Why Squid Game has become a global phenomenon?

Red Light. Green Light. And the world is hooked. ‘Squid Game’, that violent and disturbing survival drama, is the latest K-content that has enthralled the world ever since it dropped on Netflix on September 21, 2021. Within just four days of its release, ‘Squid Game’ was trending at #1 on Netflix.

Starting mostly with Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’, Korean content has been building a global fan base, further fuelled by the K-dramas, BTS, Black Pink, the Oscar-winning ‘The Parasite’ and now ‘Squid Game’.

This is not the first series/ movie based on the survival genre. We have earlier seen mega-budget Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Hunger Games’, ‘Maze Runner’, ‘Predators’, ‘Death Race’, even the immensely popular 2004 TV series ‘Lost’.

Written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, ‘Squid Game’stars Lee Jung-jae, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, Jung Ho-yeon, O Yeong-su, Heo Sung-tae, Anupam Tripathi, and Kim Joo-ryoung.

The series is based on the death game/ survival genre, wherein 456 people from different walks of life are brought together to a facility to play a series of children’s games, with the winner getting to walk away with the prize money of 45.6 billion South Korean Won (Rs 2,892,817,798.08). The one common thing that binds the participants is that all of them are deeply in debt that they are not able to repay.

But these are no ordinary children’s games, the penalty is death – and the gruesome body count mounts every minute of the series. The participants are dressed similarly in green uniforms and are guarded by masked guards dressed in red. ‘Squid Game’ brings to the fore the darkness inside us all – the participants are desperate enough to kill or be killed as the series progresses. Every character has a back story – and while some characters elicit sympathy from the viewers, there are no heroes here. When push comes to shove, everyone’s dark side is revealed.

So, why has the brutal and stark nature of the series resonated globally?

It could probably be due to the times we all are living in – with our lives heavily disrupted by the global pandemic, with the threat of the virus infection always there despite being vaccinated, the uncertainty of life and livelihood, being confined to one’s homes for prolonged periods, being cut off from all that has been familiar throughout our lives. The series also highlights the frustration felt by the average Korean, and particularly Korean youth, who struggle to find employment, marriage, or upward mobility – proving that grim economic prospects are indeed at the center of Korean society’s woes.

Come to think about it, isn’t that the situation faced by people across the world?

The very nature of the series is also reflective of the growing gaming culture, mostly amongst the youth – with games such as PUBG, Garena Freefire, Battlegrounds Mobile India and more.

While Season 1 of ‘Squid Game’ has just concluded leaving viewers hanging in suspense, there is no word on when we can expect Season 2.

In case you are wondering how big ‘Squid Game’ has become, according to Bloomberg News, is estimated to be worth almost $900 million for Netflix. More than 111 million households tuned in to watch the series.

However, despite the dark undertones, people became engaged with the games that were played in the series. Right from making Reels using the red light, green light filter on Instagram to doing the Dalgona Coffee Challenge, to purchasing Squid Game clothing, to making memes – the buzz around ‘Squid Game’ continues even one month after its release. Not just viewers, but brands, too, have latched on to the series’ immense popularity.

(Edited and Additional Inputs by Shanta Saikia.)


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