Rock-paper-scissors is a game that is known throughout the world. Extremely simple, but elegant, there are three choices a player can make, and each beats another and loses to the third. If two choose the same, they tie. It's also a tie if there are more than three people who each lose and win at the same time. In the standard game, the advantages are explained as a rock (portrayed by a closed fist) smashing a pair of scissors (two separated fingers), scissors cutting a sheet of paper (an open hand with fingers together), and paper defeating rock by covering it up.
Many variations of the game exist, sometimes incorporating additional elements that may or may not be properly balanced against the usual three. For example, "Fire" may beat rock, paper, and scissors alike (but can only be played once) while "Water" beats "Fire" but loses to everything else (and can be played at any time). You can also modify the game by swapping in different gestures, such as the full-body "Bear, Hunter, Ninja". ("Bear eats Ninja.")
Any way it's played, the simple and almost childlike qualities of the game make it a prime tool for a random Anti-Climax. Few things cause the tension to fall apart like the heroes suddenly deciding a tense issue by playing games.
The use of rock-paper-scissors to resolve disputes or apportion chores (rather than as a game) is mostly a Japanese Media Trope, but it has recently been commuting over to Western audiences as well, where it may be Played for Laughs. The game is also known, incidentally, as "jan-ken-pon" in Japan and South America, "kawi-bawi-bo" in Korea, "Rochambeau" in the West, "pierre-papier-ciseaux" or "chifoumi" in France, "tsu-ye-fah" in Russia, "chu-va-chee" in Ukraine and "Ching-Chang-Wallah" in parts of England, though the more common British title is "paper-scissors-stone".
Not to be confused with Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, or Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, both of which describe a similar "X beats Y beats Z beats X" situation. Poor, Predictable Rock is when someone devotes themselves to one of the three options for any conceivable scenario. Scissors Cuts Rock is when a side on the losing end of a matchup manages to win despite its disadvantage.
Similar to the above, a World Cup commercial for Pepsi has a referee run out of coins for the starting coin toss, and resort to this. It's the players' fault for snagging his Pepsi every time he got one out of the vending machine, although that sort of thing is all right if you're freaking David Beckham....
A 2011 "Subway" commercial (With Grown-Ups sounding like kids) involves two firefighters playing Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who gets a coworker's sandwich; but by the time they complete their best-two-out-of-three, he's already polished it off and merely hands over the empty wrapper.
In the original manga and anime, "Jan Ken" is a fighting move — Rock is a punch, Paper is a chop, and Scissors is a Three-Stooges-style eye poke. Also you have to call out which one you're using whenever you attack with it, which leads to a scene where Goku "cheats" somewhat by saying Paper but doing the Rock move instead.
During the King Piccolo arc, Goku and Yajirobe Rock-Paper-Scissors for the right to fight King Piccolo's minion Cymbal. Cymbal is not amused.
Dragon Ball Z has what is probably one of the most memorable examples of this trope, where the Ginyu Force decide to play rock-paper-scissors to determine who will fight the heroes, and they stalemate by choosing the same option. And then do it again... And then continue to do so for about five minutes. Then, after the winner is defeated... they do it again! As a result, using rock-paper-scissors as a means to deciding important things, and then tying over and over again, became a sort of Call Back in the series, happening again to Goku, Gohan, and Vegeta in the last storyline (Vegeta won, which meant he was allowed to pretty much kill Pui-Pui).
It even gets mentioned in the Ginyu Force's theme song from Dragon Ball Kai (specifically, Ginyu calling it a fair way of doing things).
Goku and Vegeta also play it before their last encounter with Kid Buu, having drawn him to Supreme Kai's planet for the final battle. Doing this instead of going the safe route and pulling off the Fusion Dance stun the Kais present, showing how prideful a Saiyan can be.
The extended cut of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods has a scene where the fate of the world lies in Oolong's hands, literally, when Beerus challenges him to a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors with the fate of the Earth at stake.
