“Tag… You’re IT!”

It’s a game that dates back to the ancient Egyptians and is still played around the world every day in one form or another. It owes its longevity to its simplicity – no teams, no scoring, no special equipment required, and it takes but a moment to learn. All you need is a wide-open area to play the always fun, often exhilarating, game of Tag.

The rules are pretty simple, and can be decided upon right before the game starts, or, as players often discovered, even during the game itself. To start, someone gains the illustrious title of “It.” The other players scatter and the chase begins. If “It” tags another player, the newly-tagged player becomes “It” and the former “It” joins the others and runs away (desperately trying to avoid the humility of being tagged again).

Most games went scoreless, with neither a winner or time limit. The game ended when everyone was too tuckered out to continue, recess ended, someone got hurt (okay, maybe it didn’t always end when someone got hurt) or the streetlights came on and it was time to go home for dinner.

Boundaries varied from game to game. They could be a a school playground, a backyard fence, or as simple as “don’t go past those two trees over there!”. Sometimes there were “safe” areas, otherwise known as “bases” – those safe havens where one could catch their breath, knowing they were momentarily exempt from being tagged. Of course, it was bad form to stay attached to a base for too long, lest you be considered a coward.

Besides the squeals of joy, the groans of defeat, there were a few other phrases often bandied around. “No tag backs!” “No catch backs!” “Can’t get the butcher back!” If those variations were allowed, it meant that the person who was last “It” couldn’t be tagged again immediately after tagging someone else, giving the former “It” a chance to recuperate before being thrown back into the fray.

Those weren’t the only options. The variations of Tag are almost endless. There’s Freeze Tag, Blob Tag, Hide-and-Go-Seek and Marco Polo (yep, those are just modified tag games). There’s also TV Tag, where you slap the ground and yell out the name of a television show right before being tagged to nullify the attempt. Sardines, Ghost in the Graveyard, Tag Football, Frisbee Tag – the list goes on and on. And if you really wanted to use equipment, that opened the door for Dodgeball, Lazer Tag and Paintball.

Few escaped childhood without playing some form of tag. And even though we occasionally had to suffer the indignity of being “it”, we usually survived the experience with a smile on our face, and an eagerness to exact revenge.

What was your favorite way to play tag? What were the rules you went by in your old neighborhood? We’d love to hear all of your Tag-related memories in our comments section below.

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