How Rock, Paper, Scissors works

Friday, April 29, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

The game of rock, paper, scissors (which has, believe it or not, a variety of similar names) is often used to settle disputes or make decisions. According to the World Rock, Paper, Scissors Player's Responsibility Code, it's necessary to determine beforehand what is being decided. The code also states that safety comes first and all jewelry should be removed before play, and advises against using rock, paper, scissors to make life-threatening decisions.

Basic Rules

The proper position for play is to face your opponent with one palm outstretched and the other resting in a fist on top. Typically, two or three primes--motions moving the fist toward the shoulder and back to the palm--are employed before the move is made. The number of primes should be

There are three moves to choose from:

  1. Rock: hand is in the shape of a fist, beats the scissors move because

    a rock can crush scissors.

  2. Paper: hand is laid flat on top of palm, beats the rock move because

    paper can wrap around it.

  3. Scissors: the index finger and middle finger are outstretched to form

    the shape of a pair of scissors, while the rest of the hand is closed,

    beats the paper move because scissors can cut paper.

In the MU Student Foundation's Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament, fouls included making a move too early or late--before the primes are finished or too long after--and physical contact with the other player.

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