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  • In my opinion, Squid Game imagines life as a game and explores the clash between two

  • different play styles: zero-sum versus positive-sum.

  • Zero-sum players go through life dividing the world into winners and losers, the strong

  • and the weak.

  • They see the entirety of life as a competition.

  • The winners win at the loser's expense.

  • A scammer is an example of a zero-sum player.

  • You give me money, and in return, I give you nothing.

  • There's one winner and one loser.

  • And by scamming a bunch of people, I can get rich.

  • On the other hand, positive sum players believe that life is not a competition.

  • They believe there's a scenario where both parties can win.

  • An honest merchant is an example of a positive-sum player.

  • I give you a product that you want, and in exchange, you give me the amount of money

  • I want.

  • We both win.

  • So what does Squid Game show us about each play style?

  • Oh Il-Nam, the old man who hosts the game, represents the pinnacle of a zero-sum player.

  • He's successfully risen to the top of society, achieving all the money and power anyone could

  • want.

  • But when he's on his death bed, when he reminisces on the entirety of his long life,

  • when he can comb through all of his memories, what memory does he cherish most?

  • The memory of himself as a kid, playing with all of his friends.

  • He has all the money and power in the world, with the ability to experience anything, and

  • what does he want to re-experience?

  • Friendship.

  • He tells Gi-Hun that their friendship brought meaning, fun, and joy back into his life.

  • And in the final moments of his life, again, when he can experience anything before he

  • goes, what does he want to experience?

  • The presence of his Gganbu, perhaps his only friend, Gi-Hun.

  • Il-Nam's life shows us the end point of a true zero-sum player: isolation and alienation,

  • from others and from one's own humanity.

  • He even says that playing in the games was the first time he felt something in a while.

  • So what does Squid Game show us about the positive-sum play style?

  • For the most part, in Squid Game, positive-sum players are taken advantage of by zero-sum

  • players, such as Abdul Ali getting taken advantage of by Sang-Woo in the marble game.

  • And I think that's because the game you're in depends on how you choose to play and who

  • you play with.

  • Let me repeat that, because I think that's Squid Game summarized in one sentence: the

  • game you're in depends on how you choose to play and who you play with.

  • If you're a zero-sum player and you play with another zero-sum player, then the game's

  • a competition.

  • If you're a positive sum-player and you play with a zero-sum player, then the game's

  • a scam.

  • If you're a positive-sum player and you play with another positive-sum player, then

  • the game's a fair trade.

  • But does Squid Game give us any examples of a game between two positive-sum players?

  • Due to its dystopian nature, we rarely see any positive-sum games.

  • One of the first examples is during the cookie cutting game: Gi-Hun shows other contestants

  • that they can lick the Dalgona cookie to easily free it and pass the round.

  • So many people copy him and win.

  • But this only works because the players are not pitted against each other.

  • On the other hand, in the marble game, we have two positive-sum players together: Kang

  • Sae-Byeok, the North Korean defector, and Ji-Yeong, the one who took her own father's

  • life.

  • Neither of them really wants the other to lose, but they have no choice because their

  • stuck in a game that pits them against one another.

  • The thing is, there's no way to win Squid Game.

  • If you're a zero-sum player, you end up like Il-Nam, the Frontman, or Sang-Woo: isolated

  • and alienated from yourself and others.

  • But if you're a positive-sum player, you end up like Abdul Ali, Kang Sae-Byeok, or

  • Gi-Hun: you get taken advantage of or are forced to play zero-sum games at the expense

  • of your friends.

  • For the most part, Squid Game leaves us wondering what-if.

  • In the final game between Il-Nam and Gi-Hun, when Il-Nam bets Gi-Hun that a homeless man

  • won't receive the help he needs, what if Gi-Hun went to help the man himself?

  • Why does he choose to play this zero-sum game?

  • What would happen if all players refused to play Squid Game in the first place, for all

  • time?

  • I said that Squid Game could be summarized in one sentence: the game you're in depends

  • on how you choose to play and who you play with.

  • So going back to the idea of life as a game, what if we all refused to be zero-sum players

  • or play with zero-sum players?

  • What kind of game would we be in then?

  • That's the question season 1 of Squid Game leaves me with.

  • As always, this is just my opinion and understanding of Squid Game, and if you have a different

  • take on it, I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments.

  • And if you're new to this channel, I try to write about philosophy in a practical way,

  • so if you want to check out some of my other recent videos, there's a link to my practical

  • philosophy playlist in the description below.

In my opinion, Squid Game imagines life as a game and explores the clash between two

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Squid Game — Explained

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    Summer posted on 2021/11/05
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