Of all the schoolyard games played during Netflix’s battle-royale style Korean thriller Squid Game, the titular game is said to be the most physical, the most violent.
But is “squid game” even a real game?
According to Netflix’s 2019 announcement of the series (directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk), squid game is a literal translation of a popular schoolyard game played by Korean children during the 1970s and 1980s. It’s described as a “type of tag where offense and defense use a squid-shaped board drawn in the dirt.”
In the series, protagonist Seong Gi-hun (No. 0456) is seen playing the game during an opening black and white flashback sequence. Here, the game is played in teams. Seong later plays the game during the main events of the series against childhood friend Cho Sang-woo (No. 0218) in a one-on-one matchup.
By this point, the two men are able to simply disregard the rules and kill each other. Still, Seong begins the game trying to follow the rules by hopping along the outside of the box. (Before the game began, Seong had won a coin toss and chosen offense.)
By the end of the game, instead of killing Cho, Seong makes his way to the squid’s head, hoping to end the game in the traditional manner.
The rules, however, seem to confound all the foreign “MVPs” watching the game above—a stand-in, no doubt, for viewers of the Netflix series, also watching violence for entertainment. Their ignorance to the rules is also likely the viewer’s.
What are the rules of Squid Game?
In the opening sequence, Seong explains the rules of the game over voiceover:
It’s unclear what makes the game “tag-like,” as the team competition appears closer to Red Rover and Capture the Flag. It’s also not clear what separates the first part of the game (hopping while attempting to cross the squid’s waist) and the second part of the game (the attack on the squid’s head). Perhaps the first part decides how many of the second part’s attackers will be able to use two feet during the final melee.
In that case, there would need to be a clear way to conclude the first round. Though, we aren’t told how the defense is able to win that round—only how the offense can gain a two-foot advantage. Perhaps the first round is timed. Perhaps if an attacker is knocked out of the squid’s waist, he/she is eliminated from the round and must hop during the next.
What’s certain is that there definitely aren’t any knives allowed.
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