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SYFY WIRE Squid Game

Squid Game: How Vegas hotels inspired the show's iconic game of 'Red Light, Green Light'

Season 1 of Squid Game is now streaming on Netflix.

By Josh Weiss
Squid Game Still

You can partly thank Nevada's Sin City for the creation of Squid Game. Taking The Hollywood Reporter behind-the-scenes of his global streaming phenomenon on Netflix, creator/director Hwang Dong-hyuk explained why the now-iconic "Red Light, Green Light" sequence (i.e., the game that kicks off the deadly tournament) looks so surreal and uncanny to the human eye.

“We drew some inspiration from hotels in Las Vegas. … You know, those hotels that have fake skies drawn on the ceiling? I wanted to create a space that made people wonder, ‘Is that fake or real?’" the writer explained. "So you’ll see in the first game, we actually mixed a fake sky with a real one."

The interior of the remote island command post where the games are hosted was almost meant to echo that dream-like quality. "As for the stairs, we drew inspiration from works like Relativity by M.C. Escher for the structure."

The "Red Light, Green Light" scene — which led to a real-world promotional installation in the Philippines — was also one of the first games filmed during production. “It was really challenging both physically and psychologically," Hwang Dong-hyuk added. "It had to have the impact big enough for people to want to watch the rest of the series. I had only imagined it for over 10 years, and to bring that to life … It was just the most challenging scene on so many levels.”

The contestants find out all too soon that elimination from six rounds doesn't just mean losing out on a boatload of money — it also means death via a hail of bullets. While this display of gratuitous gun violence may feel commonplace to American audiences, Squid Game's brutal method of execution carries a lot more thematic weight in South Korea, where firearms are heavily regulated.

“In Korea, we don’t use guns, so the gun is actually a very unrealistic weapon in Korea," Hwang Dong-hyuk said. "I personally thought that having the people be eliminated using a gun was in fact very unrealistic in a way, meaning that it was not as violent because it was more symbolic than realistic. It’s a simple and symbolic expression of the elimination equaling death.”

He continued: “I included it because it was something that was in our reality. I did not deliberately intend to exhibit violence or gore for the sake of it, but I also didn’t intentionally try to control the level of expression for the sake of the viewers or for it being a Netflix series. I just wanted to show it as organically as possible."

Season 1 of Squid Game is now streaming on Netflix, with a second installment now in the works.