It is hard to believe that even though Squid Game has found quite a large audience across the world, the series’ creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk a 50-year-old and a born of South Korea, first developed its plan a 10 years ago, while living with his mother and grandmother. It was at that time that “Red Light, Green Light” was established as the first kids’ game the competitors would play. But with no one interested, and work hard to come by despite the financial challenges, Hwang was forced to sell his laptop for $675, effectively putting a major hold on writing anymore of the script.
Netflix’s Squid Game might be the first Korean-language series to top the streamer’s most-watched list, but for nearly 10 years ago, every studio was rejecting it and no one wanted to invest in it except the owner. Of course this might be very hard to accept, based on the current ratings that the series is set to lead the rest for Netflix’s most watched series of all time, but at one point, the battle royale-style series that sees 456 financially broken competitors seeking a cash prize of $38 million was refused because it was looked at as too unpleasant for television.
But two years ago, when Netflix started producing the series, the company felt that it was the right time for Squid Game, even if past investors said that the premise and script was too extreme for viewers. As to why Squid Game works now and not before? Hwang says, “The world has changed. All of these points made the story very realistic for people compared to a decade ago.”
Squid Game is trending for telling an edgy story of a group of 456 people from the different aspects of life, who are invited to play a series of children’s games with deadly consequences to win millions of dollars. While it’s being praised for its racy content, it has caused some change in the life style of the people watching especially the young generation for example it has glorified trends like bringing back some old fashion like slip on shoes and tracksuits with people actually searching for ‘Squid Game tracksuits’ and ‘Squid Game shoes’ across the world. The Squid Game costume worn by the contestants is the hot topic of discussion on social media.
The series story line
A story of people who fail at life for various reasons, but suddenly receive a mysterious invitation to participate in a survival game to win more than 38 million US dollars. The game takes place at an unknown location and the participants are locked up until there is a final winner. The story incorporates popular children’s games from the 1970s and 1980s of Korea, such as squid game, literal translation of its Korean name, which is a type of tag where offense and defense use a squid-shaped board drawn in the dirt.
Seong Gi-hun, a divorced and indebted chauffeur, is invited to play a series of children’s games for a chance at a large cash prize. Accepting the offer, he is taken to an unknown location and finds himself among 455 other players, all with similar large debts. The players are kept under watch at all times by masked guards in pink suits, with the games overseen by the Front Man. The players soon discover that losing in these games results in their death, with each death adding ₩100 million to the grand prize. Gi-hun allies with other players, including his childhood friend Cho Sang-woo, to try to survive the physical and psychological twists of the games.
Seong Gi-hun is down on his luck, having accumulated enormous debts with loan sharks. While at a train station, he is asked by a well-dressed man to play a game of ddakji for money. After playing, the man gives Gi-hun a card, inviting him to play games with higher stakes. Gi-hun accepts and is taken, while unconscious, to a mysterious location with 455 other players who awaken in a dormitory and are identified by numbers on their clothes. The location is managed by masked staff and overseen by the Front Man, also masked. The players are all in similarly dire financial straits and will be given billions of won in prize money if they win six games over six days. Gi-hun befriends Player 001, an elderly man, and recognizes among the players Cho Sang-woo, a former classmate and businessman, and Player 067, a pickpocket who stole his money. The first game is Red Light, Green Light, where those who lose are gunned down on the spot. Gi-hun, though terrified, is encouraged by Sang-woo to play, and is saved from falling by Player 199. All three are able to complete the game.
More than half the players were killed in the first game, and some survivors beg to leave. According to the third clause of the game’s agreement, if the majority agree to end the games, all players will be sent home. The players vote, and Player 001’s deciding vote has all of them sent home safely. Upon returning, Gi-hun goes to the police but no one believes his story except Detective Hwang Jun-ho, whose missing brother received the same card as Gi-hun. The game staff give the players the chance to resume playing, and many return, including Gi-hun, whose mother needs a medical procedure; Sang-woo, who is about to be arrested for financial fraud; Player 001, who has terminal brain cancer; Player 067, who wants to smuggle her parents out of North Korea; Player 199, who attacked his boss for withholding wages; and Player 101, a gangster on the run. Jun-ho secretly follows Gi-hun when he is picked up by the game staff.
