Few things were more exciting in elementary school than getting to play Oregon Trail. It didn’t matter if you had a math test that day, if you had a fight with your best friend over a pet rock, or forgot your lunch money. If it was your class’s day to go to the computer lab, all was right with the world.
What exactly was it about Oregon Trail that we found so fascinating? Was it the buffalo hunting? The possibility of starvation? The fact that you could inexplicably die of any number of scary diseases? If you were doing well, Mary wouldn’t break an arm or a leg and you would have enough money to get the supplies you needed to survive. If you were heading toward having to purchase a headstone, Joe would get a snakebite, Pa’s wagon would break an axle, and your whole party would fail to ford the river. Those pesky rivers!
So was it the strategy we were drawn to? Coming to grips with the fact that we would never make it in pioneer times and feeling grateful we lived in the 1980s? Actually it was probably just the fact that we got out of class for half an hour.
Whatever the reason, when an 80s kids walks into Target as an adult and sees that there is an Oregon Trail board game he or she MUST buy it. A lot of time has passed. We’re smarter. Older and wiser. Surely we can win this game with ease now. Right?
Kids get a lot of things right. They take naps in the middle of the day. They use cartoons as motivation. They wear plaids with polka dots. And they solve all of life’s major dilemmas by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, believe it or not, did not originate on the schoolyard but in ancient Asia or Africa. There is some debate about it’s actual origins. If only there were some way to decide which continent it started on… Anyway! This zero sum hand game is hella old and is responsible for settling many a dispute over the centuries. As a tie-breaker it’s more interactive than a simple coin toss, less labor intensive that drawing straws, and doesn’t require that you carry dice around with you at all times. And, perhaps best of all, it lends itself to endless variations.
The basic hand gestures of Rock, Paper, Scissors are as follows:
Paper (flat palm)
Scissors (fist with pointer and middle finger sticking out like scissors)
To win a hand, rock beats scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper covers rock (meaning rock must be claustrophobic because that's really the only way we could see paper actually defeating rock simply by covering it up). If you have two hands, you can play this “game” anywhere, anytime. You can use it to decide what movie to go see, where to eat dinner, or who should take out the trash. It’s the ultimate relationship counselor because it’s unbiased. Also, it lets you know if your partner is a sore loser/winner in short order.
Forget lengthy discussions and hurt feelings when navigating important issues. Opt for playing instead! You can even personalize your own version of Rock, Paper, Scissors like the unknown geniuses who came up with:
Ninja, Cowboy, Bear (ninja kicks cowboy, cowboy lassos bear, bear mauls ninja)
Fire, Water, Sponge (water puts out fire, fire burns sponge, sponge absorbs water)
Giant, Wizard, Elf (giant squashes elf, elf outsmarts wizard, wizard casts spell on giant)
We are dying to see a group of adults play any of these three acting-skills-required versions. Our personal favorite, however, comes courtesy of Sheldon Cooper (aka Jim Parsons) on The Big Bang Theory. If you can remember the rules, try your hand at Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock* (scissors cuts paper, paper covers rock, rock crushes lizard, lizard poisons Spock, Spock smashes scissors, scissors decapitates lizard, lizard eats paper, paper disproves Spock, Spock vaporizes rock, and, as it always has, rock crushes scissors). Sheldon didn't invent this one (Sam Kass and Karen Bryla did), but his explanation beats all others.
Or if you want to get seriously serious about it, you can take part in a World RPS Society tournament. Yes, this is a real thing. Fun fact: the Guiness World Record for the largest tournament was achieved by Oomba, Inc. at Gen Con 2014 in Indianapolis. See, it’s not just for kids, it’s also for grown-ups who like to act like kids. We can relate.
And now we leave you with this picture of the Rock Paper Scissors sculpture by Kevin Box.
Leave a comment below to tell us the best thing you ever won playing Rock, Paper, Scissors or how you plan to use this game in your regular, adult life.