History of the Game: RPS


Everyone has played Rock, Paper, Scissors, but what is the origin and how widespread is it really played?

Will Jacobs and I are speaking to as many people as possible about the launch of our new book Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS): The Instant Leadership Solution and how this offers a #LeadershipTool that provides an efficient and effective way to #Lead and #Manage at work as well as in our personal lives.

I get many questions as to why we named the concept after a children's game. In our last blog, I explained this. If you are interested, please check it out here.

In this installment, I thought it would be fun and interesting to discuss the background of the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. You might be familiar with the game; it is a simple contest where you face your opponent with your hands in front of you.

You and your opponent simultaneously choose between throwing a hand shape of a Rock (closed fist), a pair of Scissors (two fingers held out), or a sheet of Paper (flat hand). The idea is to win by guessing and then throwing a hand shape that ‘counters’ or 'beats' the one your opponent chooses.


Now you might think that this game is unique only to your, or at most a few cultures? Actually, it is quite ubiquitous across the world!

The game originated in China during the Han Dynasty between 206 BC and 220 AD. Then in the several subsequent centuries, it became immensely popular in Japan, where it became known as Janken.

From Japan it expanded to the rest of the world, spreading to Europe in the early 1900s and finally to the US in the 1930s most likely due to the influx of immigrants into San Francisco.

Now it’s played as far afield as Europe, Africa, North and South America, Russia, Middle East and Australia. It is, however, played differently in various regions of the world. For instance, in Indonesia, people use hand gestures for an elephant, a person, and an ant while in Austria it is called the game their word for a well, represented by making a shape like a cylinder with the hand.


How do you call Rock, Paper, Scissors?

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