Rock, paper, scissors

‘Roshambo’ by Lasse Gjertsen

Miscellany at its best: Whoever knew rock-paper-scissors could be such competitive sport? Also known to some as scissors-paper-stone, ching-chang-wulla, cat-tinfoil-microwave, bear-ninja-cowboy and earwig-human-elephant (or, more simply, roshambo), a hearty game of rock-paper-scissors can be serious business. Take, for example, the USA RPS League Tournaments, the National XtremeRPS Competition, and the World RPS Championships. In fact, underlying the popularity of this childhood game of such tremendous competitive potential is its easy facilitation of random, non-biased selection (simultaneous action) based on the mathematics of non-transitivity theory. Not surprising, then, that cycles not dissimilar to rock-paper-scissors are used in computing and found naturally occurring in the wild, as can be seen in Richard Mansfield’s paper on the ‘Stability and Evolution in Rock-paper-scissors Ecologies’. On the one rare occasion, it’s even known to have been used as a determinative exercise in US Federal Court proceedings.

But for most of us, it’s more of a childhood institution — just another simple way to pass time stranded in the back-seat with fellow under-ten passengers on long car journeys. In Japan, it’s also incorporated in a street game called jan-ken-pon or janken for short (じゃんけん), which is a bit like that other playground favourite: tag. And with evidence of ‘finger throwing games’ in Egypt dating back to as early as 2000 B.C., rock-paper-scissors is as steeped in history as it is ubiquitous. But of course, there is the metaphor of it all. Prolific animator and YouTube sensation Lasse Gjertsen of Bergen, Norway, has illustrated this principle to full effect. One of my favourite film shorts, ‘Roshambo’ is a wonderful example of how simple cartoons drawn by hand can be fed into Adobe Photoshop and edited in Premier in order to entertainingly portray conceptually rich yet succinct storyboarding. As Gjertsen also composes his own music in FL Studio, his signature humour is tight-knit throughout the entire sequence.

Sarah Badr © MMVIII

See also: World RPS Society

USA Rock Paper Scissors League

Lasses Shit (NRK Urørt)



One thought on “Rock, paper, scissors

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s