One of the tests the Genkai has for choosing her apprentice is rock-paper-scissors — in truth a game that looks like it, but actually tests for spiritual awareness. Kuwabara, being subconsciously psychic, gets the highest scores, and has a reputation for being a "Rock-Paper-Scissors Master" as a result; throughout the whole series, he never loses a game.
Team Rokuyukai played this game to decide who would end being the substitute fighter. Chu, the leader, sucks at this game and he lost.
In Hunter × Hunter (by YuYu Hakusho's author), Gon bases his abilities off of rock-paper-scissors, which he happens to be bizarrely good at playing. They treat it as a sort of martial arts thing, where watching the opponent's small movements will allow you to predict their choice in a split second and react accordingly, which could be technically true. When he tells the other characters that he'd been doing this, they react as if he had been cheating all along (and Killua beats him in an RPS tournament by feinting with his other hand).
Kakashi and Gai have a rock-paper-scissors contest in an episode.
When Kakashi teaches Naruto more about the use of shadow clones, their shadow clones play a game of rock-paper-scissors (with Naruto's clone insisting there be some wager, such as buying the winner a meal), and after dismissing the jutsu, asks Naruto about the outcome.
In one episode of Samurai Champloo, Mugen and Jin immediately play Jan Ken (in the variation where the loser has to avoid an imaginary punch) for three rounds to determine who gets to be with lovely courtesan Yatsuha, as opposed to the other, homely ones. It's meant to be comedic; throughout the episode, Mugen and Jin are bizarrely in tune with one another.
It also shows up in Part 4 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. The Stand Boy II Man has this as its power. Whenever he wins, he takes a portion of the opponent's power. If he wins 3 times, he gains complete control over the loser. Oh, and the whole match is Crazy Awesome.
In Yotsuba&!, Yotsuba's father teaches her a variation in which the loser is whacked with a rolled-up newspaper.
Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has a supplementary comic about a warrior who defeats several enemies in battle with rock-paper-scissors. The battle looks like standard anime martial artist rapid punches, but making the signs for rock, paper and scissors simultaneously. Whenever one of them loses, their heads explode.
InuYasha: Kagome, Sango, and Miroku play a team form of Jan Ken on the road in one episode. Kagome wins a lot.
In History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, it is shown that the masters decide on Kenichi's training order by using RPS. It's also shown that they're all so advanced as martial artists, they can cheat by very quickly changing which sign they make while swinging their hand down, based on what they see their opponents' signs are — while they're starting to swing. The matches are mainly duels of I Know You Know I Know.
Poor Chiyo-Chan ends up having to ride with Yukari during the first summer break because, as she laments, "I'm bad at rock-paper-scissors!"
Then of course, there's Osaka, resident Cloudcuckoolander who throws in late after Tomo has chosen scissors, and picks paper.
Yomi: We should redo it since someone threw in late! Tomo: Who throws in late and loses?! Osaka: Wow, you're really good at rock-paper-scissors!
Gintama features a "hit-and-cover" variation, in which the loser has to avoid being hit in the head with a hammer by putting on a helmet. This beingGintama, no one plays by the rules at all: Otae whacks Kondou unconscious even after he gets the helmet on, Okita and Kagura's match devolves into an all-out beatdown, and Gintoki and Hijikata get drunk and decide to play the game with swords.
Weaponized in a scene of Yu-Gi-Oh! Yugi was racing to get to his friends as fast as possible, who were set to be attacked by Marik's Ghouls, and a pair of Ghouls show up, and begin playing Rock Paper Scissors to choose who faces Yugi first. They intentionally tied with each other over and over and over again to waste Yugi's time. Until Kaiba showed up and made it a 2-on-2.
Also in Black Lagoon. During a chase scene, Revy and Shenhua play one round of RPS to decide who gets to destroy one of the Japanese Red Army vehicles that wants them dead. Shenhua wins and destroys most of the convoy instead, pissing off Revy in the process.
