The knife game, pinfinger, nerve, bishop, knife fingies, five finger fillet (FFF), or "stab between the fingers game", is a game wherein, placing the palm of one's hand down on a table with fingers apart, using a knife (such as a pocket or pen knife), or other sharp object, one attempts to stab back and forth between one's fingers, trying not to hit one's fingers. The game is intentionally dangerous, exposing players to the risk of injury and scarring, and, before antibiotics, an incision or penetration risked sepsis and death. A foldable blade carries the additional danger that, "as the faster you go, the more likely the blade will fold back in on itself trapping the finger of your stabbing hand." It may be played much more safely by using another object, such as the eraser side of a pencil or a marker with its cap on. In European culture it is traditionally considered a boys' game. However, its focus on motor coordination and dexterity is comparable to clapping games.
The order in which the spaces between the fingers are stabbed varies. In the following examples, the space numbered 1 is to the outside of the thumb, with numbering then proceeding to the space between the thumb and index finger and so forth.
The most popular version is to simply stab all the spaces in order, starting from behind the thumb to after the little finger, and back again ("In its simplest form, one would simply move as fast as one dared backwards and forwards."):
A more complex order is also common ("Those with stronger nerves could stab according to a sequence"):
1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-6-1-5-1-4-1-3-1-2 (repeats until the end of the song)
or an even more complex order:
In Australia, the following order is used.
Roman Polanski's first feature Knife in the Water (1962) may be the first film to show the game; a young hitchhiker plays the game on the deck of a sailboat.
In the movie Dark Star (1974), a bored crew member plays the game, starting slowly but nevertheless sticking himself after a few rounds.
The movie Aliens (1986) features a scene with a member of the crew, Bishop, who plays the "knife game" with another member of the crew.
The game is played in the movie Ted (2012) created by Seth MacFarlane; the eponymous character, the talking teddy bear, Ted, plays the game at a party with a stranger while intoxicated and ends up accidentally stabbing the stranger's hand.
In The Hangover Part II (2011) an unsuccessful attempt at the knife game is eventually revealed to be the cause of the severed finger discovered in the motel room, which turns out to be an essential clue.
In Drugstore Cowboy (1989) the game is briefly shown to be played by neighbors of the main characters.
In My Bloody Valentine (1981) the game is briefly shown played by 2 characters in the Cage Bar scene, while the bartender is telling the lore of the Valentine's Day killer.
Nasiruddin Shah, playing a Mumbai ganglord named Mastana, indulges in this game in Kaizad Gustad’s comedy Bombay Boys.
In episode 8 of the first season of Samurai Jack (2001), some patrons of the bar in the opening scene are shown to play a version of the game with a spork instead of a knife.
In episode 27 of Popee the Performer (2002) Popee attempts the knife game and stabs his finger splitting it in two. This resulted in the episode never airing on television because of concerns of children in Japan that they might do the knife game themselves.
In episode 2 of The IT Crowd (2006), Moss can be seen playing the game as a fire spreads across the office.
In Season 5, Episode 14 of The Amazing World of Gumball (2017), Darwin can be seen playing the knife game using a fork. His paternal grandfather Frankie points out how strange and dangerous it is considering how Darwin only has one finger.
In Season 1, Episode 2 of SuperMansion (2015), Black Saturn, Jewbot, Brad, American Ranger, and Cooch take turns failing at the game in the kitchen (with Cooch shoving the knife directly in to her thigh).
In Season 1, episode 6 of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire (2010) features a young WWI veteran, Jimmy Darmody, playing "Five Finger Fillet," and requesting the young Al Capone to join in.
In episode 21 of the 11th season of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson can be seen failing the knife game and stabbing all of his fingers.
In the episode "The Bill" of Inside No. 9, the knife game (called Stabscotch) is used to decide who should pay a restaurant bill.
In The Night Of, the knife game becomes a pivotal element to the criminal trial.
In Season 3, Episode 10 of Z Nation (2016), 10K is forced to perform the knife game as a test of loyalty to Murphy.
In Season 4, Episode 14 of Revenge (TV series), Emily uses the knife game as a method of unlocking Louise's hidden memories about her father's death. Nolan claims it was a technique she learned in Japan.
In Season 8, Episode 16 of Castle (TV series), Detective Javier uses the knife game to interrogate a suspect.
In Season 4, Episode 4 of Vikings (TV series), An attender to a feast plays the knife game.
In Season 2, Episode 4 of Star Trek: Lower Decks, Beckett Mariner is seen playing the knife game with a Klingon knife in the USS Cerritos' bar.
In season 3 in an episode called “ The Grim Grotto” of “A series of unfortunate events”, Count Olaf is playing the game in a submarine, frustrated by the Baudelaires, he ends up stabbing himself twice.
In Season 1, Episode 6 of "Our Flag Means Death", Blackbeard plays the game to psych himself up to kill Stede Bonnet.
In the Sierra On-Line game Manhunter: New York (1988), one sequence requires winning the knife game in a Brooklyn bar in order to continue the winning plot.
In the Lucas Arts game Full Throttle (1995), the knife game is played in a bar.
It appears as one of the minigames in Work Time Fun (2005). It has no win condition, so the game only ends once the player hits a finger.
It also appears as a minigame called "Wee Hand" in the 2007 video game Jackass: The Game, though here set to a one minute timer.
Knife.Hand.Chop.Bot (2007), by the Svoltcore group, is an "interactive installation that plays with the recipient's concern about [his or her] own physical integrity."
A minor character can be seen playing the game at a local bar in the 2009 graphic adventure game Tales of Monkey Island.
2011's Rage includes the knife game as a playable mini-game.
A thief plays the game at one of the bar tables in the thief's guild in the 2010 game Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.
2010's Red Dead Redemption and its prequel Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018) include the knife game as a playable mini-game.
The Sniper and Assassin in 2012's Super Monday Night Combat play the game as one of their taunts.
In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015), a few drunken locals can be seen playing the knife game inside an inn.
The game is played in a scene of the 2015 game Yakuza 0.
Roxanne plays the game in the menu screen of the 2016 game Trials of the Blood Dragon.
In Call of Duty: WWII (2017), Robert Zussman is seen playing the knife game in an opening cinematic.
In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (2018) Kokichi Ouma attempts to play it in his final free-time event (but ends up cutting himself).
A variation of the game is one of the minigames in the 2019 point-and-click game Later Alligator.
It appears in Necrobarista (2020) as a wager between Kishan and Maddy.
On August 31, 2011, a YouTube video entitled "The Knife Game Song" created by songwriter Rusty Cage was released. Several internet users uploaded videos of themselves singing the song while playing the knife game. A new version of the song with additional lyrics was later released on March 29, 2013.
The viral popularity of the song inspired an episode of the game show Unschlagbar, in which contestants were required to stab a knife between their fingers as many times as possible in thirty seconds without harming themselves. Rusty Cage, who traveled from America in order to compete, was crowned the winner and awarded €50.000 in prize money.
In 2017, Rusty Cage released a video detailing his side of the story on the knife game. He uploaded his final knife game song on April 29, 2017. In January 2019, Rusty made many of his Knife Game videos private to prevent his Youtube channel from receiving strikes and potentially being terminated. He subsequently transferred many of his videos to a BitChute account for preservation. Re-uploads of the songs continue to proliferate on YouTube from other users.