Jun-ho hides among the masked staff as they travel to the game’s island location. After waking up in the dorms, the players are more prepared and start forming alliances. Gi-hun, Sang-woo, Player 001, and Player 199 team up, and note that most players returned, including Player 212, who was the first to beg to leave. Player 067 sneaks into the vents and observes staff workers in a kitchen. In the second game, the players are to pick a stamped shape out of a dalgona. Sang-woo identifies the game quickly, using information from Player 067, but does not warn his teammates and picks the simplest shape for himself. Gi-hun completes the game despite having the highest difficulty shape, an umbrella, by licking the honeycomb to melt it. Player 212 helps Deok-su complete the game with a smuggled lighter. A player takes a higher-ranked staff member hostage before killing himself; the staff member is killed, and Jun-ho takes the new mask.
Player 111, a doctor, is given information of each game beforehand, and is working with a handful of staff to harvest organs from the dead players. He joins Deok-su’s team by offering game info. Gi-hun realizes that Sang-woo could have helped their team in the previous game. The staff foment discord among the players and Deok-su kills another player, which only results in the prize money being increased. After lights out, a riot erupts and numerous players are killed. Player 067 joins Gi-hun’s team, who protect her from Deok-su’s gang. When Player 001 begs everyone to stop, the Front Man sends his soldiers to end the riot. Gi-hun’s team exchange names: Player 199 is Ali Abdul, and Player 067 is Kang Sae-byeok. Player 001, who has a brain tumor, seems to have trouble speaking and remembering his name. After lights out, the guard in the room next to Jun-ho sends him a message by coughing in Morse code. In the third game, players are told to form groups of ten. Deok-su, knowing that the upcoming game is tug of war, picks strong men and rejects Player 212, Han Mi-nyeo, who has to join Gi-hun’s team of weaker players.
Gi-hun’s team win their tug of war match using Player 001 and Sang-woo’s strategies, but most of them are unnerved at having to kill the opposing team. Expecting another riot, Gi-hun’s team builds a barricade, which Deok-su mocks until Gi-hun points out that Deok-su’s teammates have to turn on him sooner or later. That night Gi-hun’s teammates take turns on watch, but Deok-su’s team does not attack. Jun-ho learns about the conspiracy with Player 111 for black market organ harvesting, but the conspiracy ends when the Front Man catches them. Front Man executes the remaining members of the conspiracy, including Player 111, and has a facility-wide manhunt for Jun-ho. Jun-ho breaks into the Front Man’s office and learns that the game has been running for over 30 years, and that his brother, Hwang In-ho, was the winner in 2015.
Jun-ho secretly watches the Front Man receive a call, saying that all will be settled before the VIPs arrive. For the fourth game, players are told to pair up. Sang-woo is with Ali, Gi-hun with Player 001, and Sae-byeok with Player 240. As there are an odd number of players, Mi-nyeo is last woman standing and taken away. In the game, everyone is told to play a marble game of their choice against their partner, and whoever gets all their partner’s marbles within 30 minutes will win. Sae-byeok and Player 240, Ji-yeong, agree to play a simple all-or-nothing game, but after talking about their lives Ji-yeong decides Sae-byeok has more to live for and lets her win. Sang-woo almost loses, but tricks Ali into giving up his marbles and wins. Gi-hun, about to lose a betting game to Player 001, turns it around by using Player 001’s failing memory against him. Player 001 reveals that he knew that Gi-hun was tricking him the whole time despite his failing condition, but allows Gi-hun to win anyway. Before being killed, Player 001 tells Gi-hun he is his gganbu, a trusted friend, and says that his name is Oh Il-nam.
The players return to the dorm where Mi-nyeo is waiting, having been allowed to sit out the game. Player 069, who beat his wife in the marble game, commits suicide. The VIPs arrive and are welcomed by the Front Man on behalf of his boss, the host. The VIPs are wealthy patrons who gamble on the games. Jun-ho, who is posing as one of the masked servants, is s3xually propositioned by one of the VIPs. In a private room, Jun-ho interrogates the VIP for info and escapes the island with a scuba kit. In the fifth game the players, in predetermined order, have 16 minutes to cross a bridge made up of panels of either tempered glass, or normal glass which can’t support their weight. The players at the front of the line fall to their death as the panels are tested. When Deok-su gets to the front of the line, he refuses to move; Mi-nyeo grabs him and they fall together. With four players left, Sang-woo pushes Player 017, killing him to reveal the last trick panel. Gi-hun, Sang-woo and Sae-byeok complete the game.