Used in Saiyuki to decide who has to carry the pack when they can't ride in jeep. Although it's not a fair game, the others all know that goku always uses scissors.
In Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, there is a collective rock-paper-scissors game to determine who's doing chores... which Sanson always loses because he's predictable (he tends to regularly pick scissors). Later in the same episode, when confronted by an enemy mecha armed with a crab-like pincer, Sanson briefly mumbles to himself the rules of the game, concluding with "Rock beats scissors!"... and he picks a big boulder to throw at the mecha, hoping to block its claw. It doesn't work.
In one episode of Keroro Gunsou, the main characters decide to have a snowball fight following the "official rules", which involves splitting into two teams. Tamama suggests that they add an element of Capture the Flag by having one teammate tied up and rescued by the others on their team, and that they pick who it is by using rock-paper-scissors. This is actually a ploy to get Natsumi out of the running, since she has the most physical prowess, but always loses at RPS.
In Bakuman。, during the Beta Couple's critical dispute over which type of bed will they choose as their marital bed, Takagi suggests to Miyoshi to solve this and all their future disputes by using the rock-paper-scissors game.
In D.Gray-Man, a trio of Akuma with completely different abilities (ice, sound and wind) play rock-paper-scissors to determine how they're going to kill Allen. It backfires spectacularly.
Smile Pretty Cure!'s Yayoi does this after she transforms into Cure Peace. So far, everyone who plays along lost.
Nichijou: Once per Episode, a short clip shows Nano and the Professor playing this. It usually ends with some catch that prevents Nano from winning. Either her hand will fly off, carrying her with it, it will be replaced by a shark, flowers... Nano actually wins several times (the Professor treats the shark like a victory, and she wins in Episode 7), but something bad will subsequently happen to her (in Episode 7, the Professor launched her hand across the room to retrieve the remote).
In the Bad Future of Psyren, Maria became the team leader by winning a game of rock-paper-scissors. Thankfully, she's also quite competent.
In Haiyore! Nyarko-san, the characters visit a Maid Cafe that forms a music group with Rock-Paper-Scissors used to determine the "center" (a blatant Shout-Out to AKB48, which does things the same way). But since the finalists are the hyper-competitive and violent Nyarko and Cuuko, they deliver a Paper Cross Counter before it just turns into an all-out brawl. With Rider Kicks.
In episode 11 of Log Horizon, Roderick, Charasin and Michitaka played this against each other to determine the victim(?) who would represent the Akihabara production guilds in the Round Table Council's entourage for the Conference of the Eternal Ice Palace.
In the 20th Choujin Olympics of Kinnikuman, the first preliminary was Rock-Paper-Scissors. Naturally, the Choujin complained about the stupidity of the event, but Kin's father Mayumi insisted that luck was an important skill to have. The Choujin only stopped when Robin Mask told them to shut up and play. Kinnikuman purposely chooses Crab Base as his opponent, and wins easily because Crab Base has pincers for hands, forcing him to chose scissors. In the second Choujin Olympics arc, Crab Base returns for a pointless rematch, having modified his hands to have multiple digits, only to lose again'' when Kin beats his paper with scissors.
Magic: The Gathering's joke expansion set Unglued had three cards called Rock Lobster, Paper Tiger, and Scissors Lizard. Each one is a 4/3 artifact creature with an ability that prevents one of the other three cards from attacking or blocking (Rock Lobster prevents Scissors Lizards from attacking or blocking, etc.).
The Pokémon cards Misty's Duel and Team Galactic's Wager require the players to play rock-paper-scissors.
A Babylon 5 comic book features a futuristic rock-paper-scissors called "Laser, Mirror, Starweb", where laser (a single finger extended) cuts starweb (a hand with all fingers spread out), starweb covers mirror (a hand with all fingers together), and mirror reflects laser.
In Teen Titans, Robin and Speedy decide who gets to finish off a villain this way.
