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Children playing Simon Says with "Simon" (the controller) in the foreground
Simon Says (or Simple Simon Says) is a children's game for three or more players. One player takes the role of "Simon" and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as "jump in the air" or "stick out your tongue") to the other players, which should be followed only when prefaced with the phrase "Simon says". Players are eliminated from the game by either following instructions that are not immediately preceded by the phrase, or by failing to follow an instruction which does include the phrase "Simon says". It is the ability to distinguish between genuine and fake commands, rather than physical ability, that usually matters in the game; in most cases, the action just needs to be attempted.
The object for the player acting as Simon is to get all the other players out as quickly as possible; the winner of the game is usually the last player who has successfully followed all of the given commands. Occasionally, however, two or more of the last players may all be eliminated at the same time, thus resulting in Simon winning the game.
The game is embedded in popular culture, with numerous references in films, music, and literature.
This game has translated across multiple cultures from seemingly common routes and some international versions also use the name Simon such as:
A command starting with "Simon says" means that the players must obey that command. A command without the beginning "Simon says" means do not do this action. Anyone who breaks one of these two rules is eliminated from the remainder of the game. Often, anyone who speaks is also eliminated.
There can be very complex and difficult command chains, such as "Simon says: Arms up. Simon says: Arms down. Arms up." Anyone ending with their arms up is eliminated, because a command that doesn't begin with "Simon says" cannot be obeyed.
It is considered cheating to give impossible commands ("Simon says, lift both of your legs up and keep them there!") or phrase the commands in such a way that the other player has no option but to 'go out' ("Simon says, jump up. Come down."). However, at least in some versions, it is allowed for Simon to eliminate players by asking them to do something seemingly unrelated to the game (example: "Anyone remaining join me up here.").
The electronic game Simon is named for Simon Says. Instead of having to listen to the presence of the instruction phrase, the player has to repeat a short sequence of button presses after demonstration by the device. This gameplay has been repeated as minigame in many subsequent video games and is often confusingly referred to as "Simon Says" as well, despite the differences to the playground game.
Do This, Do That
A variation on the instruction phrases is used in this variant. Instead of only actions beginning with "Simon says" having to be obeyed, an action along with the phrase "do this" must be obeyed while an action with the phrase "do that" must not be obeyed. Obeying a "do that" command or not obeying a "do this" command will eliminate a player. In Swedish, this variant is known as Gör si, gör så.
In the late 1930s in New Zealand, non commissioned officers were leading troops in a brain stimulation game as part of training classed as informal activities called, 'do this, do that'.
This variant, found in India, Pakistan, Germany, Slovakia, Czechia and Hungary, puts the focus on the specifics of the instruction phrase. The Simon announces the phrase "All X fly" or similar (i.e. "Chidiya ud" (Hindi) which translates to Bird fly or "Alle Vögel fliegen hoch" (German) which is "All birds fly up"), with the subject replaced by various creatures and objects. If the subject can fly, the other children have to perform an action, but have to stay still if it cannot fly. The action is usually fixed, involving raising the arms or jumping.
A similar Swedish child's game is "Följa John" meaning "following John", where physical actions are conducted by "John" (usually involving movement in a line), and where remaining participants are replicating the activities shown by John. However, the commands are silent, and based on the remaining participants observation of John's actions. Especially when performed in a line, this can become a physical action equivalent of the game Telephone.
The phrase occurs twice in Thelma and Louise for comic effect: "Simon says everybody lay down on the floor." First the outlaw on the run character J.D. (Brad Pitt) tells how he usually sets off to do an armed robbery. Later on it is found out in the only flashback scene of the movie that Thelma (Geena Davis) uses exactly the same phrase when robbing a store.
In the Animaniacs episode, "King Yakko", Yakko, as king of Anvilania gets his men to take their seats, but when they are about to do so, Yakko stops them, saying, "I didn't say 'Simon Says'!" Then he tells them, "Simon says take your seats!" which they follow.
A stunt played on the game show Fun House also played Simon Says, but was changed to "Tiny Says" to match the name of the show's announcer giving the commands.
Jim Henson's Pajanimals has the Pajanimals play a similar game called "Cowbella Says." Similar to the Peanuts example above, Cowbella, one of the Pajanimals, plays the role of Simon and uses "Cowbella Says" instead of "Simon Says". Before they play, there is a short song that has the lyrics "If Cowbella says, 'Cowbella Says,' you must do what Cowbella says; and if she doesn't say 'Cowbella Says,' you must not do what Cowbella says!"
Mickey Mouskersize, a short in Disney Junior has a game called Mickey Says. Mickey plays the role of Simon, once in the middle of the game, Goofy and Minnie did what Mickey said when he did not say "Mickey Says".
In Let's Go Pocoyo, there is a game in some episodes called Fred Says. This is a simple game. Fred plays the role of Simon, however, the narrator always says "Fred Says" in each phrase. At the end, the narrator says "Fred Says: That's all."
In an episode of Transformers: Rescue Bots, Cody uses the game to teach the Bots about obeying commands. He uses basic instructions such as "Turn right" and "raise your left arm". When he issues a command without stating "Simon says", Chase responds by stating "Simon did not authorize that last movement".
A literal arcade-based smartphone adaptation of "Simon Says" was released exclusively on Android on July 11, 2016, titled Simon Says Mobile. In this version, bodily gestures are replaced with mobile gestures, namely tapping, swiping and tilting. It is free-to-play with in-app purchases. A sequel, Simon Says Mobile 2: Reloaded, was released on July 11, 2021.
In a Barney & Friends episode titled "Hop to It!", Barney and the kids play Simon Says. Two of them, Luci and Min, are out after touching their chins but the other two, Michael and Tina, remain. Another episode, "All Mixed Up", also has Barney and the kids play Simon Says in which the educational theme of this episode is about following directions. "Movin' Along" is another episode to feature Simon Says.
In an episode of Dragon Tales, Max, Emmy, and their dragon friends play the game, which is hosted by a gnome wizard named Simon.
A Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir episode is named after the activity's name and features a villain named Simon who is able to take control of victims by throwing a card at them and giving them a command that starts with the phrase "Simon Says".