||This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2009)|
Children playing a version of tag
|Players||2 or more|
|Setup time||1 minute or less|
|Playing time||No limit|
|Skill(s) required||Running, stalking, hiding, observation|
Tag (also known as tip, tig, tiggy, dobby, dob, it, chasey, and many other names) is a playground game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to "tag" or touch them, usually with their hand. There are many variations; most forms have no teams, scores, or equipment.
Basic rules 
A group of 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 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", or "can't tag your master").
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" 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.
Bans and restrictions 
Tag and other chasing games have been banned in some schools in the United States and United Kingdom due to concerns about injuries and complaints from children of harassment. In 2008, a 10-year-old boy in Omaha, Nebraska died from brain injuries suffered from falling onto a metal pole while playing tag, and a school dinner lady in Dorset was left partially paralyzed after a 13-year-old 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 their 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 dominated 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 UK Local Government Association encouraged the playing of tag in 2008, saying that children are overprotected ("wrapped in cotton wool").
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Ball tag 
This game is a variation of regular tag and dodgeball (aka artillery), believed to have started in the village of Bluffton, Ohio in the early to mid 1970's. One person is chosen as "it"—and uses a ball (via throwing, rolling, or tossing) to tag other players. If a player is tagged by the ball, the tagged player is then "it." If the person receiving the ball is able to catch the ball, rather than get hit, she or he is not "it"—and may throw or kick the ball—and the person who was "it" has to chase the ball—and remains "it" until he or she is able to tag someone. Most rules do not allow for balls to be thrown above the chest - and if the person who is "it" hits someone above the chest with a ball, she or he remains "it."
British bulldogs 
The game "British bulldogs" is mainly played in the United Kingdom, Australia, 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".
Chain tag 
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. 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.
Octopus tag 
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!", 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.
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 to be the "goose". The goose then rises and runs around the circle in the same direction as the picker, attempting to tag that player before he or she can sit back down in the vacated spot. In Minnesota, this game is referred to as "Duck, Duck, Gray Duck".
Kiss chase 
Kiss chase, also referred to as Catch and Kiss, is a tag variant in which tagging is performed by kissing. All members of one gender are "it" at once and chase players of the opposite sex until everyone is caught, when 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, who is then "it" on behalf of the other gender.
Last tag 
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.
Shadow tag 
In shadow tag, players try to step on the shadow of another player to tag them, and can be played in schools where games involving physical contact are banned. In another version of shadow tag, players are required to remain in the shadows and are tagged as usual. This is often played on hot days behind tall hedges or trees. Players can hide in the surrounding trees and hedges but cannot go out in the sun.
Also known as budge, one player is it and tries to tag the other players. There are safe zones, such as circles, but their number is one fewer than the number of the other players. A player is not allowed to enter an occupied safe zone. If a player is tagged, that player becomes "it".
Freeze tag 
Also known as Stuck in the Mud, Scarecrow, Sticky-Glue, Zombie Tag, or Ice-and-Water (in Asia), players who are tagged are "stuck in the mud" or "frozen" and must stand in place with their arms stretched out until they are unfrozen. An unstuck player can perform an action to unfreeze them, such as tagging them, crawling between their legs, or "flushing" them by hitting their outstretched hand ("Toilet tag").
Variants exist where to unfreeze someone, the player must also call out a certain TV show ("TV tag"), sports team, or object. Once called, the thing can no longer be used to unfreeze someone.
Team tag 
Cops and Robbers 
Cops and Robbers, sometimes called "Jail tag," "Team tag," "Chase," "Police and Thief," "Prisoner's Base," "Jailbreak", 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 and put them in jail. Robbers can stage a jailbreak by tagging one of the prisoners 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.
In Sardines, one person hides while the remainder (2) all count to a specified number (50). Once this number is reached, the remaining (2) people spread out in search of the person who has hidden. As players find the hider, they must join the hider in the hiding place. Eventually the hiding place is likely to become obvious because of the number of hiding players. The last person to discover the hiding place must hide in the next round. This game is sometimes played in the dark (wear black clothing), increasing the number of reasonable hiding places.
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 with 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.
Prisoner's Base 
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.
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.
Variants requiring equipment 
Some variants of tag use equipment such as balls, paintball guns, or even flashlights to replace tagging by hand.
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.
Blind man's bluff 
Blind man's bluff, also known as blind man's buff and 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.
Climbing equipment 
Computer tag 
Flashlight tag 
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.
In some versions, the "it" player is required to correctly call out the name of the person being tagged while the light shines on them. In others, the it player must remain motionless while other players roam the field of play. Some versions are played tag style, where a caught player becomes the new it, while others are played cops and robbers style, where a caught player is sent to jail and must be rescued to return to the field of play.
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 
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.
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.
Muckle (sometimes called "muckle the man with the ball", "kill-the-guy-with-the-ball", "kill the carrier", or "smear the queer" among other names) is the reverse of regular tag; all of 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.
Sock tag 
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.
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.
See also 
- Assassin (game)
- Capture the Flag
- Flag football
- Humans vs. Zombies
- Marco Polo
- Pie (children's game)
- Sharks and Minnows
- Touch rugby
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