Netflix‘s original K-Drama series Squid Game has topped the streaming platform’s charts worldwide, making it the most popular show on Netflix right now. Besides the obvious factors, like being available for streaming on a huge platform like Netflix and coming with both subtitles and dubbed versions in multiple languages, how exactly did this relatively short, nine-episode, single-season show captivate viewers all over the world? Here’s what the raving reviews had to say about the international success of Squid Game!
1. Catchy Title
This “Squid Game” is later revealed to be one of the many games that get played in the show. So it’s simply the name of an actual children’s game in Korea, originating from as far back as in the 1980s when Korean elementary schools offered larger sand-filled fields where children could draw the squid-shaped grounds for the game. This, however, isn’t immediately obvious to the viewers—especially the international ones. So the atypical title, formed by a strange combination of the words “Squid” and “Game,” could definitely be considered a contributing factor to what sparked curiosity for the global audience!
What is immediately obvious to the viewers, on the other hand, is how unusually colorful this show is. From the guards’ neon pink-colored hazmat suits to the players’ green tracksuits and pastel-toned dorms to outdoorsy game rooms, Squid Game aesthetics are on another level.
The mise-en-scène, or “the arrangement of scenery and stage properties,” is, in stark contrast to the darkness of its death game genre, more than enough to captivate the audience.
3. Light Gore Level
Considering the nature of how the death game works, shows of the same genre have evolved to be more extreme and cruel over the years. Yet Squid Game does not spend too much time trying to convey how exactly each death occurs.
There is violence involved, but the level of gore is somewhat manageable—especially for those who aren’t necessarily good at watching all the blood galore. While hardcore death game genre fans may find Squid Game to be on the softer side, it is this “softness” that ultimately lowered the barrier to entry and led more viewers who are unfamiliar with the genre to try the show.
Squid Game characters, the players who get snapped into the surreal world of lethal child games, all come with very believable, personal background stories. This allows the viewers to form bonds with each character—and, obviously, such bonds keep them watching. The director invested a lot of time per episode into developing these characters, which ultimately helped the viewers relate more easily.
In fact, according to the director himself in his exclusive interview with Variety, these are “the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life.”
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. But I wanted it to use the kind of characters we’ve all met in real life.
— Director Hwang Dong Hyuk via Variety
It’s how these characters, their backgrounds, and their decisions all resonate with the viewers which makes Squid Game an irresistible show.
5. Fun Games
Finally, the games introduced in the show are “easy to understand.” There are little to no linguistic or cultural gaps that make these games complicated to grasp. They are children’s games, after all. This extremely simplicity is intentional, according to director Hwang Dong Hyuk. Because the games are super simple, the viewers don’t have to struggle to try to understand the rules. Instead, the viewers can direct their attention to understanding the characters and forming bonds with them—as mentioned above.
As a survival game it is entertainment and human drama. The games portrayed are extremely simple and easy to understand. That allows viewers to focus on the characters, rather than being distracted by trying to interpret the rules.
— Hwang Dong Hyuk
The simplicity of these games also allows them to “trend” worldwide. Since the premiere of the show, online marketplaces have seen these game kits skyrocket in sales. With countless YouTubers hopping on the bandwagon and making dalgonas at home, it is needless to say Squid Game is viral—and anything “viral” is, inevitably, intriguing.
Looking for a second season? Here’s what we know: