What games do we play each day?
Whatever they are, Netflix’s Squid Game puts a nasty twist on them all.
The Korean drama/thriller follows 400 desperate and debt-ridden individuals invited to play kid’s games in the hopes of winning big money. Things take a turn, however, when we realise these games are a sadistic and brutal contest to survive. It’s dark and violent, with contestants trapped in a controlled arena, an authoritarian game master and cameras tracking every move. It’s like Big Brother, but losing gets you killed.
It reminds me of movies like The Hunger Games – both are a critique of class and capitalism. Both went viral, fascinating audiences worldwide for simultaneously evoking horror and a strange desire for more. You can’t look away. In both shows, the game is a metaphor for an existence reduced to a desperate scramble for limited resources, where every individual must fight to survive.
Stories like Squid Game and The Hunger Games reveal the best and worst in humanity, make us cheer for the underdog, question morality, ask us to justify extreme choices about winning, and who or what we’ll sacrifice to achieve victory. Both ask us whether, back in the real world, capitalism has us in constant competition even against those we love.
The violence of Squid Game is graphic and not for everyone. But it is full of moments that highlight our everyday decisions, staging them before us in high-stakes arenas. It peels back the curtains of everyday life to show how each choice we make reveals something of what we value. When it comes to choosing our own good or others’, who will we put first?
Every viewer learns something different about themselves and the choices they make. I wonder what they will learn.