Rock Paper Scissors, also known as Roshambo, is one of the most widely played games in the world. It is a game of chance that requires no equipment or specific skills, making it universally accessible. The game has evolved over time, with various cultures and traditions imprinting their own variations on the game.
Origins of Rock Paper Scissors
Rock Paper Scissors has its origins in Chinese hand games. The game was first noted in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) where it was known as “shoushiling,” which translates to “hand-commanding.” It was often used as a form of diversion between the Chinese military. As Chinese immigrants moved toward Japan, they brought along the game, which Japanese people began calling “Jan-ken-pon.”
In the 17th century, Jan-ken-pon was renamed “Mushi-ken” or “Kitsune-ken,” and the game became associated with Japanese folklore. Although the names were fascinating, the gameplay was simple. No matter what variation of the game you were playing, the basic concept remained the same.
The game was played with one hand. Each player simultaneously makes one of three shapes with their hand representing “rock,” “paper,” or “scissors.” The rules of Japanese Mushi-ken work as follows:
● The “rock” beats (blunts) scissors and loses (is covered) to paper.
● The “scissors” beat (cut) paper and lose (are broken) to rock.
● Paper beats (covers) rock, losing (being cut) to scissors.
Variations Across the World
As it continued to grow in popularity across the world, many countries developed their own variations of the game.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, the game is known as “Jan-ken.”
In Korea, the game is called “Kawi-bawi-bo.” In this variation, “rock” is replaced by a clenched fist symbolizing the hammer. “Scissors” are replaced with the two fingers used to make snipping motions, and “paper” is replaced by an open hand symbolizing cloth.
In India, the game is known as “Chidiya, Pa, Daga” or “Bird, Water, Stone.” In this version, “rock” is replaced with “stone,” and “scissors” are replaced with “bird.”
In Nigeria, the game is called “Orobo ntepa,” meaning ‘the pot breaks the hook.’ In this variation, “rock” is represented by a closed fist and called “hook,” “scissors,” are represented by the thumb, representing “cutting,” and “paper,” is represented by an open flat hand called the “pot.”
The Evolution of Rock Paper Scissors
As the game spread across different cultures, its rules were continuously tweaked and re-imagined. Today, different versions of the game exist, including extreme rock paper scissors, which is played competitively, with rules based on a combination of luck and skill.
In 2015, researchers from the University of Tokyo created a robot that they programmed to play rock paper scissors and win every time. By learning its opponent’s body language, the robot could predict the outcome of the game before initiating it.
Rock Paper Scissors has come a long way over the centuries since its early origins as a Chinese military training tool. Today, it is a universally known game that has captured the hearts of people all over the world. The variations of the game, which continue to evolve, are an indication of its popularity and universal appeal.