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The Game of Tag Has Been Played for Centuries

Variations of the children’s game tag have been played around the world for hundreds of years.

Written by

Brianna LeCompte

I still remember attending my first Trivia night back in 2013. A group of my coworkers were discussing some options for happy hour venues and when we saw that a spot down the street was hosting a Trivia Night, we decided to go for it. I was instantly hooked. When the opportunity arose to join the Last Call team, I was ecstatic. Working with a talented and creative team to spread my love of trivia across the country-what could be better! I currently manage sales and outreach in our west coast areas. Outside of work, I love to travel and am also an avid equestrian and Disney movie lover.All Posts
History Of Tag

History Of Tag


In its simplest form, tag is a game in which the player who is “it” chases the other players. When one of the other players is touched, they become “it” and the game continues. The simplicity of the game has allowed it to be played in varying forms worldwide for hundreds of years.


One of the earliest accounts of a tag-like game came from a 2nd-century Greek writer, Julius Pollux. He described a game called ostrakinda in which two teams stood on either side of a line. A shell was spun or tossed, and one team chased the other depending on which side of the shell turned up.

Over the years, variations of the activity have emerged and evolved in countries around the world. Some versions have also been influenced by diseases that have impacted the area. In some forms of the game, players have pretended that the touch of “it” carried contagions such as the plague (Italy), leprosy (Madagascar), fleas (Spain), or “lurgy fever” (Great Britain).

Game Variations

Game Variations


In addition to the simplest version of tag, there are numerous other takes on how it’s played. For example, in “British Bulldog,” one or two players start as the “bulldog” and stand in the middle of the playing area. All other players stand on one side of the playing area and try to run to the other side without being caught. When a player is tagged, they also become a “bulldog.” The last player to be caught is the winner. A similar game called “Sharks and Minnows” is often played in the US.


Most variations can be played without any equipment. But there are some that require extra tools, like flashlight tag, for example. This game is intended to be played in the dark, and rather than physically tapping people, the player who is “it” tags other players by shining a flashlight on them.


In the 1980s, laser tag, a similar game with more advanced equipment, also became popular. Laser tag players use guns that emit beams of infrared light to tag sensors worn by their competitors. It’s commonly played in arenas specifically designed for the game, which include sets of varying size and complexity. As of 2022, there are 924 laser tag arenas located in the US.

Tag World Records

Tag World Records


One aspect of tag that makes it so adaptable is that it can be played with a wide range of players. This is evidenced by the world record for the largest game of tag, which included 10,908 total participants. The record-setting game took place on September 16th, 2019 in Suita, Japan.


There was also a separate record set a few months later for one of the game’s many variations. On November 13th, 2019, the world’s largest game of freeze tag took place in Phoenix, Arizona. The game included a total of 2,172 participants, who were students from the first through to eighth grades from schools around Phoenix.

This beat the previous world record for freeze tag, which was set in 2018 with 661 participants. The 2018 game included appearances from actors Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jake Johnson, and Hannibal Buress, who starred in the 2018 film, Tag. The movie was based on a true story about a group of men who had spent one month a year playing tag since their childhood.

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