Is the 'Squid Game' real? Here's where the Netflix hit found its inspiration

If you've asked yourself 'Is the 'Squid Game' real?' while watching the Netflix show, the answer might surprise you

Squid Game production still, Is the Squid Game real
(Image credit: YOUNGKYU PARK/Netflix)

Is the Squid Game real? Although Netflix's dystopian thriller is—thankfully—fictional, the binge-worthy Korean drama does draw on childhood elements from the '70s and '80s to enhance its plot. Then, director Hwang Dong-hyuk takes all of that nostalgia and gives it a deadly twist. 

"I tried to stimulate the atmosphere of real playgrounds so that the actors can feel like they’re really doing something in there," Dong-hyuk revealed in a press release (opens in new tab). "I thought those kinds of sets can give more of a sense of reality to the actors’ performance."

So, does this mean that the Squid Game is something children played?! Well...yes. 

Is the Squid Game real?

Yes, it is in fact real and is played on a field shaped like a squid. (There are two circles at the top and bottom of the field, and a triangle and square intersect at opposite ends.) 

However, there are no deadly outcomes for the losing team in real life. Dong-hyuk enjoyed the game as a child growing up in Seoul, but decided to add a harsh element to the innocent pastime for his project. 

The show's protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun, gives newcomers to the Squid Game a brief background during the series: 

"Children are divided into two groups: the offense and the defense. Once the game starts, the defense can run around on two feet within bounds, while the offense outside the line is only allowed to hop on one foot. But if an attacker cuts through the waist of the squid outpacing the defense, he or she is given the freedom to walk freely on two feet."

"After preparing for the final battle, the attackers gather at the entrance of the squid. In order to win, the attackers must tap the small closed-off space on the squid's head with their foot. If the defender pushes you out of the squid's line, you die."

Other Squid Game inspiration

squid game

(Image credit: YOUNGKYU PARK/Netflix)

Throughout the first season of Squid Game, you'll notice the participants who are all vying for the billion-dollar prize attempting a series of child-like games, similar to "Red Light, Green Light," Tug of War and the Dalgona Candy Challenge (which originated in Korea). But, in the Netflix series, when you're "out" you're really out. There is no coming back.

“I wanted to write a story that was an allegory or fable about modern capitalist society, something that depicts an extreme competition, somewhat like the extreme competition of life," the director said. "We created the places and displays trying to make the viewers think about the hidden intentions of Squid Game with us."

The once simple competitions take a turn for the deadly, but the 2021 release has catapulted to success on the streaming service, even surpassing Bridgerton. To see how Squid Game unfolds for the 400+ participants involved, stream the series on Netflix now. But be warned—it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Danielle Valente

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 

The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos, new TV shows and relationship trends.  

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 

When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)