2021, the year of Squid Game

Squid Game: one of the most-watched Netflix series ever
Are there actual squids playing?
Netflix sensation, not just in Asia
Parisians fighting to get into 'Squid Game' pop-up store
What is the series about?
Playground games
Not an innocent game!
Binge-worthy
Disturbing, dystopian
World famous
Shoes are selling out
How much is a billion won?
The mysterious invitation
The phone number is real!
Everyone wants a cookie
They're not really cookies
TikTok challenges and memes
Facebook outage ridiculed with Squid Game
Iconic heroes become memes too
The actors became instant global stars
One university gets a bad rap
The doll really exists!
This series almost didn't make it
Another season?
Other, similar shows are now booming
Squid Game: one of the most-watched Netflix series ever

Just a few weeks after its release, the Korean survival thriller 'Squid Game' became one of the most-watched Netflix series ever. It effortlessly breezed past blockbusters like 'The Witcher' and 'Stranger Things'.

Are there actual squids playing?

Apart from the unprecedented number of viewers on Netflix, there have also been viral clips and challenges on social media about 'Squid Game'. Here, we explain why the show is so incredibly successful.

And for those who never watched it, we'll give you an idea of what all those memes of Korean people in training suits are about!

Netflix sensation, not just in Asia

According to Ted Sarandos, the CEO of Netflix, 'Squid Game' was "on a fast track" to become the most-watched series on the platform ever, in any language. He said so on the Vox Media Code conference on October 4. It's important to note, according to Insider, that 95% of the series' audience is watching from outside Korea.

Parisians fighting to get into 'Squid Game' pop-up store

The Daily Mail reported that on Sunday October 3, fights broke out among hundreds of 'Squid Game' fans who were standing in line to see the Netflix series' new pop-up store in the French capital. It was unknown how the brawl started, but fans had been waiting in a 700ft line for hours and may have gotten impatient. And al of a sudden, Paris streets witnessed scenes reminiscent of the Squid Game itself.

What is the series about?

'Squid Game' shows how a selected group of ordinary Korean people, who have in common that they are in dept and have no way to get out of their miserable situations, are invited to play a mysterious game and get the chance to win a great sum of money.

Playground games

Each of the six steps in the Squid Game consists of a simple children's playground game. They are games that Korean kids play in the streets, but many will recognize 'Red Light, Green Light', tug of war, and the other games as popular pastimes in their own countries.

Not an innocent game!

The catch of the games is that each person who makes a misstep or loses a game will die - immediately! This dark side of the Squid Game is shown in all its gory details, and a lot of people are taken aback by the bloody violence the series portrays.

Binge-worthy

Yet, they keep watching.

Disturbing, dystopian

With all of its violence and suspense, the series is a clear example of Korean filmmakers' critique of capitalist society. Why some people are extremely rich and others not even able to survive is a great injustice that 'Squid Game' addresses through its storyline and dialogues.

World famous

Several aspects of the series have become iconic. They have their own memes circulating around the world and in all languages. For example, the green-and-blue training suits the players of the Squid Game have to wear: they are very popular!

Shoes are selling out

The plain white shoes that go with the players' uniforms are a big hit too. Variety reports that Vans sales have risen 7,800% on one of its white slip-on sneakers because it closely resembles the trainers the Squid Gamers are wearing. They call it "The ‘Squid Game’ Costume Effect", because people are probably buying the shoes to wear on Halloween.

How much is a billion won?

Millions of viewers were curious about the value of the grand prize, 45.6 billion Korean wons. As a result, one of the top searches on Google became "won to usd".
Just so you know, the value of the game's grand prize is about 39 million dollars.

The mysterious invitation

In the series, each player received an invitation in the form of a mysterious business card with a phone number on it. Contestants had to call the number to enter the game. The phone number is clearly displayed in the series.

The phone number is real!

As it turns out, this Korean phone number really exists! The owner of the eight-digit number, Kim Gil-young, says she gets about 4,000 calls per day. A South Korean presidential candidate has offered to buy the number from her, and Netflix is going to edit the scenes in order to make the number invisible, the Washington Post reports.

Everyone wants a cookie

In one of the challenges, players have to cut a shape out of a typical Korean sweet. It's a traditional game in the Asian country, but after Squid Game the whole world wants to give it a try!

They're not really cookies

Called dalgona candy, the sweets are a type of honeycomb toffee. They are simply made of sugar and baking soda. Often they have a shape marked on top of them, like this umbrella.

TikTok challenges and memes

For the children's game with the dalgona, "the true challenge is eating around the image imprinted in the treat without breaking it," Insider explains. The series is so popular that there is now a craze among TikTokers to play the game as well. And of course there are a lot of memes making fun of those who fail!

Facebook outage ridiculed with Squid Game

When Facebook and Instagram had their major breakdown in the first week of October, memes were immediately connecting the social meda disaster to iconic images from 'Squid Game'.

Iconic heroes become memes too

The brave Indian player in Squid Game became the social network Twitter on the day that WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook faltered. It was Twitter, the only remaining social media, that saved the day and kept people talking.

The actors became instant global stars

Actor Heo Sung Tae was only known in his own country before 'Squid Game' premiered. Then suddenly, within days, he had a million followers from all over the world on his Instagram account. His comment: "Thanks for making me a millionaire" - referring to the millions in prize money on the Squid Game.

One university gets a bad rap

One of the players in Squid Game, Cho Sang-Woo, is a businessman with a degree from the prestigious Seoul University. His old friend, Seong Gi Hun, continuously jokes about this, because despite having the prestigious business school degree, he is still in the same state of desperation as all the others in the Squid Game.

The doll really exists!

The doll playing 'Red Light, Green Light' in the first episode really exists! They had her moved from the entrance of a horse-carrage museum in Jincheon County, Koreaboo reports, to use her as a prop in the series. Since then, the girl has returned to the museum, where you can visit her for a really freaky experience...

This series almost didn't make it

The maker of the series, Hwang Dong-hyuk, had a lot of trouble getting anyone to finance it. 'Squid Game' is so violent that few producers dared to make it. It took Hwang more than a decade (he started writing in 2008) to finally get his project on the screen. Netflix's original title for 'Squid Game' was 'Round Six', Insider reports.

Another season?

Even though the end of the series hints at new adventures, the author of 'Squid Game' is not planning to make a second season. He has other film productions to do first. "I don't have well developed plans for 'Squid Game 2,'" he told Variety. "It is quite tiring just thinking about it."

Other, similar shows are now booming

According to Forbes, shows with similar themes and stories are now more popular than ever. 'Squid Game' has convinced a global audience of the value and relevance of series in another language than English. "Since the show's release, both the Japanese thriller series 'Alice in Borderland' (image) and Korean drama 'Sweet Home' have been trending on Netflix," Forbes reported.

(Image: Haro Aso / Shogakukan / ROBOT / Netflix)

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