Rock Paper Scissors

Now this sounds like my kind of party!
ContraCostaTimes.com | 10/22/2005 | Rock Paper Scissors more than child’s play
Rock Paper Scissors more than child’s play
By Chris Metinko
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
When you think of games of skill and strategy, contests like chess, mahjong and the wildly popular poker come to mind — not the game you played with your sister to decide who got to ride shotgun to the grocery store.
But don’t tell that to the more than 500 competitors and 200-some spectators who will pack the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto tonight to see who is crowned champ, and takes the $6,000 prize, in the Rock Paper Scissors International World Championships.
You read that correctly — a Rock Paper Scissors world championship.
“I think in an age where everything is becoming so complicated, RPS has a simple beauty to it,” said Doug Walker, managing director of the World RPS Society, which has roots stretching back to 1842. “Along with it being a great game of skill and chance, I think it also gives adults a return to their childhood.”

The East Bay will have a chance to experience the RPS thrill tonight, when Pleasanton North Rotary hosts the city’s first Rock Paper Scissors tournament.
“People seem really excited by the idea,” said Esther Becker, who is setting up the event. “I saw it last year on the Poker Channel; it seems to be getting real popular.”
There is little doubt the game’s profile is rising. Last year, the world championship drew 800 players competing for $8,500. Rolling Stone magazine compared it to a “high-stakes Star Trek convention but with binge drinking and better-looking women.” Fox Sports even gave the tournament air time.
Earlier this year, the game’s stakes rose to perhaps an all-time high when Takashi Hashiyama, president of a Japanese electronics company, was unable to choose between Christi’s or Sotheby’s auction houses to sell his company’s $20 million art collection. He ordered them to play a round of RPS to decide. In the end, Christi’s “scissors” defeated Sotheby’s “paper.”
“I expect the sport to take off in 2006,” said Jason Simmons, aka Master Roshambollah, who was featured in the Washington Post last year and is considered one of RPS’s all-time greats.
Simmons, who recently retired, claims he was considered the sport’s Bobby Fischer, and has spun that reputation into a new niche for himself — training others on RPS’s finer points.
A 34-year-old body piercing artist at a Washington, D.C., tattoo shop, Simmons says being an RPS pro is just like being a pro athlete: You want to do a six- to eight-week training schedule, play practice rounds, do light weightlifting to prevent “priming elbow” and even study tapes of matches. Right before the tournament you want take it easy and not risk injury.
Then there are the theories and philosophies behind Rock Paper Scissors. Throwing “rock” is considered the most aggressive throw. Most players think of rock as a weapon and will fall back on it when other strategies fail. “Scissors” represent aggression controlled and channeled into something constructive. Scissors are often considered a clever throw and players are more likely to use it when they are confident or winning.
“Paper” is considered the most subtle throw, but not necessarily a weak one. Paper is connected with writing and there is power in the written word. Some players see that and use it to convey superiority and dignity.
It may all seem a bit much to casual observers but is a foundation for serious players.
“I think it’s great,” said Naomi Brilliant, founder and owner of Roshambo Winery in Healdsburg. She named her winery after the slang term for RPS because of her father’s studies into children’s culture and games worldwide, through which he met her mother.
Each year, the winery holds the Pro-Am Invitational Rock Paper Scissors Championship. This year it drew more than 500 people.
“It takes the meat-headedness out of sports,” Brilliant said. “Some of us want to compete at something and not have to go to the gym every day.
“And we’re all a little geeky,” she said with a laugh.
Walker, a Web consultant when not running the RPS Society, says RPS culture — which often includes players in costumes, beer-drinking and aspects normally associated with a Burning Man-like event — is something to behold.
“I’ve met the most interesting and odd mix of people you can imagine doing this,” said Walker, who recently penned “The Official Rock Paper Scissors Strategy Guide” with his brother Graham. “It’s definitely fun.”
Reach Chris Metinko at 925-847-2125 or cmetinko@cctimes.com.