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Here's How You Can Play the Real Squid Game

·6-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix
Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Squid Game puts a clearly sick, terrifying twist on a few children's games we know from our own childhoods (who will ever think of "Red Light, Green Light" the same again?!). But some viewers may be wondering if the other minigames and rounds featured in the dystopian Netflix smash-hit series are actually real — given that Korean culture is so inherent to the show, the series' fans may be wondering if children still play variations of these games today.

Showrunner Hwang Dong-hyuk did confirm in earlier interviews with Variety that he drew direct inspiration for Squid Game from games he played when he was a child, and indeed kept rules almost identical to pull South Korean viewers deeper into the story. "As a survival game, it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand," he told Variety. "That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.”

While the show's first episode spends a great deal of time delving into the titular Squid Game and all of its rules, its fast pace may have caused you to miss a few of its finer details. Below, we're breaking down how to play the real-life squid game with any of your friends — and reviewing a few of the other minigames featured in the series — dark twists from the show are not included.

Is there a real Squid Game?

Yes! While the series features the game in its first and last episode, it isn't confirmed that children continue to play the same version of squid game today (albeit with less violent results), and that the game was inescapable in the 1960s and '70s, per Netflix.

Dal Yong Jin, a professor and director of Simon Fraser University's Transnational Culture and Digital Technology Lab, told NBC News that the squid-like diagram viewers see in the series is usually drawn on sand found in playgrounds or in fields. Children do actually get physical in trying to push one another around the playing field, too.

Usually, the game requires two different teams: Attackers try to infiltrate the "land" or home base while hopping on one leg around portions of the map, and defenders push and pull them outside of the "squid" boundary lines. "Squid Game was the most physically aggressive childhood game I played in neighborhood alleys as a kid, which is why I also loved it the most," said Hwang at a news conference in September. "It's the most symbolic game that reflects today's competitive society, so I picked it out as the show's title."

How to play Squid Game:

For more detailed rules, we turn back to the in-depth guidelines that were shared in the series' first episode, as highlighted by our friends at Cosmopolitan.

Here's how the show officially introduces the game, as narrated by its main character, Seong Gi-hun:

The rules are simple. Children are divided into two groups: The offense and the defense. Once the game starts, the defense can run around on two feet within bounds, while the offense outside the line is only allowed to hop on one foot. But if an attacker cuts through the waist of the squid outpacing the defense, he or she is given the freedom to walk freely on two feet. For whatever reason, we called that the secret inspector. After preparing for the final battle, the attackers gather at the entrance of the squid. In order to win, the attackers must tap the small closed-off space on the squid's head with their foot. If the defender pushes you out of the squid's line, you die. That's right. You die. Once you take the winning tap, you yell out, "Hurray." And, in that moment, I felt as if I owned the entire world.

In short, you'll need to:

  • Draw the squid outline on a surface where its boundaries can clearly be established — in sand or using chalk on a playground's solid surface. You'll need to create two circles that are separated by a square and a triangle, both of which are intersected by one of the other shapes.

  • Create two teams divided into Attackers and Defenders.

  • Defenders, who must remain inside the diagram's lines, aim to push and keep the other team from reaching the square on the opposite end of the field.

  • Attackers must hop on one foot until they reach the square, at which point if they're pushed out of bounds, the game is over.

More Squid Game activities that you can play now:

There are six minigames featured in the series with a suite of disastrous twists and turns that lead to characters' deaths. Some you likely already know, including the games centered around marbles and tug-of-war — the latter a traditional Korean folk game known as Juldarigi and played on Daeboreum, the first full moon after the Lunar New Year, according to NBC News.

Here's what to know about some of the other games featured in Squid Game:

  1. "The Mugunghwa Flower Has Blossomed": This is the version of "Red Light, Green Light" viewers were treated to during the show's second episode. The now-iconic robot doll (who is actually modeled after characters in Korean textbooks!) sings a tune that roughly indicates that the "Mugunghwa flower has blossomed." NBC News reports that mugunghwa (otherwise known as rose of Sharon) is South Korea's national flower, and also is cited in its national anthem, and that some versions of the game swap out this flower for another.

  2. Ppogi: Netflix translated it into "honeycomb" in its third episode, where the game involves cutting out shapes from a sugar-and-honeycomb candy that's also known as dalgona (yes, like the coffee!). This treat, which was popularized in the 1950s after the Korean War, is made by melting sugar and mixing in baking soda while it cools; then pressing a cookie-cutter shape into a disc of the mixture. At the height of their popularity, Korean street vendors would provide the needle that kids used to cut out their given shape, and NBC News reports that some vendors would exchange prizes for cleanly-cut shapes.

  3. Ddakji: It's a game that's very similar to pogs, and was featured as the very first game that Gi-hun played in the series. Played with two tiles, the goal is to slam your tile into one that's laying on the ground, causing it to flip onto its other side. NBC News adds that the game likely gained traction in the '40s due to an increased supply of construction paper, as folded ddakji became a staple after the Korean War.

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