Have you ever questioned whether you were only a pawn in life’s game? Where you are forced to survive in circumstances beyond your control? The first episode of Squid Game introduces us to some of the series’ main characters, all of whom are battling with financial hardships and dire circumstances. Some of them even harbor the hope that a little gambling will turn their fortunes around.
Gi-hun, a vivacious but penniless obsessive gambler who otherwise survives by robbing his elderly mother of her dwindling stash of petty cash, is the character we first encounter. However, Gi-hun is continually working to reinvent himself as a loving father to his young daughter, who now resides with her mother and her successful stepfather. After a particularly awful day, Gi-hun runs into a man who offers to pay him to play a straightforward game. He fails in several rounds, receiving slaps each time until he eventually succeeds in one. Then, the man hands him a business card bearing a number, which serves as his entry into a game show that has the power to alter his life.
After Gi-hun accepts this offer and voluntarily agrees to play, the other players—hundreds of insolvent and hopeless people—are introduced to us. They are all looking for an opportunity to alter their lives for the better. But what is at risk? Only after the first of the six children’s games has started do the participants and the audience realize the absolute tragedy of the predicament they have found themselves in. Simple rules apply. You adhere to the guidelines and win the game. And those who fail are eliminated—quite literally—from the race. They’re simply shot to death.
So here begins a highly engrossing show featuring real people rather than animated characters who can be so easily destroyed in a typical violent computer game. The story features and delves deeply into the mind of several other characters, in addition to the protagonist Gi-hun, who is now player number 456. This makes you want to root for or even hate some of the other characters. The simplicity of each game and the use of every technique in the book to assist you to cross over, even while dealing with the pressure to finish on time – as each game is ultimately a matter of life and death – is undoubtedly what keeps you interested throughout all nine episodes. The difficulties of surviving outside of the game drive each participant to choose between self-defense and direct combat with their largest threats.
This program is available in Korean, with English subtitles, or with English audio as the preferred option. The compelling performances of the main characters are best appreciated when watched in Korean, though. There is no need to argue or analyze this series; it must simply be experienced. It is a movie that you will remember long after you have seen it.