Tag (also called tips, tig, tiggy, it, tick, chasey or touch and go) is a playground game involving two or more players' chasing other players in an attempt to "tag" and mark them out of play, usually by touching with a hand. There are many variations; most forms have no teams, scores, or equipment. Usually when a person is tagged, the tagger says, "Tag, you're 'it'!". The last one tagged during tag is "it" for the next round.
A Dutch cartoon of children playing tag, 1860s
|Players||2 or more|
|Setup time||0 to 1 minutes|
|Playing time||No limit|
|Skill(s) required||Running, stalking, hiding, observation|
Players (two or more) decide who is going to be "it", often using a counting-out game such as eeny, meeny, miny, moe. The player selected to be "it" then chases the others, attempting to get close enough to "tag" one of them (touching them with a hand) while the others try to escape. A tag makes the tagged player "it". In some variations, the previous "it" is no longer "it" and the game can continue indefinitely, while in others, both players remain "it" and the game ends when all players have become "it".
There are many variants which modify the rules for team play, or place restrictions on tagged players' behavior. A simple variation makes tag an elimination game, so those tagged drop out of play. Some variants have a rule preventing a player from tagging the person who has just tagged them (known as "no tag-backs", "no returns", "can't tag your master" or "can't get the butcher back").
Base and truce terms
Players may be safe from being tagged under certain circumstances: if they are within a pre-determined area, off the ground, or when touching a particular structure. Traditional variants are Wood tag, Iron tag, and Stone tag, when a player is safe when touching the named material. This safe zone has been called a "gool", "ghoul", or "Dell", probably a corruption of "goal". The term "gool" was first recorded in print in Massachusetts in the 1870s, and is common in the northern states of the US. Variants include gould, goul, and ghoul, and alternatives include base and home. In the United Kingdom, the base is frequently known as "den". In much of Canada and parts of the northern United States, the state or home base of being immune from tagging is known as "times" or "T".
Players may also make themselves safe from being tagged by the use of a truce term. When playing the game tag, some may cross fingers as to let others know that they, the player, cannot be it. Yet, this rule may come into play only if the crossing of fingers is shown; if the fingers are not shown to the person who is it, then the crossing does not count.
Bans and restrictions
Tag and other chasing games have been banned in some schools in the United States due to concerns about injuries, complaints from children that it can lead to harassment and bullying, and that there is an aspect to the game that possesses an unhealthily predatory element to its nature. In 2008, a 10-year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska, died from brain injuries suffered from falling onto a metal pole while playing tag. A school dinner lady in Dorset was left partially paralyzed after a boy playing tag ran into her in 2004; her claim for damage was rejected by three Court of Appeal judges, who ruled that the boy had not broken any school rules by playing the game.
A principal who banned tag in her school criticized the game for creating a "self-esteem issue" in nominating one child as a victim, and noted that the oldest and biggest children usually dominate the game. A dislike of elimination games is another reason for banning tag. In some schools only supervised tag is allowed, sometimes with a type of tagging called butterfly tagging—a light tap on the shoulders, arms or upper back.
The president of the US National Association for Sport and Physical Education said that "Tag games are not inherently bad ... teachers must modify rules, select appropriate boundaries and equipment, and make sure pupils are safe. Teachers should emphasize tag games that develop self-improvement, participation, fair play, and cooperation."
The game "British bulldog" (sometimes also called Bullrush, Cat and Mouse, Red Rover, Cats and Mice, Sharks and Minnows, Spiders and Flies, or Octopus) is mainly played in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. It is banned from many schools. One or two players start as the "bulldogs", who stand in the middle of the play area, while the other players stand at one end of the area. The aim is to run from one end of the area to the other without being caught by the bulldogs. When a player is caught, they become a bulldog themselves. The winner is the last player "free".
This is a variant of Build Ups in which each person to be caught joins hands with "it", and the chain thus formed must chase the others as a pair. As more people are caught they too join hands with the "it" players, forming a lengthening chain. This variation is also called Blob, or in some places, Gargon. Only those at the ends of the chain are able to catch someone, as they are the only ones with a free hand. A variant has chains of four splitting in two.
Duck, duck, goose
In this game, usually played by young children, the players sit in a circle facing inward. One player, the "picker" or "fox", walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each of them a "duck", until finally announcing one of his choosing to be the "goose". The goose then rises and runs around the circle in the same direction as the picker, attempting to return to their seat before the "picker" can sit back down in the vacated spot. In Minnesota, this game is referred to as "Duck, duck, gray duck".
In Freeze Tag, "it" runs around tagging people, and when a person gets tagged by "it", they get frozen in place and can't move. However, if another person who is not frozen tags them, they are unfrozen. The last one to be tagged becomes "it" for the next round.
