If you have ever played Capture the Flag, you probably remember it being a lot of strategy, a lot of fun, and a lot of running around to steal the opposing team’s flag. The rules are simple. Two teams are drawn, and each has two goals – to protect their own flag and to capture the opposite team’s flag in order to win. So, why the comparison to Squid Game. Let’s find out.
Just for the beginners out there, Squid Game is one of the world’s most streamed series, critically acclaimed for its messages on classism and breaking the entertainment landscape with its out-of-the-box plotline. The show revolves around 456 players drowning in debt, who volunteer to play children’s games in order to win a LOT of cash. It all seems fun and games until they find out the penalty for losing the games is literally a bullet in the face.
When I Was Just a Kid, I Remember…
Capture The Flag shares many similarities to real life in my opinion. The same narrow-mindedness we develop when we focus on capturing the other team’s flag applies to the hustle of real working adult life. Adults all fall into the same routines and monotonous lives, mostly to attain that single goal – money. Money becomes our flag, and we all run constantly to attain it. The only difference is that, unlike the game, this flag is something we never really get around to capturing, because whatever you get, is never enough. We live, breathe, and work for money without fail. And why wouldn’t we? The day you run out of money, you lose everything you have ever worked for.
Squid Game shows this desperation of adult life very clearly. All the main characters lead incredibly sad and miserable lives that they need to break free from. They all have different issues and conflicts, but the same solution to solve them – money. Think about it, why else would anyone want to participate in children’s games for it? Killing and forced playing aside, it’s still just plain weird that ANYONE even agrees to that.
What stands out to me is the use of children’s games. Though it seems like just another entertainment device for the series, I see it more as a comparison to when we were kids, and free from the struggles of adulthood. Especially the traumatizing ones the players in the show lived through. All the games are reminiscent of their innocent and ‘live and let live’ days, while the context surrounding them is so shockingly not. Though not very explicitly mentioned or showcased in the series, it is something to think about and ponder. When did those glory days run past us and leave us behind in the mess of such a scarily dark reality?
When I Grow Up, I Want To…
What don’t we wish for while growing up? Everyone has a phase of “everything”. We dream big and hard, and strive to make it something we achieve later in life. Many of us do come around to getting – if not all – at least some of those dreams. Some of us make new ones and say those were the dreams we’d been wishing for all along. Some of us settle for the things we have, but make it so that it fits our expectations somehow – to make our life worth living, or at least to give us the motivation to act and change it.
Remember the first goal of Capture The Flag? It was to protect our own flag. Now, for a second, put your dreams, expectations, and achievements in that metaphor. We all want to protect them till the very end. If you’ve got something, it’s unlikely you want to lose it. But who would have thought that in order to protect our childhood fantasies, we would have to give up so much of our childlike innocence, and succumb to the pressures of adulthood?
Squid Game emphasizes this exact phenomenon by showing how the players come into the contest to protect their own dreams and goals by winning the cash prize. Gi-Hun has his daughter to prove himself to, Sae-Byeok has her brother and herself to find a home for, Ali has his hopes to live a good life in the big city with his family… and the list goes on. They all came to protect their flags. The ones they thought of as easy when they were little, but discovered were much harder to achieve as they grew up.
All Work and No Play
So, is there any way to really retain the same carefree happiness we had when we were younger? Probably not, as growing up unloads a bunch of responsibilities that don’t give you the affordances to live the same way you did as kids. Although the series showed all the players, but one, die because of the rat race of adulthood, we luckily don’t have to go to those extremes… yet.
As long as we can learn to live a little for ourselves while we do for the other things in life, we’ll be okay. And that’s as much consolation as I can offer – after all, I’m learning to live that way myself. Just try not to get sucked into a crazy children’s game competition hosted by weirdos in masks. I mean… that’s just too much of a red flag to ignore (pun intended).
P.S: For the sake of continuity, let’s end this three-part series with my favorite scene in the show. I think after that grim talk, it’s worth shaking it off with a bit of comedy!
Edited by Emma Chiaratti
Cover: Jackson Simmer on Unsplash