Squid game: do they always play the same games?

OCT 20, 2021

The show provides good evidence that the games rotate out each year, and the Squid Game itself is probably not the final event every year. Here's why.

Are the games in Squid Game the same every year the games are played? The games go back to 1988, and in that time there are only a few ways the games themselves could be structured: either the six games are the same each year, or they rotate and change each year. There are several hints throughout Squid Game that provide clues, and ultimately a reasonably firm answer.

Squid Game is a show centered around deadly games played by desperate contestants for a huge cash prize. The selection of games in Squid Game are a surprise to its players. Much of the tension of the show comes from players attempting to guess, or getting an advantage from finding out, what the next game is, even though a hint in the sleeping room wall reveals all the games from the very beginning. Some of the games are more physical in nature, and others emphasize fine dexterity or cleverness, suggesting the games were selected to test a variety of skills from childhood games fairly evenly.

At first glance, it appears that the games are the same year to year. When Detective Hwang Jun-ho (Wi Ha-joon) breaks into the Front Man’s archives, the spines of the books are labeled “Squid Archives”, meaning "squid game" or "squid games" or some variation thereof is the internal name for the games, not just the name of the show. If that is the name for the games, it suggests that the squid game itself may end every series. When Hwang Jun-ho looks up his brother’s file under past winners the folder includes many pages. Since each page appears to be a player profile, this shows that at least some years multiple players may have been able to win the prize. The squid game is a team sport and would allow multiple winners if a whole team survived to the final round. The deadly dinner and manipulated circumstance of death for pickpocket Kang Sae-byeok (Jung Ho-yeon) may simply have been to ensure there was an even number of players going into the squid game. This all suggests that the games are set or at least that each year's games end with the squid game - however, what overturns this idea are the VIPs.

The VIPs express a casual familiarity with the proceedings, even asking where the Host is, suggesting a shared history, and joke with each other enough to suggest this is not their first time to be a VIP to these games, even as a group. Yet, they don't know the games' rules. The Front Man has to explain to the VIPs the rules of the glass beads bridge game, and - more damning to the set-game theory - the squid game itself. The VIPs are typically international businessmen, not Korean, so the theme of children's games - specifically games from a Korean childhood - conflicts with the VIP's apparent familiarity with the event of the games.

The theme of children's games may simply have been Oh Il-nam (Oh Young-soo)'s desire to relive his childhood, now that he is participating in the games instead of directing them. His final words with Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) seem to suggest that his desire to make the games was derived around the feelings of childhood nostalgia, and he may have chosen a childhood theme (and even called them "squid games") just for that particular year's games, knowing his own involvement. Squid Game itself may have been just about Oh Il-nam's personal games, and next year's games may be completely different.

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