Kiss chase, also referred to as Catch and Kiss, is a tag variant in which tagging is performed by kissing. All members of one sex are "it" at once and chase players of the opposite sex until everyone is caught, then the roles are reversed. A variant is that the player chosen to be "it" will, with assistance from players of the same gender, chase all members of the opposite sex and kiss one of them.
Last tag was played in the early 20th century, when it was a way to say goodbye when leaving school for home. A player tags another and makes them "it" before leaving on their way home. There is no tagging back. It was a point of honor not to be left with the last tag. If a player is unable to tag anyone by the end of the game, they became "it" the next day.
Octopus tag is a mix between Red Rover and tag. "It", or "octopus", attempts to tag the other players. The playing field is known as the ocean. The players, or "fish", line up along one side of the ocean. When the Octopus calls out, "Come fishies come!", "Octopus!", or a matching attribute of one or more fishes, they try to run to the other side without getting tagged. In a variation, once the fish run to the other side without getting tagged, the game pauses until the octopus starts it again. Upon getting tagged the fish become "seaweed" and must freeze or sit where they were tagged, but they can wave their arms around and assist the Octopus in tagging other fish within their reach. The last fish to be tagged becomes the next Octopus. This game can also be played in the water and then it is called Sharks and Minnows.
Reverse tag, also known as "everyone is it" or "infinity tag" has everyone starting as "it". The players who are "it" must tag other players who are not out. When another person is tagged, that person is "out". Typically, the person "out" would sit in their place until the person who "tug" them is "tug" by someone else, in which case the person who is "out" is once again "it." If two people "tag" each other at the same time, a match of Rock paper scissors is played on the spot and the loser is "out".
Line tiggy, also known as "line tag" is typically played on a court or multicourt. In this variation, players must stay on the lines defined by the court.
In this variation, the people who are "it" are allowed to use pool noodles or similar utilities in order to tag people. In some games, the people who are "it" never change to avoid confusion involved when passing their noodle.
Cops and robbers
Cops and robbers, sometimes called "jail", "jail tag", "team tag", "chase", "police and thief", "prisoner's base" "jailbreak", "releaseo" or "manhunt", has players split into two teams: cops and robbers.
A. M. Burrage calls this version of the game "Smee" in his 1931 ghost story of the same name. The cops, who are in pursuit of robbers (the team being chased), arrest the robbers by tagging the robbers and putting them in jail. Robbers can stage a jailbreak by tagging one of the prisoners in the jail without getting tagged themselves. The game ends if all the robbers are in jail. In a variant, the robbers have five minutes to hide before being hunted, and only one jailbreak may be allowed per robber.
Humans vs. Zombies is a survival game of tag, where "human" players fight off increasingly large numbers of "zombies"; if a human is "turned" (i.e. tagged), then that player also becomes a zombie. At the game's beginning, there are only one or two zombies; the zombies multiply by tagging humans, turning them into zombies after a period of one hour. Humans can defend themselves from zombies by using socks, marshmallows, Nerf Blasters or any other toys deemed safe and appropriate; if a zombie is hit by one of these, they are stunned (not allowed to interact with the game in any way) for 15 seconds. The goal of the zombies is to turn all the humans; the humans, meanwhile, must outlast all the zombies.
Manhunt is a mixture of hide and seek and tag, often played during the night. One person is "it", while the other players have to hide. Then, the person who is "it" tries to find and tag them. The game is over when all players are out. Manhunt is sometimes played in teams. In one variant there is a home base in which a player is safe. That version ends when all players who are not safe are out.
In Prisoner's Base, each team starts in a chain, holding hands, with one end of the chain touching the base. The end two players on each team break from the chain and try to tag each other, taking them to their base if they do. The end pair progressively break from the chain and join the tagging. As with Cops and Robbers, prisoners can be freed by tagging them in the base. The game is thought to date back to the Renaissance period, and may be inspired by the act of bride kidnapping. A game of Prisoner's Base was played by members of Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery against a group of Nez Perce.
What's the time, Mr Wolf?
One player is chosen to be Mr Wolf and stands facing away from the other players at the opposite end of the playing field. All players except Mr Wolf chant in unison "What's the time, Mr Wolf?", and Mr Wolf will answer in one of two ways: Mr Wolf may call a time – usually an hour ending in "o'clock". The other players take that many steps towards Mr Wolf. They then ask the question again. Alternatively Mr Wolf may call "Dinner time!", and turn and chase the other players back to their starting point. If Mr Wolf tags a player, that player becomes Mr Wolf for the next round.
In Ringolevio, there are two teams. In one version, one team goes off and hides. The other team counts to a number such as 30 and then goes looking for them. In another version, each team has its own "jail", a park bench or other defendable area. The game goes on until all of one team is in jail. In many ways, Ringolevio is similar to Prisoner's Base.
