Zip Zap Zop Oikotype


CONTEXT: J is an actor and theater major, who brought in a variation of a common theater game to class. 

Before we talk about this specific variation of Zip Zap Zop, let’s talk about what the most common version of Zip Zap Zop is.

For sure. Zip Zap Zop is one of those games where anybody who is remotely immersed in the performing arts– if you say those three words, it immediately brings up memories, visceral reactions… It is the child’s first theatre game. It is so ubiquitous– the gestures, the complete understanding. 

Can you talk about how it works?

Yeah, so one person claps slash points? Slides? One person slides there hands in the direction of another person saying “zip”. That person then slides their hands at another person saying “zop” and so on and so forth with zip, zap, and zop, connecting between a bunch of people who are standing around in a circle. It’s very simple, it’s face paced. It doesn’t require a lot of thought but it requires a lot of focus. It can be played in competition mode or just for fun. 

What is the purpose of this game?

To keep your mind engaged on what’s happening here and now. Not necessarily mental engagement that requires a lot of critical thinking or robust vocabulary, but quick response time.

Right. And what about the version you brought into class?

Okay so I knew I had to bring a game into class, and that it couldn’t be just regular zip zap zop– I’d look like an amateur. I was thinking about how it was so well known, and how I could use the fact that it is so well-known to my advantage. Because when you play the game for a decade, your response is ingrained in you– it becomes reflex. I realized it would be less easy if I changed the words. If I put four words instead of three words, or if I put a bunch of spins on it. Like, imagine you’re on a sitcom and midway through the day the writes hand you a new script and you have to get to a complete different mindset about what words are coming out of your mouth. So it was a fun way to leverage the familiarity of the game to make it more difficult. 

Nice. So you just changed the words?

Yeah I changed the words. First, we rearranged it to zop, zap, zip. Then we changed them to other random sounds, like zee zah zoh. Then I did four instead of three, and that’s when a lot of people ended up getting out because that 1-2-3 rhythm is so ingrained in our brains because we’ve been playing zip zap zop. 

Do you remember the first time you played zip zap zop?

It would probably have to be… third grade, in elementary school. How old are people in third grade? Eight or nine? If I was eight years old, it has been a good thirteen years since I’ve been playing zip zap zop. I could’ve played zip zap zop, a child could have been born and bar mitzvahed by now.  


As somebody who has played zip zap zop my whole life, I was wildly excited and intrigued when Jordan brought a new version of the game to class! Because of its simplistic nature, zip zap zop is an iconic game amongst the theater community. In a community of creatives, it is kind of shocking that I hadn’t experienced an oikotype of this game yet. 

In my experience, zip zap zop is a great way to get actors into a sense of play, and to hone focus at the beginning of class.