One would think Squid Game is my favorite Korean drama/favorite show of all time because I spent many evenings planning a Central Park Squid Game party for old friends and new. It’s not my favorite, but I am a fan. Drawing, embroidering and stuffing a large, murderous Korean doll as I sat on the foyer floor at night was a fine way to escape life anxieties such as my recent startling discovery that my son’s young, clown-haired guitar teacher who has been doing home lessons with my son for more than six months, is a strident, conspiracy- theorist anti- vaxxer. (I found this out after referring him to my good friend as a guitar teacher. She had the wherewithal, unlike me, to ask him if he was vaccinated, and when he said no, she called me to ask if I knew he was unvaccinated. (No my friend, that would be some kind of Trojan-horse gift if I had known! )As it turns out, let’s call him Colby, went straight to my place after being booted out by my friend, which forced me to tell him I knew and wasn’t comfortable having an unvaccinated guitar teacher for my kid. His response: “Do you not believe in science?” I blinked at him, confused. Wasn’t it I who should be asking him this question? Then he elaborated, his voice and limbs clenched in a way I had never before noticed: “The science is clear that natural immunity is stronger than any vaccine. The CDC doesn’t admit it but Europeans know.” (Fucking Europeans!). I ousted him, disappointed in my own inability to sniff out a principled anti- vaxxer and left worried about finding a new vaccinated teacher.
The party (or shall I call it my therapeutic exercise to distract me from anything anxiety provoking), was memorable with an excess of ideas, Korean chicken and soju –disproportionate to the crowd size. Seeing old friends and new ones after a dearth of social gatherings and admiring the joy on their faces while playing group Tug O War and Red Light Green Light side by side with our shrieking kids, left me with a sharp appreciation of life. Half the fun for me was the party prep with my kids and friends. Absent from my life during COVID times is a feeling of community so how I relished making decorations with my kids and their families, bringing wagons of supplies to and from the park, accidently burning batches of sugar candies on my stovetop, doing a silly group huddle in which we stacked our hands in a pile and then threw them up in the air as we yelled “To Child Labor!” (acknowledging the many unpaid hours of work the kids did preparing for the party with me).
Suggestions for your Squid Game Party:
- Decorations: Make fun decorations like the money ball we hung from a tree. We used a glitter beach ball and taped it with fake money to look like the big money globe on the show. (We used large clear vinyl stickers as using scotch tape might take forever). I note that the quality of fake money has certainly improved since I was a kid. Passerbyers kept asking if the money in the ball was real and on the way to the park with a wagon of bags decorated with fake bills, good samaratins told me I was losing my dollar bills. In fact my own husband, the morning of the party observed the party bags with the fake 20 dollar bills stapled on and said, his voice only a little high-pitched,”are you giving people real money?’ His reaction probably reveals a lot about our dynamic—how he is at this point, all his eggs in the basket, charmingly un-phased by my peculiar ways. We gave each guest fake money in their green bags so when they were eliminated, they could tape the money to the ball just like when a player died on the show, dollars would be added to the huge globe.(We never did this because I forgot to tell people to do so). Making the large doll was time consuming but if you are inclined, get some large canvas material and start drawing, painting, embroidering and stuffing! Another easy, fun decoration kids enjoyed was using marker on a piece of canvas fabric to draw the cloudy scene in the show in which players pick their shapes. My kids and their friends enjoyed making the below tablecloth that we used to decorate a picnic table in the park.
2)The Dalgona/honeycomb challenge was a highlight. If you have 50 candies to make as we did, give yourself DAYS. Your kitchen and the floors of your house WILL.NEVER.RECOVER. Doing enough to make 3-5 candies per attempt was the way to go for us, instead of one candy at a time. In the beginning, it took 2 hours of failure to make ONE unburnt, fairly round, flat candy that didn’t crack. My friend Rachel and her son found success with the following: 6 tablespoons of sugar in a small flat non-stick pan (large pans didn’t pour fast enough). Stir constantly with a rubber spatula on level 5 of heat (on a gas stovetop) until the white hard chunks are out and it’s almost a liquid. Reduce heat to a 2 or so and stir a few seconds until it’s a brown liquid. Turn off the heat, add 3 small pinches of baking soda, stir fast and then pour an amount about the size of an oreo onto parchment (NOT WAX) paper. Wait 45 seconds and take bottom of a small pot and press evenly onto the candy and lift off. Wait 5 to10 seconds to press in cookie cutter shape. Let cool on paper.
