Squid Games: The Various Korean Traditional Games Found in Squid Game


Whether you wanted it or not, you’ve probably heard of the Netflix series Squid Game by now. Without spoiling too much, the show is essentially a game of survival where contestants participate in multiple games until only one remains alive to earn the grand prize of 45.6 billion KRW (about 4 million USD). While all of the games’ rules are modified to fit the theme of a survival game to the death, the core inspiration of most of the games comes from traditional Korean children’s games. Today I will be explaining the Korean traditional games found in Squid Game; I hope this gives you a bit of a clue if you haven’t watched the show yet, or a better understanding if you have already watched it.


딱지치기 (Ddakji)


Ddakjis are pieces of paper folded into a square shape. Each player gets a certain number of ddakjis, and players take turns throwing down their ddakji against the other player’s ddakji in order to flip them; when a player has successfully flipped all of the other player’s ttakjis, the game ends.

무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다 (Red Light Green Light)


무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다 – directly translated to “The hibiscus has bloomed” is the Korean equivalent of red light, green light. The “it” says the phrase, and at the end of the phrase, they turn around – like the “it” would do after saying red light – and anyone that is caught moving is eliminated from the game. It’s pretty straightforward – just a slightly different variation of red light green light.


달고나 뽑기 (Sugar Candy Stamping)


A 달고나 (Dalgona) is candy made from heating a mixture of sugar and baking soda. 달고나 뽑기 is cutting out the shape stamped on dalgonas without breaking the candy. Traditionally you’re only allowed to use your hands to cut the shape out, but sometimes other methods are also used, such as melting some of the candy or using a precision tool like knives or needles. The difficulty of the game depends on the shape stamped onto the dalgona – the more complex the shape, the harder it is to successfully complete the game.


줄다리기, 구슬치기 (Tug-o-war, Marbles)


There’s no uniquely Korean twist about these two – it’s just tug of war and marbles that we all know and love; sometimes games transcend nationalities and ethnicities!


오징어 (Squid Game)

The namesake of the show, Squid is the most complicated out of all the games depicted in the series. Players divide themselves into 2 teams, then one team starts out on defense while the other starts on attack. The playing field consists of a triangle and a rectangle, connected by a “bridge”, and a circle on both the triangle and the rectangle; the name “squid” comes from the shape of this field. Both teams can only enter and leave the squid via the circle on the rectangle side. The attack team must hop around on one foot outside the two circles on the triangle and the rectangle – unless they are successfully able to cross over the bridge; if one successfully crosses the bridge, the player can run on both feet. The defense team must hop around on one foot outside the rectangle and the two circles. A player is “out” if they step with both feet without crossing the bridge first, if some other part of the body touches the ground, or if they leave or enter the squid without going through the circle on the rectangle side; the sides switch when all players on one team are out. The aim of the attack team is to start from the circle on the triangle side, hop to the circle on the rectangle side via the outside of the squid, then come back to the circle on the triangle side via the inside of the squid as many times as possible before all the attack players are out, and the aim of the defense is to prevent the attack team from completing the aforementioned task by shoving or pulling on the attack players until they are out. Each time an attack player completes the task, the team gains a point, and whichever team has the most points after a set number of halves wins.