Like The Hunger Games, Netflix’s biggest hit series is a survival story. Squid Game is a South Korean drama where characters who want to get out of debt play children’s games with deadly consequences for the losers. The series has drawn an international audience and despite its adult themes and violent nature, it’s been a hit with all-ages. Now, the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago is taking advantage of the big hit to hold a K-Experience event and celebrate Korean culture.
The event was held on Saturday, November 6, 2021. The Chicago-based group broke into six game stations. They played Marbles Games, Ddakji Game, Tug of War, Honeycomb shape cutting, Red Light, Green Light, and Squid Game. These are all games played by the characters in the nine episodes of season one of the series. While the life-and-death competition shown in the show is not real, Squid Game is a real game played by children in South Korea. It was most popular in the 1970s and 1980s, when the show’s creator was young. Hwang Dong-hyuk, the director for the series, chose to use Squid Game for the show’s title because he felt it was the most physical game and the most symbolic for the themes he was representing.
The real-life Squid Game event in Chicago mainly had people split apart and play the games shown in the series. While cultural events are traditionally something that includes a lot of food, COVID-19 has prevented the sharing of food at these gatherings. The cultural center did use South Korean foods as prizes for the games.
The games used in Squid Game were all simple children’s games meant to be easy to follow. Hwang Dong-hyuk has said that he used simple games from his own childhood so that the audience would be focused on the characters, the story’s stakes, and the show’s themes instead of trying to figure out the rules the entire time. This has turned out to be a move that made it a lot easier for international audiences to understand. While games like Red Light, Green Light are played in many countries, audiences worldwide won’t be familiar with them all. Keeping them as simple as possible likely made the show more accessible. It has also caught the attention of many younger audiences. Some schools have even sent warnings home to parents about Squid Game.
The show clearly had dark and serious themes, but it was also a captivating watch, and kids are liking it. Today, schools are reporting that students are playing the games they saw in the show during recess. Websites are giving breakdowns of the simple rules so that everyone can be clear on how to play. While it’s something that school systems are nervous about, it’s also an opportunity for organizations like the Korean Cultural Center of Chicago to engage the show’s audience and teach them more about the country. It won’t be surprising if more of these types of events show up as Squid Game has proven to be a hit with some staying power.