The Original Circle Game

What is it?

A devious game of trickery that rewards superior peripheral vision and quick motor skills.

The Circle Game commences when an Offensive Player (Attacker) creates a Circle with the thumb and forefinger—picture an upside down "OK" sign—and holds it below the waist.

The Attacker's goal is to coax a Defensive Player (Victim) into looking at the Circle. Victims who get caught "Lookin'" at the Circle, and fail to take evasive action, lose the game and earn a closed-fist Punch on the bicep from the Attacker.

Who invented it?

Good question! All we can tell you for certain is that it wasn't us. Some internet theories trace The Circle Game's origins to either late-80s locker rooms or an Ohio bowling alley owner.

We do know that it made its major televised debut in season two, episode four of the 90s hit sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle." 

But no matter who first invented a game that lets you sock your friends and family, the important thing to know is that it existsand it is awesome.

Malcolm demonstrates The Circle Game on FOX's "Malcolm in the Middle"

The Nine Original Rules

Our research does tell us one thing for certain: no two people seem to play the The Circle Game the same way. Urban adaptions abound. But the basic ruleswhich we've translated into battle cards for The New Circle Gameare simple and fun.

1. The Attacker's hand must be below his or her waist.

2. When the Victim realizes a battle has started, he or she should attempt to spot the circle using only peripheral vision. No looking directly at the circle!

3. The Victim has one method to win the game and three ways to diffuse the attack:

  • If the Victim quickly pokes an index finger through the Circle (without looking at it):
    • and Breaks the Circle, the Victim wins and gets to Punch the Attacker.
    • and can only poke In and Out of the Attacker's circle without breaking it, the Attack is diffused.
  • If the Victim stares the Attacker in the eye and says, "Not Lookin'," the Attack is diffused.
  • If the Victim notices the circle is above the Attacker's waist and calls out "Too High," the Attack is diffused.

4. If the Victim looks at the circle and does nothing, the Victim loses and earns a Punch.

5. If the Victim attempts to poke the circle and Misses, the Victim loses and earns a Punch.

6. If the Victim attempts to poke the circle and Attacker closes the circle, Catching the Victim's finger, the Victim loses andyou guessed it earns a Punch.

7. Punches are only allowed on the loser's bicep.

8. The winner only receives one chance to Punch the loser. Make it good.

9. The loser is allowed an attempt to Dodge a Punch.

How to Trick Your Victim

Do whatever it takes! There is no limit to the trickery allowed when drawing attention to a Circle. A tried-and-true method of dropping a casual "Hey, have you seen this?" or "Check this out" usually works just fine.

Players can attempt to coax each other into looking at a Circle as many times a day as they'd like. You'll find some people are easy to trick, while others seem to possess super-human peripheral vision.


  • The Circle must also touch the Attacker's thigh.
  • "Wipe Off the Punch" with a quick, open-hand brush on the loser’s bicep to show you're still friends. If a winner fails to Wipe Off a Punch, the loser can issue a Punch in retaliation.

That's it! That's The Circle Game—a game of whimsy and benign violence that never gets old.