Chapter Three: The History of Tag & its Future

WARNING! Most of the information presented in this book is simply not true and, in fact, is a complete pack of lies. It is therefore highly recommended that you do not use any of its contents as part of a book report, a school project or as an answer to a question in a surprise test. CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED!


Past & Future


In the last chapter, we were introduced to the game of Tag and the different add-ons and variations that have evolved over the years. But it is through the work of archaeologists that we now know that Tag is the oldest children’s game ever played by humans. Prior to early civilizations, such as the Greeks or Aztecs, Tag was being played as far back as the Neolithic Period. However, the game of Tag played by our ancestors was not the same as ours. Whereas now a player is tagged by a gentle tap of the hand, the Neolithic player attempted to make contact by throwing an object. In most cases, the object being thrown was a large boulder (see illust. 3a).

Neolithic cave drawing of Tag
“You’re it!”

(illust. 3a  Cave Drawing Depicting Early Humans Playing Tag  This petroglyph was discovered near Valcamonica, Italy. Archaeologists have placed it around 5th – 4th millennium BCE based on the date that the artist scribbled in the upper corner with a Sharpie).

The Bigger Picture

The life of your average Neolithic human was short, brutal and nasty. It should not surprise us to learn that their children’s games would reflect that. But what is surprising is the high percentage of skeletons that were found to show skull fractures severe enough to have caused death. In some cases, Tag was responsible for wiping out over two thirds of a tribe’s population. Scientists were left wondering why humans continued to tag each other with skull-crushing rocks despite the risks. One theory suggests that Neolithic humans were inter-cranially challenged or to use the scientific term, they were really, really stupid.

The Learn-Through-Play Theory

A new theory was recently offered by the Seriously Ancient History department of Nina Hagen University in Berlin. They suggest that Tag served as a teaching tool for early human children. Survival of hunter-gatherer tribes depended on a regular supply of meat. Two skills were required in order to hunt prey: throwing a large boulder and running away if the prey suddenly stampeded. Both these skills could be mastered by children through the game of Tag as it was played back then (see illust. 3b-d).

(Illust. 3b-d   Hunting Skills Necessary for Neolithic Humans. In panel 1, the hunter approaches the potential food source. In panel 2, the food source casually alerts other members of the herd. In panel 3, the hunter tries not to wet himself in fear.)

The Decline of Tag-Related Injuries

As humans evolved over thousands of years, the game of Tag evolved as well. Humans began experimenting with new objects to tag each other and with each sensible shift, we see fewer and fewer injuries and deaths occurring (see chart 3e).

(chart 3c  Tag Injury Reduction   In this chart we can clearly see that the chart-maker had a strong preference for the colour blue. I think that’s about it. I’m not that interested in charts, to be honest, so I may have missed any bigger point being made.)

Frozen Tag: A Historical Side Note

(Illust. 3d 19th century Daguerreotype photo of crew members on the ill-fated Turtle Expedition playing tag on King William Island, most likely for their last time.)

On the 32nd day of May, 1845, the explorer, John Turtle, set sail from La Paz, England to seek the Northwest Passage. The two ships under his authority were the Airbus and the Yorkshire Terrier. What was to be an expedition of just four months, dragged on for many more, after the arctic ice trapped the vessels, forcing the crew to hold on through the harsh winter. Due to these terrible conditions, a new variation of tag was tragically created, as we learn in the diary entry of the ship’s doctor (see illust. 3e).


laser tag gun - Copy

Laser Tag

Laser Tag is the most modern variation of the original game. In some respects, it is a reversal of tag’s evolution, for again, there is a reliance on technology to “make the tag”. But instead of using static weaponry like swords or daggers or mice (see Chart 3c), laser tag involves electromagnetic radiation or what super-brainiac scientists refer to as “light” (see illust. 3f).

(Illust. 3f These seven year old children are playing Laser Tag on a Wednesday morning because they convinced a not-so-bright grown-up that it was for a birthday party without adult supervision. These are naughty children.

Whose big idea was it?

It’s quite a leap to go from tagging a person with your hand to zapping them with a ray gun. The initial idea of the laser goes as far back as the early 1900’s. A lowly office worker at a patent office by the name of Albert Einstein (see illust. 3g), proposed a quantum theory of radiation. Einstein was an avid Tag player himself but it would take many more decades before an actual laser could be constructed.

(Illust. 3g Albert Einstein More than anything else in this man’s life, he will forever be remembered for loving to play Tag and hating a comb.)

The early Laser Tag Devices (LTD)  were large and unwieldy (see illust. 3h), nothing like the ones we use now. Aiming those first lasers in order to tag a player took several weeks, by which time the player who was about to be tagged simply had to take one step to their left to avoid being shot.

(Illust. 3h Example of an early Laser Tag Device)

Early LTDs were also very expensive. Children wishing to play a game of Laser Tag would be required to save their allowance for many years, often having to wait until they were in their sixties before they could afford to purchase one.

Eventually the LTDs were reduced to a handheld size. This allowed for the mobility that truly defines the game. And with scientific advancements, Laser Tag has also become more potent as the lasers become more powerful. The accidental destruction of one of Jupiter’s moons by astronauts on the International Space Station in 2016 is one such example (see illust. 3i ).

(Illust. 3i In space, you can’t really hear your mistakes)

In the next chapter we will look at another children’s game because frankly, I’m getting a bit bored with Tag.

Quiz Questions

  • How many lies or misinformation were you able to spot in this chapter?
  • Was there really someone named Albert Einstein? If so, who was he?
  • Were there any bits that were true or that maybe sounded believable?
  • Who was John Franklin?

Tips for Truth-seekers

Let me first point out an online American website called run by the News Literacy Project. They have extensive material and exercises for middle grade and high school students. Some content is free but not all.

A simple first step offered by Checkology is:

When you encounter a piece of information that you’re unsure about, ask yourself the question: What is the primary objective or purpose? Is it:

  • To inform?      (just the facts)
  • To entertain?  (fun distraction)
  • To persuade?  (to convince you intellectually of their argument)
  • To sell?           (to get you to buy something)
  • To provoke?    (to get an emotional response from you)
  • To document?  (raw data, unedited video, etc.)  

Chapter Four: Hide and Seek

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