3)Red Light, Green Light-Grown ups and kids bounding up a hill on a brisk autumn day to play RLGL was another highlight. Get an electronic bullhorn for the person calling out red light, green light. It would have been fun to play the creepy Korean song from that RLGL scene in the show but we couldn’t manage that. Oh, and I know some parents dislike toy guns but are they opposed to super fake-looking nerf guns? Ours definitely added to the fun as did instructing everyone to “die” dramatically when eliminated and having a friend in a mask and a red hoodie circle players ominously.
4)Tug O War-Who knew it was this fun? Group tug o war is a beautiful thing. Enough said. You may find, the grown ups are the most excited for this activity. Amazon sells great long, thick ropes like this one that did the trick. (Oops Amazon, sorry!!)
5) Marbles: Nothing to really add here except you might want to give guests written or spoken suggestions of games to play as most of us have no idea what to do with a sack of marbles. I didn’t bother with written instructions as I dislike reading written instructions of any kind so I assume the same goes for everyone. People found a way to win their partners 10 marbles in the 15 minute timeframe.
6) Ddakji, envelope game. Thanks to Mariana for making everyone’s envelopes. I think I saw callouses on her hands after all the folding and tucking involved. YouTube has good tutorials on how to make them but that didn’t help the likes of me. Two mangled pieces of paper later and I was done. (You need a certain serenity for origami). The trick to these envelopes is finding the right paper, not too thick and not too thin. We ended up using this one below. Plus, this game is no joke. It should be an Olympic sport! I watched some players manage to use one envelope to flip over the one on the ground through strength, patience and dexterity–qualities I obviously lack.
7)Glass Stepping Stones Game: We made 18 large rectangular cardboard “glass panels” two side by side to form a bridge. We placed a mirrored square sticker in the center of the cardboard to give it a semblance of glassy appearance. Then we taped medium sized bubble paper (don’t use small sized bubble paper, they’ll be no popping sound) under some panels to be the “regular glass” and just puffy plastic under the “safe, reinforced glass.” We gave numbers to our guests and had them line up in groups of 16. They had 10 minutes to cross the bridge. When they stomped on a panel and heard a loud pop, they “died” and we took away that panel. When there was no noise after jumping on a panel, they were safe.
8) We wanted to think of a way to play Squid Game with adults and kids of all ages but we ended up scrapping it. Someone suggested playing flag football/Squid Game combo but this party host lost her steam to plan this out.
9) The menu: We had Korean wings, Kimbap (Korean sushi), Makeolli, a cloudy, sour yet strangely alluring alcoholic drink, El Topo Chico bottles decorated with a sticker of the Squid Game shapes and cupcakes and fruit. (No, I didn’t cook anything myself. I am not that person). For fun, I had Korean ramen to eat raw as no. 456 did on the show. I also offered hard boiled eggs and apple cider to my guests, just like the paltry meal that the Korean gangster Deok-su grumbled about. I was entirely amused seeing a lot of kids and a few adults lining up to eat the eggs.
10) Some other ideas to try:
I made some “nighttime attack” stickers in honor of the viscous player against player nighttime attacks in the bunk beds. In this version, instead of killing a player, players can put a sticker on an unsuspecting co-player and force them to do certain silly challenges like eat a spicy Korean pickled garlic bulb or suck on a lemon slice and do 50 jumping jacks or for adults, drink a shot of questionably flavored soju (apple soju??). We didn’t end up doing this because there was so much else going on but it sounded like it could have been fun.
If I had a greater budget and an indoor venue, I would have liked to copy the steak dinner of the show and I would have bought each guest a full on track suit!
Thanks for reading about these adventures. P.S. Happy Halloween friends!