Simon Says (or Simple Simon Says) is a child's game for 3 or more players where 1 player takes the role of "Simon" and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as "jump in the air" or "stick out your tongue") to the other players, which should only be followed if prefaced with the phrase "Simon says", for example, "Simon says, jump in the air". Players are eliminated from the game by either following instructions that are not immediately preceded by the trigger phrase or by failing to follow an instruction which does include the phrase "Simon says". It is the ability to distinguish between valid and invalid commands, rather than physical ability, that usually matters in the game; in most cases, the action just needs to be attempted.
The object for the player acting as Simon is to get all the other players out as quickly as possible; the winner of the game is usually the last player who has successfully followed all of the given commands. Occasionally however, 2 or more of the last players may all be eliminated by following a command without "Simon Says", thus resulting in Simon winning the game.
The game is well embedded in popular culture, with numerous references in films, music and literature.
Simon Says originated from Latin, the Latin version was "Cicero dicit fac hoc", meaning "Cicero says do this" (Cicero was a powerful Roman politician). The tradition behind the use of 'Simon' as the controller of the game may trace back to the year 1264, when at the Battle of Lewes, Simon de Montfort captured King Henry III and his son, the future King Edward I. For the next year, any order Henry III gave could have been countermanded by de Montfort, until his defeat at the Battle of Evesham. It is equally possible that the name has no such meaning, and Simon derives simply from the alliterative effect.
This game has translated across multiple cultures from seemingly common routes and some international versions also use the name Simon such as:
- Arabic: for example, "الجنرال عمل كده" ("General commanded", Egypt) or "قال المعلّم" ("The teacher says", Lebanon) and "سلمان يقول" ("Salman says", Iraq)
- Cantonese: "老師話" ("The teacher says")
- Danish: "Simon siger"
- Dutch: "Commando" (the Dutch noun for "command"), or "Jantje zegt" ("Johnny says") in Flemish parts of Belgium
- Finnish: "Kapteeni käskee" ("The captain commands")
- French: "Jacques a dit" ("James said"), or "Jean dit" ("John says") in Québec
- German: "Kommando Pimperle" (or with similar rules "Alle Vögel fliegen hoch")
- Hebrew: "המלך אמר", "הרצל אמר" or "עודד אמר" ("Herzl said "the King said" (thought to be king Solomon) or "Oded said" (Referencing Oded Paz) respectively. Each of the phrases is typically used by different age groups, and sometimes it is even influenced by context.)
- Icelandic: "Símon segir"
- Irish: "Deir Ó Grádaigh" ("O'Grady says")
- Italian: "Il ballo di Simone" ("Simon's dance")
- Japanese: "船長さんの命令" ('Senchosan no meirei', "Ship Captain's orders")
- Korean: "시몬 가라사대" ("Simon says")
- Norwegian: "Kongen befaler" ("The king commands")
- Polish: "Szymon mówi"
- Portuguese: "O rei manda" ("the king orders"), or "O mestre mandou" ("The master ordered") in Brazilian Portuguese
- Romanian: "Răzvan spune" ("Răzvan says")
- Spanish: "Simón dice"
- Turkish: "Yakup der ki".
A version also exists in India and Hungary where an analogy to what can fly and what cannot is emphasized instead of Simon saying or not, i.e. "Chidiya ud" (Hindi) which translates to Bird fly. The term 'bird' can then be replaced with a thing that cannot fly. This game is usually played more with gestures than actual jumping.
A command starting with "Simon says" means the players must obey that command. A command without the beginning "Simon says" means do not do this action. Anyone who breaks one of these two rules is eliminated from the remainder of the game. Often, anyone who speaks is also eliminated.
There can be very complex and difficult command chains, such as "Simon says: Arms up. Simon says: Arms down. Arms up." Anyone ending with their arms up is eliminated, because you cannot obey a command that doesn't begin with "Simon says".
In New Zealand a variation on the instruction phrases is used. "Simon says" is said once at the start of a series of instructions, and an action along with the phrase "do this" must be obeyed while an action with the phrase "do that" must not be obeyed. Obeying a "do that" command or not obeying a "do this" command will eliminate a player.
It is considered cheating to give impossible commands ("Simon says, lift both of your legs up and keep them there!") or phrase the commands in such a way that the other player has no option but to 'go out' ("Simon says, jump up. Come down."). However, at least in some versions, it is allowed for Simon to eliminate players by asking them to do something seemingly unrelated to the game (example: "Anyone remaining join me up here.").
A recent psychological study found that the game can be a healthy way to help children to improve self-control and restraint of impulsive behavior.
The phrase has been used multiple times as a plot device in films and television dramas including Die Hard with a Vengeance, Police Academy, Demolition Man and the TV series Underdog as well as being played in television game shows including 1970s show Superstars and Battle of the Network Reality Stars.
Simple Simon is a character in Shrek 2.
A stunt played on the game show Fun House also played Simon Says, but was changed to "Tiny Says" to match the name of the show's announcer giving the commands.
A version of Simon Says, called "Swiftor Says", is played online in the Call of Duty series. The rules are retained, in which Swiftor takes the role of Simon. A command starting with "Swiftor says" means the players must obey that command. A command without the beginning "Swiftor says" means do not do this action. A player who breaks any of these rules is killed. Some twists are also made to modify and enhance the game, like when Swiftor commands, "Look your partner in the eye". A player without a partner dies (this happens when there are odd number of players). Sometimes, when only two players are left, Swiftor commands a duel. Players face each other in the eye and when Swiftor commands again to fire a bullet, the last man standing is declared the winner in which Swiftor gives him a congratulation shot.
Jim Henson's Pajanimals has the Pajanimals play a similar game called "Cowbella Says." Similar to the Peanuts example above, Cowbella, one of the Pajanimals, plays the role of Simon and uses "Cowbella Says" instead of "Simon Says". Before they play, there is a short song that has the lyrics "If Cowbella says, 'Cowbella Says,' you must do what Cowbella says; and if she doesn't say 'Cowbella Says,' you must not do what Cowbella says!"
- Arnold, Arnold, The World Book of Children's Games, World Publishing Co., 1972, ISBN 0-529-00778-9.
- Bancroft, Jessie H., Games for the Playground, Home, School and Gymnasium, The Macmillan Co., 1914.
- Forster, Sally, Simon Says... Let's Play, Dutton Children's Books, 1990, ISBN 0-525-65019-9.
- Grunfeld, Frederic V., Games of the World: How to Make Them, How to Play Them, How They Came to Be, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975, ISBN 0-03-015261-5.