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 from the playground game.
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, Czech Republic 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.