As finalists, Gi-hun, Sang-woo and Sae-byeok are given a change of clothes and a fancy dinner. When the dinner is cleared, each is left a knife. After lights out, Gi-hun asks Sae-byeok that they team up against Sang-woo, but Sae-byeok was injured in the stepping stones game and suggests that they promise to help each other’s loved ones if they win the game instead. Sae-byeok’s injuries worsen and Gi-hun runs to get help, but when the staff arrive Sae-byeok is dead; Sang-woo took the opportunity to stab her when Gi-hun was away. Jun-ho makes it onto another island and calls his chief, but the reception is poor. Front Man and his soldiers hunt Jun-ho down, and Front Man reveals himself to be In-ho, Jun-ho’s brother. In-ho shoots Jun-ho and lets him fall into the sea.
The sixth and final game is the Squid game, with Gi-hun on offense and Sang-woo on defense. Gi-hun beats Sang-woo, but refuses to complete the game. He invokes the third clause to end the game, but Sang-woo stabs himself and asks Gi-hun to use the prize money to help Sang-woo’s mother. Gi-hun returns home to find that his own mother has died. A year later, Gi-hun is still traumatized by his experience and has barely touched his prize money. One night he receives a gold game invitation card, and in answering it finds Player 001, Oh Il-nam, still alive but dying. Il-nam is one of the VIPs, the “Host” (who co-ran the game alongside the Front Man, In-ho), and the mastermind behind the game’s operation, which was made to entertain the bored super rich like himself. Il-nam explains that both the poverty-stricken and uber-wealthy lead monotonous lives and he was trying to find a way to derive enjoyment from life. He was also testing whether humanity had any innate goodness left in it, reminding Gi-hun that despite witnessing the bloodshed in the initial game, he and the other participants still returned and sacrificed each other’s lives for the sake of earning the prize money for themselves. The specific games are based on Il-nam’s childhood memories, and he decided to participate himself for nostalgia’s sake. Il-nam asks Gi-hun to play one last game with him, another test to see if humanity has goodness left in it – whether anyone will help a drunk man on the street before midnight; Gi-hun wins but Il-nam dies, though presumably not before he witnesses his loss. Gi-hun snaps out of his stupor and fulfils his promises: he gets Sae-byeok’s brother out of the orphanage and gives Sang-woo’s mother his share of the prize money. Gi-hun is about to leave the country to reconnect with his daughter, but on the way sees someone playing ddakji with the same game recruiter who invited him. Gi-hun takes the man’s card and calls the number, now determined to find out who they are.
- Yoo Sung-joo as Byeong-gi (111), a doctor who secretly works with a group of corrupt guards to traffic the organs of dead participants in exchange for information on upcoming games.
- Lee Yoo-mi as Ji-yeong (240), a young woman who was just released from prison after killing her abusive father.
- Kim Si-hyun as Player 244, a pastor who rediscovers his faith during the Game.
- Lee Sang-hee as Player 017, a glass-maker with more than 30 years’ experience.
- Kim Yun-tae as Player 069, a player who joins the Game with his wife, Player 070.
- Lee Ji-ha as Player 070, a player who joins the Game with her husband, Player 069.
- Kwak Ja-hyoung as Player 278, a player who joins Deok-su’s group and acts as his henchman.
- Chris Chan as Player 276, a player who joins Seong Gi-hun’s group in the Tug of War round.
- Kim Young-ok as Gi-hun’s mother
- Cho Ah-in as Seong Ga-yeong, Gi-hun’s daughter
- Kang Mal-geum as Gi-hun’s ex-wife and Ga-yeong’s mother
- Park Hye-jin as Sang-woo’s mother
- Park Si-wan as Kang Cheol / Sae-byeok’s brother
- Gong Yoo as a salesman who recruits participants for the Game (Episodes 1 and 9)
- Lee Byung-hun as The Front Man / Hwang In-ho (Episodes 8–9)
- Lee Jung-jun as Guard (Episode 3)