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Choking in the Name of Fun

When I was a kid my brother invented a game that we both thought was hilarious, at least for a little while anyhow. “Rip-Cord”, as it came to be known, involved him lying on his back with his knees bent into his chest. Then I would sit on his feet and yell “Rip-Cord” and he would launch me into the air using all his force. It was fun, until he launched me into the living room wall.

Kids play stupid games. Unless there is an adult standing there threatening that they are going to “loose an eye”, kids will continue to invent ways to unintentionally cause themselves harm all in the name of fun. However, recently kids have reversed this standard; inventing ways to cause themselves harm in order to have fun. One development has been the invention of “Scarf Game” also called the “Choking Game” or “le jeu du foulard” in French. While in most of the games kids play, any actual physical harm is just a side effect of all the fun, the scarf game was invented to cause harm in order to have fun.

A recent article posted on, titled “The Dangers of Choking”, described the game and why kids might play it:

People playing the choking game tie something — a belt, a scarf, a rope, or even a chain bicycle lock — around their neck, then to another object. The choking cuts of the flow of oxygen to the brain, producing a brief ‘rush’ or ‘high,’

The article states that between 30 and 50 deaths in the United States are linked to this “game”. Many of these deaths occurred when the children played alone, got the scarf or belt too tight, and passed out and died from lack of oxygen. However deaths also occurred when children played in groups. The deadly nature of this game is realized here in this YouTube video.

How do you know if your child is playing the choking game? Talk to your kids and be observant.

• Any suspicious mark on the side of the neck, sometimes hidden by means of a turtleneck, a scarf or a permanently turned-up collar
• Changes in personality, such as overly aggressive or agitated.
• Any kind of strap, a rope or belts lying about near the child without any reason – questions about such objects are often eluded.
• Headaches, sometimes excruciatingly bad ones, loss of concentration, a flushed face.
• Bloodshot eyes or any other noticeable signs of stress on the eyes.
• A thud in the bedroom or against a wall – meaning a fall in cases of solitary practices.
• Any questions about the effects, sensations or dangers of strangulation.
• Choking Game aliases: Blackout, Fainting Game, Space Monkey, Dream Game, Suffocation Roulette, Pass-out Game, Flat liner, California Choke, Space Cowboy, Airplaning, Purple Dragon and many more.

Choking in the Name of Fun

Jennifer Bechdel

Jennifer Bechdel, MBA is a freelance and technical writer, as well as a marketing consultant. She focuses on workplace issues, stress, and unemployment topics.

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APA Reference
Bechdel, J. (2018). Choking in the Name of Fun. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Nov 2007)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.