Photo:

The Backstory Of All The Games Played In 'Squid Game'

Since first airing in September 2021, Squid Game has gone on to become one of the most popular Netflix shows of all time. One reason the series resonates with audiences is that it uses popular children's games to tell a disturbing and violent story. The show follows Seong Gi-hun, a down-on-his-luck gambler living in Seoul who joins a tournament that pits hundreds of people against each other in a series of deadly children's games, all for the benefit of the rich. 

Gi-hun and his fellow contestants have to compete in six different children's games, all of which involve plenty of mayhem. Here are the origins of all six games, plus the "recruiting" game that lures Gi-hun in.

Photo:

  • The Recruiting Game Is A Popular Playground Game In South Korea

    The Recruiting Game Is A Popular Playground Game In South Korea
    Photo: Netflix

    In the first episode, Gi-hun meets a mysterious recruiter who challenges him to a game of ddakji. The game is played by placing a folded piece of paper on the ground, then hitting it with another folded piece of paper. If it flips over, the thrower wins.

    Gi-hun accepts the bet for a huge cash prize and loses. Since he can't pay, he gets slapped in the face. Ddakji is indeed a real, traditional South Korean origami flipping game that's decades old.

  • Red Light, Green Light Can Be Played Using Different Chants

    Red Light, Green Light Can Be Played Using Different Chants
    Photo: Netflix

    The first game Gi-hun participates in is a version of Red Light, Green Light with a large robotic doll. When the doll turns away from the crowd and yells, "Green light," players run toward it. Then, when the robot turns around toward the crowd and calls, "Red light," the players have to stop or else they lose the game. In Squid Game, they get shot down by the doll's machine guns. 

    The game is known around the world by several different names. In Squid Game, the game is called "Mugunghwa kkoci pieot seumnida," or “the hibiscus flower has blossomed.”

  • Sugar Honeycombs Were A Popular Street Candy In The '50s And '60s

    Sugar Honeycombs Were A Popular Street Candy In The '50s And '60s
    Photo: Netflix

    In episode 3, Gi-hun and the other contestants are forced to play a game called the "dalgona challenge." In it, they have to delicately remove pre-pressed shapes from dalgona, or sugar honeycombs. It's a toffee-like candy, which consists of baking soda and melted sugar. 

    Dalgona is an actual South Korean sweet snack. It originated in the 1950s and '60s after the Korean War when sugar was an expensive commodity. Snack vendors even turned eating the candy into a game, offering prizes to children who could remove the shapes perfectly.

  • Tug-Of-War Has Been Played Since The 12th Century

    Tug-Of-War Has Been Played Since The 12th Century
    Photo: Netflix

    In the fourth episode, Squid Game offers up a deadly game of tug-of-war involving a guillotine. Like Red Light, Green Light, tug-of-war is a familiar game around the world. The earliest historical reference to it comes from India in the 12th century CE

    In South Korea, tug-of-war also has traditional connotations. It's called "juldarigi," or "stick to the team." Traditionally, contests were held in farming communities to celebrate good harvests.

  • Marble Games Became Popular Again In The 1970s

    Marble Games Became Popular Again In The 1970s
    Photo: Netflix

    In Season 1, episode 6, "Gganbu," the contestants split into pairs and play a traditional game of marbles. Each player gets a bag of 10, and in order to win, they have to collect all of the other player's marbles. 

    The players are allowed to make up any marble games they want. Many of them choose a game called "holjjang," or "odds and evens." One pair plays "bomdeulgi," which involves throwing marbles into a hole. Marbles were mostly popular in the early 20th century until WWII, then were briefly popular again in the 1970s. This gives the older players an advantage.

  • Hopscotch Has Slight Variations Depending On Where It’s Played

    Hopscotch Has Slight Variations Depending On Where It’s Played
    Photo: Netflix

    In the seventh episode of Squid Game's first season, the contestants participate in a twisted version of hopscotch. Working in teams, the contestants have to make it across a glass bridge suspended over a deadly drop. The bridge is made up of alternating tiles - some that can hold a contestant's weight and some that can't. The players don't know which is which and have to figure it out through trial and error. 

    Hopscotch is yet another game familiar around the world. Children play the game with slight variations in everything from the shape of the court to how it's created to the rules of the game itself.