【明報專訊】Within one week of its release on 17 September, the Korean Netflix game thriller "Squid Game" went viral. It became the first Korean content to grace the US Daily Top Ten list for consecutive days. Friends around me all seemed spell-bound. During a long-awaited weekend gathering, everyone unanimously demanded to watch it on a tiny 13' screen, devouring episode after episode until we completed the mission 12 hours later, exhausted.
What exactly is the charm of "Squid Game"? Fans around the world seem to have different opinions. Many are drawn to the well-thought-out set and visual effects. Others love the stark contrast between the games' simplicity and the gruesome repercussions they entail. Some question social inequality, empathising with the characters' struggles in modern capitalist society. When the adrenaline rush is over, everyone has their afterthoughts to savour.
For me, the afterthoughts were about games. The series ended with Oh Il-nam, the ultimate villain disguised as a participant, revealing the game's intentions. "When I was a child, whatever I played was fun. I wanted to revisit that fun." said Oh. Of course, this intention is mired by many alter-motives—greed, condescendence, cruelty, to name a few. But his revelation did summon some fond memories of childhood friends running around the playground, laughing hysterically. It didn't matter if the game was "One, Two, Three, Traffic Light" or "Paper Scissors Stone". It didn't matter if we found a punctured tie or some weirdly-shaped cardboard. Lay down a few arbitrary rules and play as if the game was a matter of life and death. The simple focus was immensely fun.
As we age, such occasions happen less often. Among responsibilities, self-consciousness and a busy schedule, we find ourselves looking down on simple games. We become stingy with the minutes and seconds we have on hand. Game days are often replaced with expensive dinners, drinks, adult talks or even exotic "laughter yoga" (a theoretical licence to laugh). Why is everyone so ridiculously stiff and serious? I sometimes wonder. During the last year, this preoccupation was heightened with the isolation created by the pandemic. A good laugh in good company became a burning need.
Many people find the ending of "Squid Game" weak and flimsy. I empathise with Oh. For one who accidentally cut off all company and simple fun in life, conquering the void left behind can be a strong motivation, especially in the final days of life. Whether the "Squid Game" satisfies the void is another question.
I hope I have not spoiled the series too much for you.
Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.
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