Variants requiring equipment
Some variants of tag use equipment such as balls, paintball guns, or even flashlights to replace tagging by hand.
Blind man's bluff
Blind man's bluff, also known as Mr Blind Man, is a version of tag in which one player, designated as "it", is blindfolded and attempts to tag the other players, while the other players try to avoid them.
Flashlight tag, also called "Army tag", "Spotlight", and "German Spotlight", is played at night. Rather than physically tagging, the "it" player tags by shining a flashlight beam on other players.
Fox and geese
A traditional type of line tag, sometimes played in snow, is Fox and geese. The fox starts at the centre of a spoked wheel, and the geese flee from the fox along the spokes and around the wheel. Geese that are tagged become foxes. The intersections of the spokes with the wheel are safe zones.
Kick the can
One person is "it" and a can is placed in an open space. The other players run off and hide, then it tries to find and tag each of them. Tagged players are sent to jail. Any player who has not been caught can kick the can, setting the other players free from jail.
Laser tag is similar to flashlight tag, but using special equipment to avoid the inevitable arguments that arise about whether one was actually tagged. Players carry guns that emit beams of light and wear electronic equipment that can detect the beams and register being hit. The equipment often has built-in scoring systems and various penalties for taking hits. Pay-per-game laser tag facilities are common in North America.
An aquatic American variant of blind man's bluff, most commonly played in a swimming pool, although it may also be played while swimming in shallow natural bodies of water (typically the areas near the shores of oceans, seas, and lakes). The players may be swimming, treading water, or walking on the bottom of the pool or body of water. The person designated "it" is required to close their eyes, and shouts "Marco!" at regular intervals; the other players must shout "Polo!" in response. "It" must use sound localization to find one of the other players and tag them. The tagged player then generally becomes "it," and the process repeats.
Muckle (sometimes called "muckle the man with the ball", "kill-the-guy-with-the-ball", "smear the queer", "kill the carrier", among other names) is the reverse of regular tag; all the other players chase "it". This player is denoted by carrying a ball (usually a football). When they are caught, they are tackled, or "muckled". Whoever retrieves the ball first or whoever attacks the one who is it then becomes it. Sometimes the last player arriving to tackle the former ball carrier is the next person to be it; in other variations the player with the ball throws the ball up in the air, where it is caught by another player who becomes it.
Paintball is a sport in which players use compressed air guns (called paintball markers) to tag other players with paint-filled pellets. Games are usually played on commercial fields with a strict set of safety and gameplay rules.
A tube sock is filled with a small amount of flour in the toe of the sock; the sock is then gripped by the leg hole and wielded as a flail. Striking a player with any part of the sock counts as a tag.
Spud is a tag variant that is best played in large, open areas. Players begin each round in a central location. "it" then throws a ball high into the air. The other players run but must stop as soon as "it" catches the ball and shouts "Spud!" It may then take three large steps toward the player of his choosing before throwing the ball at that player. If the ball hits the target, that player becomes it and the game starts over.
Ball tag is an extension of dodge ball and may also be called "muckle" and "spud". The person who is "it" uses a ball of any type, excluding baseballs, bowling balls, bouncy balls, bouncing putty, and some basketballs to tag other people. Usually, the location the ball must hit is defined as below the knees in primary schools or below the head starting from intermediate schools. In this game, "It" might also be referred to as "ball man", "the one who bears the ball", or "Ball Mc Bouncer/Bouncer".
Freeze ball variation
Freeze ball is similar to ball tag except you are not allowed to move when you are tagged.
Ball and seek variation
Ball and seek is essentially Hide and seek except the seekers are allowed to use balls.
In a special castle-like variation, the people who are tug are sent to a "shadowy area". When in this area, they can escape and become "untug" if tagged by other people who have not been tagged. This "realm" is guarded by "the screamer", a single person who is allowed to run in the "shadow land" and tag people who try to untag other people.
Team tag sports
In South Asia, two sports are variants of tag, played at the team level, sometimes internationally. In Kabaddi, raiders cross a dividing line to try to tag defenders, while continuously chanting "kabbadi" on one breath while over the line. It is included in the Asian Games and even has a world championship, being played throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Iran, as well as in Indian communities in Canada, Great Britain, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. It was also demonstrated in 1936 Berlin Olympics. The other tag sport is called Kho Kho.
Tag or flag rugby is a non-contact variation in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it, or shorts with velcro patches. The mode of play is also similar to rugby league with attacking players attempting to dodge, evade and pass a rugby ball while defenders attempt to prevent them scoring by tagging – pulling a velcro attached tag from the ball carrier. However, the "tag" in "tag rugby" is derived from the "tags" that the players wear and the children's game of tag more closely resembles touch rugby whereby a touch replaces a tackle.
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