Everyone has three ‘lives’ and their task is to avoid losing a life for as long as possible.
Everyone starts by walking around the area, no running.
As you are walking, randomly tag one person on their shoulder.
This tagged person must quickly call out the name of a person (other than ‘It’) who is still in the game.
The named-person will become the new ‘It” who must immediately seek to tag someone new.
This process will repeat itself – a tag is made, a name is called, a tag is made, a new name is called, etc.
A person may lose a ‘life’ in one of four ways:
– Just-been-named did not tag a new person quickly;
– Just-been-tagged did not call a name quickly;
– Just-been-tagged called the name of their tagger (It) or someone who has been eliminated; or
– The tagger (It) calls out a name as they tag someone.
Once a person has lost three lives, they are eliminated from the game.
Continue playing until three final people remain, or the energy starts to wane.
In a moment just using this space here you get to just wander around. Most of the time you’re sort of just passively walking. However, there will be moments where there is a lot of quick activity because of something that happens. It is referred to as a tag because there will be a tag made.
This is the system, this is the part that really messes with me, but it seems so simple to remember. Tag, name someone, tag, name someone, tag, name someone. Looks pretty simple right on paper, but this is actually how it occurs.
To begin I will start by just simply tagging one person. As soon as I tag, or as soon as you are tagged, immediately, as quickly as possible, you need to say the name of one other person in the group other than yourself and the person who tagged you.
Okay, you’d think you had a lot of options wouldn’t you. You think because I’ve also told you well in advance you’d have already prepared for this event, but surprisingly how many people get stuck.
So to repeat, I will start by tagging someone. I don’t have to say anything I just have to tag them, and let’s say it was Dante. I would just tag, and then Dante as quickly as possible will call out a name.
Now that is the cue for Justin. Now I’ve tagged, he’s called the name, Justin now must tag someone new. Okay, he tags Tara. Who Tara now calls out…
Did you say Jill?
(No I said Sheila.)
Oh Sheila! She says Sheila so then Sheila having heard her name called now tags somebody. Ordinarily the person you tag is someone very close to you because again you want to do that as quickly as possible.
So as I said on paper this looks so simple, but let me tell you it’s going to mess with your head. So tag, name, tag, name, that can be the way it works okay.
You just wander around and as soon as you hear your name immediately tag, and that person whoever…If you get tagged of course you then need to call out a name.
You got the basics? Alright, using just this space here we’re about to start.
At any point there is some point of you’ve made a mistake or you’re a little bit slow that counts as a mark, and after three marks you’re out of the game. So speed and accuracy, and we’re not going to go all the way through because it’ll just take too long to get through everybody. But the object is every time you make a mistake you count that as a mark. After three marks you’re effectively out of the game. Got the basics?
You keep your own marks. It’s an honour system. It’s an honour system.
Alright, good to go?
So there’s ever only one name being called out at a time and there’s ever only one tag being made. So it’s going to start always with a tag and that person, and what I would also suggest is make it nice and loud because some of those names being called out were quite difficult to hear. So nice and loud here we go. Start moving around.
(Group starts the activity called Name Tag)
You say a name. Tag, name, tag, name!
(Continues with Name Tag)
How To Play Narrative
Clearly designate an open, yet not too expansive area. Invite everyone to start mingling about the area, but not faster than normal walking speed – no running.
Explain that everyone starts the game with three ‘lives,’ and upon inviting one person to volunteer as ‘It,’ the chase begins.
There are just two things to remember – a freshly tagged person must quickly call out the name of another person in the group who is still ‘alive’ and is not the person who just tagged them. There is no need to time how long a person has to call out a name – you just get a sense for when someone is stalling.
And, as soon as a name is called, the person to whom the name belongs will immediately assume the mantle of ‘It,’ and the name-caller returns to their paranoid state of tag-avoidance. The new ‘It’ should aim to tag a new person as soon as they hear their name.
All being well, this process will repeat itself over and over – a tag is made, a name is called, a tag is made, a new name is called, etc. The game continues, with people having lost three of their ‘lives’ removing themselves from the action, until the final three people are left circling each other.
There are four basic ways to lose a ‘life:’
The just-been-named does not quickly tag someone new;
The just-been-tagged does not quickly call a new name;
The just-been-tagged calls out the name of their tagger or someone who has been eliminated; or
The tagger (It) calls out a name as they tag another (you’ll be surprised how often this happens.)
The set-up and first few minutes will appear somewhat confusing to some folks, but you can boil the whole game down to two rules if this helps – when tagged, call out the name of another person immediately, and when your name is called, tag a new person immediately.
Play for as long as there is energy.
Practical Leadership Tips
A quick game is a good game. You and your group get to decide how quick is quick. I tend to be more lenient in the beginning, but expect the reflexes of my group to sharpen as the game progresses.
I do admit that name tag game does my head in. It seems so simple on paper, but in practice, it very difficult to remember which of the two tasks has to be done and in what order. To this end, I’m very sympathetic in the beginning, and allow plenty of time for mulligans.
I think the natural tendency to call the name of a person you are tagging is what makes this game so difficult, yet so engaging.
For large groups, you will not have the time to finish the game. Simply play until you think the group has had enough. Or adopt one of the variations (see Variations tab below) to quicken the pace.
You could integrate Name Tag as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying short bursts of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully follow the rules of play may speak to the benefits of being mindful because it is very easy to be distracted as soon as one’s name is called.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Name Tag could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Vary The Lives: Vary the number of ‘lives’ a person may start with. To be ruthless, everyone is given just one life.
No Pauses: To really ramp up the challenge, a person will lose a life if they “UMMM,” “ERRR” or otherwise stall in their attempt to blurt out a name quickly.
Fast Names: Take a look at Zombie Name-Game and Name Roulette to play two more fast-paced name-games that involve consequences for slow responses.
Active circle name-game with lots of fun variations.
Challenging & highly interactive name-based tag game.
Useful Framing Ideas
I’m about to describe to you two basic rules. They are very simple to understand, but in practice, I think you will find that they are very difficult to adhere to. Here they are – (a) if you get tagged in this next game, quickly call the name of another person who is still in the game, and (b) when you hear your name, quickly tag someone close to you as soon as possible…
The term multi-tasking is a misnomer because in reality the brain can only process one bit of information at a time. That’s why driving and talking on your mobile phone at the same time is so dangerous. Anyone who says they are a multi-tasker is in reality just very good at switching focus from one task to another rapidly. You’re going to need this highly refined skill in this next activity…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this challenging, fast-paced name-game:
How difficult was this game to play? Why?
Did you apply any useful strategies to help you stay in the game?
Where else in your life does ‘multi-tasking’ impair your performance?
The inspiration for Name Tag, and many more inventive energising tag games, was sourced from the following publication: