Who Invented the Game Tag? (Invention Timeline Explained)

There are some things that have become such a common part of life that we no longer question where it comes from. That’s a shame, as everything in life has its own origin story, and there are so many things we can learn from history in general. Of course, there are going to be quite a few interesting inventions where it’s only natural to wonder how everything works. However, we’re going to be looking into inventions that are a little more obscure — but are still part of life as a whole.

For example, we might be interested in the origins of some of our favorite subjects, but what about something obscure, such as a game of tag? Tag, you’re it! Just about everyone has heard that phrase at one point or another, yet not a lot of people wonder where the game of tag comes from. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place, as we’re here to deep dive into the inventors of tag, as well as craft a little timeline!

Who invented the game tag?

The earliest record of the game tag — or the game closest to tag — is ostrakinda, in which a shell was spun to determine who would be the chaser. The person who invented the game was known as Julius Pollux, a Greek writer.

The game tag’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Julius Pollux
    Writer of ostrakinda, which is the very first recorded instance of the game of tag

    The game of tag went as far back as the 2nd century, where it was known as ostrakinda, written by Julius Pollux. The game involved teams of players chasing each other, though what determined the chasers was a shell.

  • Karl Groos
    Studied the psychology behind the game tag

    The interesting thing about tag is the psychology behind it. For example, the preferred position in a game of tag is the one being chased, rather than the chaser. Animals are the same way, finding it fun to practice being the one being chased, and it was Karl Groos that pointed out the similarities.

  • A surprising number of sports
    The touch and go concept is present in many sports

    One of the most interesting parts about tag is how it seems to be the origin point for many other sports. From soccer and basketball to American football, it all involves the chase, which is a core concept of many sports derived from tag.

  • Team tag sports
    The explosion of team tag sports in South Asia

    Funny enough, while most variants of tag involve a single chaser and multiple people being chased, the Greek original involved teams. Despite the many variants, the concept of team tag sports only caught on in regions such as South Asia.

  • Kabaddi
    The potential progenitor of tag

    One of the oldest touch and go games is kabaddi, which originated in India, and is also considered a team tag sport. The interesting thing about Kabaddi is that it could potentially be the progenitor of tag, as many claim it to be over 4,000 years old, and that Buddha himself was a big fan.

When was the game tag invented?

The concrete evidence shows that tag has its origin through ostrakinda in the 2nd century (101-200 AD). However, if the lore of kabaddi is to be believed, then the game existed more than 4,000 years ago.

A brief history of the game tag

One of the most fascinating things about the game of tag, is how it seems to be the progenitor for many different games and sports. It’s one of the most popular playground games for a reason, and just about everyone knows what tag is. The title came from the term touch and go, which is what tag was all about. Regarding its origin, there are two possibilities, though one is much more likely than the other. The more likely one is based on evidence of the original tag game, ostrakinda. It was written by Julius Pollux, who — we can safely say — invented the game of tag through ostrakinda.

The second potential origin comes from the team tag game/sport known as kabaddi. The rules are similar enough to tag, and are surprisingly similar to ostrakinda. That said, people claim kabaddi’s origin to be around 4,000 years ago, and that Buddha was an avid player. If such is true, that would mean kabaddi would be the origin of tag.

In any case, the game of tag is something that just about every civilization knows after the Greeks. Many different variations popped out, each with their unique rulesets. The game of tag is fascinating in that way, as it’s a surprisingly deep part of both modern and ancient society.

The game tag timeline

  1. 2000 BC
    The (potential) invention of kabaddi

    While there isn’t much to base the claim, it’s stated that kabaddi was invented over 4,000 years ago. If such a thing is to be believed, that means tag existed long before the earliest record of the game.

  2. 101-200 AD
    The invention of ostrakinda 

    Julius Pollux writes about the game ostrakinda, which involves a team of players using touch and go rules. It’s known as the origin point of tag.

  3. Present 
    The boom of touch and go games throughout the world

    Since the development of ostrakinda, the game of tag has grown a surprising amount all over the world. From Blind Man’s Bluff to Fox and Geese, there are plenty of tag variations out there.

Where was the game tag  invented?

The game of tag was invented in ancient Greece. Based on more questionable sources, an earlier form was created in India.

Why everyone loves the game tag

  • The foundation of most sports games

    When you look into the various types of sports available today, it’s easy to find a pattern when you consider the rules of tag. Many sports today are complex variations of tag, which is why touch and go is often considered the foundation of most sports games.

  • Many, many variations

    Dare I say, the true number of tag variations is unknown, as many children tend to make up their own rules when playing games. There are probably thousands of variations out there, but it’s hard to tell because tag tends to be one of the more personal games for people.

  • A surprising amount of psychology behind tag

    Another reason why people love the game tag is due to its connections to what animals find fun. While being chased might be considered a life-threatening situation, when put into a game, what was life-threatening is now fun. It helps animals practice escaping predators, which ties to human psychology with regards to tag.

  • A different version in every home

    It’s not far-fetched to think that most households have their unique form of tag. As stated above, there are likely thousands of variations out there. It’s amazing to think that there could be a different version in every home!

The game tag by the numbers

  • 2000Kabaddi is one of the older games of tag, though many claim it’s much older than it seems. They say that even Buddha himself enjoyed it, though it’s even older than that, based on claims. Its origin would be pointed to 2000 BC.
  • 2The minimum number of players required to play tag. I know it’s a little bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how much fun tag can be even if it’s just between two people. It’s the reason why it’s one of the most popular playground games.
  • 10,908The maximum number of people who played tag. It seems like a crazy number, but that game of tag actually happened! During the Expo Commemoration in Japan, 10,908 people gathered together for the largest game of tag ever.
  • 2011The date when World Chase Tag was created by Christian and Damien Devaux. The reason why it’s such a big deal is that WCT became one of the most popular sports involving tag all around the world.

Five facts about the game tag

  • The concept of safe zones

    While not present in every variation of tag, most versions of the game have safe zones, where people are safe from the chaser. It’s usually used in games where the chaser goes after a lot of people.

  • The differences between tag and hide and seek

    In a lot of ways, there are similarities between tag and hide and seek, especially if the former has many players. The biggest difference is you can’t stay hidden for too long when playing tag.

  • The beginning of tag

    When you think of tag these days, it often involves just a few players, with one acting as the chaser and the others acting as the ones being chased. In the beginning of tag, it was more of a team game, and many tag variants still use team tactics.

  • The surprising amount of fun no matter the number of players

    The concept of being chased (without anyone at risk) is so much fun that even if tag was played by only two people, it’s still plenty of fun. It’s different from many other sports that rely on multiple people.

  • A game and sport that will always last

    Without a doubt, if you want a game that will stand the test of time, it is undoubtedly tag. Sure, it’s not as complicated as other sports, but it’s not something that’s going to simply disappear.

FAQ about the game tag

  • What’s the best way to play tag?

    With other people who love the game. That’s pretty much the best way you can experience the game of tag. All it takes is one other person who loves the game to make it fun!

  • Just how many variations are there?

    As far as official variations you might find online, there are probably a few dozen. As far as custom variations worldwide, it’s nearly uncountable.

  • Wait, is laser tag a part of the tag concept?

    Yes, it’s absolutely a part of the tag gaming pantheon. Sure it has some modern sensibilities, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a form of tag.

  • Just why is it that tag is so popular?

    The simple answer is that tag is easy to enjoy. You’re either the chaser, or the one being chased. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s something both kinds and adults enjoy.

Leave a Comment