It’s taken the world by storm with its tale of bloody deaths used as entertainment. But the Korean hit is just the latest thriller to take inspiration from the games we voluntarily play

This article contains spoilers for the Netflix series Squid Game

The South Korean survival drama Squid Game seems to be the only thing anyone is talking about, having hit No 1 on Netflix in 90 countries and become the subject of endless memes and conversations. In it, contestants – among them a migrant from Pakistan, a North Korean refugee, a terminally ill pensioner and a gambling addict and all, for various reasons, interested in a cash prize – compete with hundreds of others to the death, in violent iterations of childhood games, all supervised by eerie masked henchmen. It’s surreal, but also rooted in reality; in South Korea, household debt is now equivalent to more than 100% of GDP. As Nineteen Eighty-Four, Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale feel less and less like dystopian works the worse the world becomes, Squid Game too feels strangely cautionary.

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