How Netflix’s Squid Game Becomes Overnight TV Sensation


Charley Levine, Staff Writer

Six days. Six enigmatic, deadly children’s games. Four hundred fifty-six mired-in-debt players, and one ultimate goal: to win, no matter the cost. Sneaky strategists, cunning criminals, and tenacious heroes all individually and selfishly compete in red-light / green-light like games in hopes to become a multimillionaire. However, there is one small, yet not so small twist—if you lose, you die. Simple. As the storyline is brimming with gore, suspense, and violence, fans are constantly kept on the edge of their seats. Some may say thrilling, others nail-biting and completely petrifying. Nevertheless, the show proved to be an overnight sensation, but how?

Released on September 17, 2021, Netflix’s Squid Game instantly became a global hit. Sparking the interests of adolescent audiences most specifically, the show has grown immensely in popularity in areas across the globe. Spreading like wildfire, the show has shot up to Netflix’s No.1 most watched television series in 90 countries just days after its release. The dystopian series is Netflix’s first Korean show to reach No. 1 in the United States, and this is only one of the many records the show has shattered. As social media platforms flood with Squid Game posts and memes, new people are continuously hooked into the rapidly growing fan base, illustrating how social media has played a key role in the show’s unprecedented growth.

In the modern day, there is no denying the constant interaction between a human and their phone, especially with social media apps. Providing us with a constant source of news and global communication with just a click of a button, the concept of social media has become a significant ground of bringing awareness to humanity on a variety of causes and trends. Why is this relevant, you may ask? When looking into why Squid Game has become incredibly popular, social media is without a doubt the most significant factor to discuss.

If you are a common social media user, it should come as no surprise that the dystopian series Squid Game has gone viral. As people scroll through their social media pages, they can’t help but find an overwhelming, and amassing number of Squid Game posts awaiting them. To put it simply, Squid Game has taken social media by storm. Now let’s look into two of the most viral trends.

First, the red-light green light robot killer. This meme features a large robotic girl leading the competing players in a game of red light green light. The game, seemingly childish and stressless, quickly takes a turn for the worse as viewers witness the robot firing shots at those of whom she detects breaking the rules.

Second, the dalgona candy challenge. Another replicated game includes players cutting precise shapes out of “dalgona” candies. Like all other challenges through the show, there is of course a twist: if you fail to cut the shape without it breaking, you die. Among social media platforms, people have been seen baking the candies and attempting to break them as precisely as possible. The social media app TikTok, has even created a honeycomb toffee filter in which users can virtually put their candy breaking abilities to the test.

For those who have not yet watched the show, this seemingly never-ending flow of Squid Game content evokes a common question–why is everyone talking about this so-called Squid Game? Ruby Shultz, a freshman and fan of the show, further elaborates on this experience of being drawn into the show through social media. “I was immediately hooked into watching the show after opening up TikTok to find a countless number of Squid Game related content awaiting me. I immediately felt left out of a trend, and this feeling is what sparked my desire to ultimately watch the show and see what it was all about,” Shultz said. To new audiences, the social media content almost acts as a teaser, causing many people to feel as if they are missing out. This ultimately leads to many people looking further into the show, and like Shultz, adding onto the rapidly growing fan base.

Squid Game additionally brings to light the economic troubles faced in South Korea today. Reflecting on current and relevant topics, the show is one highlighting significant messages while also connecting on a personal level to many of its fans. “The stories and the problems of the characters are extremely personalized but also reflect the problems and realities of Korean society,” the show’s creator, Hwang Dong-hyuk said in an email. The show’s ability to connect and resonate with its fans, presents a form of understanding. The many players in the show each individually illuminate a new take on the inequalities of life in Korea. For example, protagonist Seong Gi-hun, taps into the everyday struggle of paying for his daughter’s life through birthday gifts, clothes, medical expenses, etc. These character backstories act as a form of deep connection, hence why the show speaks to many of its fans on such a deep level.

With its eye-catching, suspenseful, emotional, and most significantly, relatable plotline, Squid Game stands to define what makes such a universally popular show. With the show continuously expanding on a global scale, who knows what records Squid Game is in line to break. You never know, some even say a second season is on its way.