Created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, who spent over 10 years developing the project, Squid Game follows a large group of people who sign up to compete in a mysterious tournament for the chance to win a life-changing amount of prize money and pay off all of their debts.
It doesn't take very long for the contestants and protagonist Seong Gi-hun (played by Lee Jung-jae who leads the Squid Game cast) to realise that losing a round of the competition results in death – and yet a number of them carry on in an attempt to win the 45.6 billion Won up for grabs.
How many rounds are there in Squid Game? And which Korean children's games feature throughout?
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Here are all the rounds in Squid Game, what they’re based on and how to play them.
It’s not technically a round in the tournament, but it’s certainly the gateway drug into the competition, with Seong Gi-hun and the rest of the contestants lured into the game by a wealthy businessman.
The card-flipping game, known as Ddakji, is a traditional Korean game popular with children. Not dissimilar to pogs, the aim of the game is to throw your card in a manner that flips your opponent’s.
Unlike in Squid Game, which sees the winner win petty cash (or a slap in the face), should you flip your opponent’s card in real life you get to keep said card.
How to play the Squid Game paper flip challenge.
2. Red Light, Green Light
The first round in the game (and the most infamous, thanks to the giant singing robot doll) sees the 456 contestants having to run across a field and cross a white line where the robot doll is standing, all within a five minute time limit. Those who fail to make it across in time are killed.
The twist of the game is that players can only move when the robot has her back turned to the contestants, which they herald by shouting ‘green light’. When the robot shouts red light, and spins around to face the crowd, the contestants all have to freeze. If they are caught moving, or even hesitating, the robot’s motion detectors kick in, and the eyes (which double up as machine guns) shoot to kill (or in some cases, obliterate).
The round is based on the playground game of the same name, but it is also called ‘Statues’ or ‘Grandmother’s Footsteps’ in the UK. In a similar fashion, a person starts out as the "Curator" (It, Granny, Pooh, etc.) and stands at the end of a field. Everyone else playing stands at the far end (distance depends upon playing area selected). The object of the game is for a "Statue" to tag the Curator, thereby becoming the Curator and resetting the game.
How to play Squid Game VR Red Light, Green Light
The second round is the honeycomb game. The snack is made by mixing a small quantity of baking soda with sugar, making a light and crunchy candy.
When it is still cooling, it is usually pressed flat and stamped with a light, patterned mould.
When purchasing the candy as a street food, eaters try to trim their way around the outline on the snack without breaking the picture. If they are successful, they receive a second ppopgi for free.
The street food was most popular in South Korea in the 1970s and 80s, but has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks due to Squid Game’s popularity.
What makes Squid Game’s version of the game all the more terrifying (apart from the gun being pointed to your head) is removing the shape from the rest of the honeycomb. While several players try in desperation to chisel their honeycomb shapes out with a toothpick provided to each player, Seong Gi-hun and a select few remaining players devise a more ingenious solution to the game.
How to make the Squid Game cookies
4. Tug of War
A game that’s familiar to most of the audience (and only really scary if you hate physical exercise), tug of war sees players split into two teams. One team of players holds one end of a large braided rope while the other team holds the opposite side of said rope.
The goal of the game is to overpower the opposing team by pulling on the rope at the same time, dragging them across the dividing line drawn in the centre between the two.
Naturally, in Squid Game the game curators have upped the ante and given the Sports Day favourite a deadly twist.
Participants are chained to the rope, and stand on large platforms over a large, steep drop. If a team is overpowered and loses, they fall into this canyon, right before a guillotine chops the rope in half, sending them plummeting to their imminent death.
In Squid Game, the Old Man had a couple of clever tricks up his sleeve to ensure he won this game.
In the Squid Game version of Marbles, there are no concrete rules – players are asked to split off into teams of two and are given ten marbles each. You can play any game you like, provided there’s no violence, but whoever ends the game with all 20 marbles wins.
We see many of the couples play wagers with their marbles, guessing odds and evens. Jang Deok-su plays a more physical game with his crony – whoever can get the most marbles into a small hole by the end of the round wins all 20 marbles. Meanwhile, Cho Sang-woo tricks his partner Ali into giving him all 20 of his marbles, despite Ali’s steadfast trust in him.
It’s certainly the most heartbreaking round, as many people have partnered up with teammates they thought they could depend on. One emotional twist saw players 069 and 070, a husband and wife couple, pair up only to realise one must kill the other.
6. Glass Stepping Stone Bridge
Perhaps the most terrifying game of them all, the penultimate Squid Game round appears to be loosely based on hopscotch.
Held in a huge room, players must navigate their way over a ‘bridge’ suspended high in the room. The bridge is comprised of pairs of glass panels – one made of typical glass, which is strong enough to hold the weight of two players, and one made of tempered glass, which will shatter and break when jumped on, seeing their player fall to their certain death.
Players have 16 minutes to cross the room before being killed, and at the very end of the game all the glass panels shatter, which leads to catastrophic injuries even if the players made it across the room safely.
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7. Squid Game
A genuine children’s game popular in South Korea (director Hwang Dong-hyuk used to play it when he was younger), Squid Game is the show’s very final round, and is the most physical.
The game sees a large geometric structure drawn on a wide open space (be it on a field, or in sand), separating the teams into attacking and defending. The goal of the attackers is to cross the centre of the field before attempting to reach the “home” square drawn at the opposite side of the field. To make things more difficult, attackers are expected to this by just hopping.
In Squid Game, Cho Sang-Woo and Seong Gi-Hun, childhood-besties-turned-bitter-rivals, are expected to play, and it’s little more than just a vicious fight to the death. Each of them has been given a blade just before the game starts, making the final round little more than a knife fight.