The floor is lava

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Swamp Crossing game where children have to come up with a team strategy that will allow them to cross a "swamp" using limited number of portable islands (boards) without drowning (touching the ground).

The floor is lava is a game in which players pretend that the floor or ground is made of lava (or any other lethal substance, such as acid or quicksand), and thus must avoid touching the ground, as touching the ground would "kill" the player who did so.[1] The players stay off the floor by standing on furniture or the room's architecture.[1] The players generally may not remain still, and are required to move from one piece of furniture to the next. This is due to some people saying that the furniture is acidic, sinking, or in some other way time-limited in its use. The game can be played with a group or alone for self amusement. There may even be a goal, to which the players must race. The game may also be played outdoors in playgrounds or similar areas. Players can also set up obstacles such as padded chairs to make the game more challenging. This is a variation of an obstacle course.

Typically, any individual can start the game just by shouting "The floor is lava!" Any player remaining on the floor in the next few seconds is "out" and can not rejoin the game for some period of time.

There often are tasks, items or places that can "regenerate" lost body parts or health. Depending on the players, these could be embarrassing tasks, or simple things like finding a particular person.

In one version called "Hot Lava Monster", usually played on playgrounds, players must stay off the ground (sand, rubber, woodchips, etc.) and on the play equipment. The person who is playing the "monster" can be on the 'lava' with the objective of attempting to tag another player. The "monster" must try to tag or catch the other players. In some versions, the "monster" is not allowed to touch certain obstacles, such as wooden platforms or may only touch objects of a certain colour. The "monster" must navigate across structures such as across playground slides, monkey bars, ropes courses, etc. instead of the main platform.

This game is similar to the traditional children's game "Puss in the Corner", or "Puss Wants a Corner", where children occupying the corner of a room are "safe", while the Puss, the player who is "It" in the middle of the room, tries to occupy an empty corner as the other players dash from one corner to another. This game was often played in school shelter-sheds in Victoria, with the bench-seats along the walls of the shelter-shed being used as platforms joining the corner, while players crossing the floor could be caught by the Puss.

In popular culture[edit]

1942 image of coke being pushed into a quenching car
1942 image of coke being pushed into a quenching car, a rare scenario in which a floor is actually composed of molten rock.


This activity is addressed in the 2015 animated film Inside Out, in which it is enjoyed by a girl named Riley Andersen in her childhood. The activity then becomes part of her long-term memory, creating a lake of lava inside her mind, filled with floating architecture. After being accidentally sent to long-term memory, two of her chief emotions, Joy and Sadness, must cross the lake in search of a way to return to their control headquarters. The former enjoys reenacting the activity to find a way back, but the latter complains about the experience being too interactive.


  • Daniel Tosh references this game in his Comedy Central Presents stand-up special.
  • In New Girl, the characters commonly play a drinking game called “True American” where one of the rules is that the floor is lava.
  • The third season of Archer features an episode, "El Contador", where the activity is literally referenced when one of the characters (Cheryl Tunt) vividly hallucinates the floor of the bathroom turn to lava, after being experimentally drugged by a co-worker (Dr. Krieger). She shouts "the floor is lava!".
  • The sixth season of Orange is the New Black has an episode where the activity appears, titled "Mischief Mischief". In that episode, Frieda watches Suzanne hop from tile to tile in the common area of the maximum security prison. When Frieda then suddenly declares that the floor is lava, Suzanne responds by leaping to safety on a nearby table, aware of the game.
  • The fifth season of Community has an episode titled "Geothermal Escapism", in which a campus-wide lava contest is held with a collector's comic book at stake.
  • In June 2020 Netflix released a game show titled Floor Is Lava. In this game teams of adults compete to navigate rooms flooded with hot liquid.

Video games[edit]

  • As with the film Inside Out, the activity is also referenced in the Inside Out playset for the video game Disney Infinity 3.0. There is at least one sequence where the player must lead any of Riley's five emotions to cross the aforementioned lava lake, although Anger can safely wade through the lava without injury.
  • In 2016, Klei Entertainment announced development of a video game adaptation of the activity, titled Hot Lava. It is played from a first-person perspective.[2]
  • Ketchapp released an official mobile game adaptation of the activity in the summer of 2017, titled The Floor is Lava.[3]
  • The activity becomes the basis of a special, limited-time mode for Epic Games' battle royale game Fortnite: Battle Royale during its eighth season, where lava progressively begins to flood the main battle map due to a leak sprung by a volcano that formed at the start of that season. Players compete as smaller squads as they automatically gain building materials that they use to construct platforms to escape the lava while battling to be the last team standing.[4]

Board games[edit]

  • "The Floor is Lava" board game by Italian Cousins is only tangentially related to the folk game.[5]
  • The Endless Games brand game of the same title contains accessories for a more traditional game.[6]

Adult entertainment industry[edit]

In some jurisdictions, dancers at strip clubs are only permitted to expose breasts and/or genitals when performing on a raised platform; they must be dressed before their feet touch the venue's main floor. Managers responsible for enforcing this rule may communicate it as 'the floor is lava'.[7]

Factual accuracy[edit]

By using the Stefan–Boltzmann law and taking convection into account, University of Leicester scientists have calculated that a high stakes version of the game would not be playable with actual lava, as the air above the lava would have a temperature too high for humans to survive for more than a few seconds and the Sulfur Dioxide would be toxic for them.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Fosberry, Deven; Lakhotia, Pratik (2014). "Playing 'The Floor is Lava' in Real Life". Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics. University of Leicester. 3: 37–38. ISBN 9781291898965 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Koch, Cameron (April 22, 2016). "The Floor Is Lava In This Video Game Adaptation Of Every Kid's Imagination". Tech Times. Archived from the original on September 15, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  3. ^ "Google Play Store listing for The Floor Is Lava". Google Play. 11 June 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  4. ^ "v8.20 Patch Notes". Epic Games' Fortnite. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  5. ^ "Listing for The Floor Is Lava". Big Cartel. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Listing for The Floor Is Lava". Endless Games. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  7. ^ Daniels, Stormy (2018-10-02). Full Disclosure. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781529013788.

Further reading[edit]