Dystopian themes and survival games underwent a spike in demand and popularity after The Hunger Games gripped the Western world and the insatiable interest in the “death game” genre then skyrocketed throughout the means of fictional media. While the “death game” genre is a more recent concept being woven into popular culture throughout the Western Hemisphere, it’s not an exclusively Westernized concept. The South Korean series Squid Game is the latest craze that has driven global audiences to Netflix, and now, earns the title of becoming the largest launch in the history of the streaming giant’s existence.
Squid Game steals the title away from Bridgerton. The previous record-holder was viewed in 82 million households as of its Christmastime debut in 2020. Netflix logs any viewing time of two minutes or more while calculating these numbers into their database and measuring the retention rate of each show. The South Korean drama continues to rack up views per household and stands as a successful cross-pollination program when reaching international audiences. Its debut in September 2021 allows Netflix users to translate the series into 30 different languages, and the breaking of the language barrier in tens of dialects offers more options than Netflix’s rival platforms.
According to company statistics evaluated by Variety, Squid Game drew in 111 million views within the first 25 days of its debut on the streaming service. While Netflix tracks its metrics based on a two-minute minimum watch rate and has no means of completely understanding how many subscribers choose to proceed with the series, the show’s popularity is reflected due to the enormous amount of conversation it has generated through trending topics on social media, and the means of promoting the show through word of mouth. Squid Game creator Hwang Dong-hyuk was first inspired to create the K-Drama as a 2008 film, though his original pitches were declined by Korean studios due to the high volume of gore and violence.
Squid Game recruits 456 debt-stapped contestants to risk their lives for the reward of a cash prize. The contestants go toe-to-toe against one another in children’s games, isolated on a mysterious island off of the South Korean peninsula. Hwang Dong-hyuk credits his own financial straits for inspiration around Squid Game when he initially came up with the idea of film-turned-series in the late 2000s. He used the idea of putting himself into his own games, which he deemed too complex, before deciding on turning children’s games into gruesome fates.
The intense themes and unsettlingly graphic violence have led to schools issuing statements advising parents and guardians to avoid allowing their children or dependants to watch Squid Game, no matter the amount of attention that the Netflix series is subject to. Following reports from Business Insider, The Korean Cultural Center of the United Arab Emirates has put together their own version of Squid Game in Abu Dhabi. None of the contestants will be asked to put their lives on the line, and the cultural center director Nam Chan-woo said that their “games” are a tool to introduce Korean culture to the people of the United Arab Emirates.
The entire first season of Squid Game is now streaming on Netflix.