Marco Polo (game)
|Players||3 or more|
|Setup time||< 1 minute|
|Playing time||no limit|
|Skill(s) required||swimming, sound localization|
The game shares its name in common with the 13th century Venetian trader and explorer Marco Polo, and "legend has it that the famed explorer didn’t really have a clue as to where he was going, much like [the "It" person]". WiseGeek explains "No one seems to know what the origins of the name are, although there are a number of apocryphal stories", adding "There does not appear to be any real link between the game of Marco Polo and the explorer of the same name, despite the creative efforts by some people, and it is hard to determine when the first game of Marco Polo was played". Nevertheless, HowStuffWorks argues "he the inspiration for the popular pool game". The game has similar traits with blind man's bluff (essentially the same game played on dry land) and can be considered an offshoot. Wisegeek notes "Blind man's bluff dates back to at least the 1500s, and it was once a very popular parlor game, especially with ladies".
In modern times, Marco Polo is mostly played in the United States, Great Britain, and South America, while various regions have their own versions of the game, with names such as Mermaid on the Rocks and Alligator. A version of the game played between robotic-powered boats has recently been devised by 5 developers (Michael Bjorkegren, Drew Hamlin, Brittany Heart, Jennifer Margell, and Eli Stillson). The team thought "the idea of boats playing Marco Polo could be very challenging and entertaining [and] liked the challenge of having two robots communicate through sound and touch sensors". The term "marco polo game" is sometimes used to describe an online game where a similar call-and-response system of gameplay is adopted.
One player is chosen as "It". This player closes his/her eyes and tries to find and tag the other players without the use of vision. The player who is "It" shouts "Marco" and the other players must respond by shouting "Polo", which "It" uses to try to acoustically locate them. If a player is tagged, then that player becomes "It".
The game can also be played on land, with slightly modified rules, or played with the addition of rules from Fish out of Water and others. It is similar to Blind man's buff where one person is blindfolded while others choose hiding places around the room.
Marco Polo is an "easily modifiable game", and it based around the notion of call-and-response. Marco Polo is a location-based game because players are confined to a set space and because players must locate each other using auditory clues. Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society argues "there is bipolarity in the reversal of roles...there are repeated actions, a routine to be repeated, rules to be observed, and verbal signs to be used". Playing this game can allow children to experiment with different social roles, for example learning what it means to be an outcast in the role of "It" (isolated, confined to a space, and unable to see others). According to The Nevada Daily Mail, "Marco Polo is not only fun, it can be a good workout. It also puts less stress on your bones and joints because the water makes your body float." When the game is featured in popular media, many characters are shown "cheating, misunderstanding, changing, or ignoring the rules", which happens in The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park. The latter changes the terminology from "Marco" and "Polo" to reference a catchphrase from the show.
- Bittarello, Maria Beatrice (2009). "Marco Polo". In Rodney P. Carlisle. Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society. SAGE. ISBN 1-4129-6670-1.
- editor, Rodney P. Carlisle, general (2009). Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society. Los Angeles: SAGE. p. 376. ISBN 978-1-4129-6670-2. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- Jeffrey, Phillip; Mike Blackstock; Matthias Finke; Anthony Tang; Rodger Lea; Meghan Deutscher; Kento Miyaoku. "Chasing the Fugitive on Campus: Designing a Location-based Game for Collaborative Play". Proceedings of CGSA 2006 Symposium (Canadian Games Study Association).