with a square.
Protagonist Seong Gi-Hun explains the rules of the children’s game at the beginning of the series. “Children are divided into two groups, the offense, and the defense. Once the game starts, the defense within the grid can move around with both feet, and the offense outside the grid has to hop on one foot. But if the attacker takes their chance and cuts through the squid’s waste, they win the right to freely move around with both feet.”
Gi-hun then describes a “final battle” where “the attackers line up at the entrance of the squid.” For the attackers to win, one of them must “tap the space in the squid’s head with their foot” without the defense shoving them out of the grid.
‘Squid Game’ almost went with a different title
The title and squid-shaped playing field have become an iconic part of the show. However, Netflix’s VP of Content in Asia Pacific, Minyoung Kim, was originally concerned that the title wouldn’t work.
“Squid Game, or ojingeo in Korean, is a real kids’ game here, but not all Koreans actually know it,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “My generation knows it, but my niece’s generation probably wouldn’t. So, initially, we knew we wanted this show to travel but we were worried the title Squid Game wouldn’t resonate because not many people would get it.”
Instead, Netflix chose a title whose meaning was much more apparent. “So we went with the title Round Six instead, wanting it to be more general and helpful for telling people what the show is about,” she explained.
Yet Hwang kept pushing for the more unique title. Squid Game was something he played during his own childhood. “It was one of the most physical and it was also one of my favorite games,” he told Radio Times. “I felt that this game could be the most symbolic children’s game that could represent the kind of society we live in today.”
In the end, Hwang was right about pushing for the title he believed would grab audiences’ attention. “I’m so glad director Hwang steered us back to Squid Game — it sparks curiosity and captures the story so well,” Minyoung told THR.
The Netflix series became an international hit
Squid Game was not just a hit in its home country of South Korea. The series landed Netflix’s #1 spot in at least 90 different countries.
Now, Minyoung credits the title as contributing to the show becoming a hit all over the world. “The title, Squid Game, together with the eye-catching artwork, really capture interest within our service,” she told THR. “Especially for audiences who have never watched a Korean show before but are looking for fun things to watch.”
All episodes of Squid Game are currently streaming on Netflix.