The Game "Fugitive" Probably Won't Kill Your Children, Despite What You Read in the Media

Kids chase each other. They have probably have chased each other since man could walk upright on two legs. Maybe it's some sort of Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest struggle. However you look at it, kids have always chased and ran away from each other.

A game of tag recently ended very badly for one girl in Fort Worth. Ashlee Aguilera, 15, was playing a variation called fugitive with her friends on Friday night when she was struck by a car. She is in the intensive care unit in a Fort Worth hospital.

It was a terrible accent and an obvious sign -- another one -- that today's youths are a reckless band of death cultists who will throw their lives away at the drop of a hat unless parents wake up.

Or so you'd think if you read the recent column in the Dallas Morning News that breathlessly warned clueless parents about their kids' peril.

"'Fugitive' is a dangerous game that landed Fort Worth teen in ICU," the paper proclaims. The column makes fugitive sound like some new crazy kid fad, like the latest way teens are getting high off cleaning supplies.

I played played fugitive several times growing up in North Texas, so allow me to explain it to you: It's an extended game of tag. And between sneaking booze from your liquor cabinet, attending pill parties or playing football, your kids could do a lot worse.

In high school, my group of friends were the AP class, NHS group of kids -- not cool enough to be good at sports, not quite nerdy enough to be really into manga. I think we would have been scared shitless to do anything too reckless, like drinking or drugs. So we played different versions of tag at local parks and throughout the neighborhood on our Saturday nights.

Lava tag was played at local playgrounds -- you jumped around the plastic equipment, and if you touched the gravel, or "lava," you were out. We played zombie tag. Capture the bandana or other oddly-shaped piece of dirty scrap fabric. Freeze tag. And many times we played fugitive, in which you ran through the neighborhood and tried to hide from the kids who were "it."

When fugitive was played, we set boundaries within the neighborhood, and the kids who were "it" rode their bikes. If they flashed their lights at you, you were out. You ran through people's front yards and behind trees to avoid the kids on the bikes. The goal was to make it from one side of the neighborhood boundary to the other. Other versions involve the chasers driving cars, which is undoubtedly more dangerous, but as far as we can tell hasn't littered the landscape with corpses.

But that's not stopping reporters from doing the stories aimed at scaring the bejeezus out of parents.

"Teens are putting a dangerous twist on the once innocent game of cops and robbers," declares an ABC report from 2010, decrying "fugitive" as the latest dumb thing kids today are doing to hurt themselves. Another article cited the kids' "disorderly conduct," saying cops were "cracking down" on the obviously harmful game. A recent SourceFed article went this far with their grandparental disapproval of the game:

Here at SourceFed we know our nation's teenagers are bright people that never make poor decisions. But boredom being the great and timeless motivator, and with the internet feeding voyeuristic tendencies, teenagers never cease to amaze with the ways in which they are willing to injure, maim, or at least put themselves in great danger for a few short, amusing minutes.

It's terrible that someone got hurt playing fugitive, and the kids who played the game with cars should have been on bikes or on foot -- it's unclear, by the way, whether Aguilera's friends were using cars, but the Morning News reported that the driver who struck her wasn't part of the game. It's also bad every time a kid gets hurt on a piece of playground equipment, or a concussion on the football field, or from sneaking their parents' booze -- all of which happen far more frequently than injuries from neighborhood tag.

Fugitive is just one more thing for adults to stuff in their great big grab bag of worries. Some schools have even banned tag altogether because of isolated incidents. "Is tag too tough for kids?" frets one ABC story.