Valentine and Earl regularly use Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide things, such as who's going to make breakfast. Later, they use it to decide who will make a dangerous heroic dash to save everyone.
Picked up again in the sequel, where Earl's new sidekick has apparently never heard of the game. When it get used to see who takes the heroic risk, Earl loses, but then lies about the rules (Scissors Cuts Rock "Rock rips through paper!") and goes in anyway.
In Volcano, the children are playing rock-paper-scissors to pass the time. Subverted, in that a little boy is believed to have played "paper" but he actually says, "That's not paper. That's lava. What beats that?" Cue the tense silence until the hero's daughter says, "My dad. I hope."
In the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie, after seeing Raphael and Leonardo spanked by Shredder, Donatello and Michaelangelo do RPS, with the loser having to take him on next. Note that the Turtles could only use the standard version of this trope, as nearly all variations (e.g. Lizard/Spock) require more fingers than they've got.
In Insidious: Chapter 2, Elise's assistants settle a disagreement with a round of "Hunter, Ninja, Bear".
In one of the Xanth novels, this results in a terrible and tragic misunderstanding. A dragon and a merman are friends and decide to resolve a dispute using "Earth, Water, Fire." Predictably the merman picks water, and the dragon picks fire. Each declares he has won, and incensed at his friend's cheating (and his drowning attempt), the dragon eats the merman. Later he learns that while dragons believe that "Water covers Earth, Earth smothers fire, and Fire evaporates water", in Merman society "Earth blocks Water, Fire melts Earth, and Water douses Fire." He's quite broken up about the fact that he ate his friend over a misunderstanding.
A chilling example in Altered Carbon is the protagonist Takeshi Kovacs playing Rock Paper Scissors with a copy of himself (long story) to see which one gets erased and which one gets to live.
An ill and delirious Ax learns the game from Erek. He expresses confusion on how it is that paper beats rock — rocks don't breathe, so why would they care? — and (though probably only due to his delirium) states that he owes Erek a ridiculous sum of money due to this misunderstanding.
It seems like Ax might have been too sick to remember Erek's explanation afterwards, because his friends had to reintroduce him to the game in a later book. "Apparently, it is a human method for making decisions. If this game was really the way that they made most of their major decisions...well, it explained much."
Twilight has two characters settle a dispute with rock-paper-scissors. Since one of them could tell the future and the other read minds, they didn't bother actually playing.
In one Percy Jackson and the Olympians book, Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy plays a Hundred-Handed One, Briares, and wins using a finger gun, a trick his stepdad taught him ("gun beats everything"). Briares, having a hundred hands, picked all three traditional choices at once, so cheating was the only way Percy could beat him and get his help.
Major: Now...scissors cut everything, don't they? Sergeant: Not stone, sir. Major: They're very good scissors.
The finale of The Detectives has a running gag of the two of them trying to decide who does the unpleasant job by playing paper, scissors, stone, but this fails because both of them always do scissors. Then at the end, they "draw" the imaginary scissors in a gunfight.
My Hero had an episode where a conflict between superhero and supervillain that appeared to be heading towards a dramatic duel at the conclusion... Yes, it was a game of Rock Paper Scissors.
Occasionally used to solve disputes between Crichton and D'argo over who will be the Big Damn Hero.
When John gets split into two identical copies of himself, they play RPS over and over again. They always tie, which is used to illustrate the fact that the two are completely equal and identical. Even in the Video Will of the John that went with Talyn and died. There's also a hilarious short scene where D'argo tries to play RPS with himself and is frustrated and confused that he keeps on tying. Probably foreshadows the above, come to think of it.
On Friends, Rachel and Monica use rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets the last condom in the box. Rachel wins. In another episode, Chandler and Monica make thanksgiving dinner for the gang only for them to be late for various reasons. They play this to decide who goes in to apologise first. Joey uses fire, only to be beaten by Phoebe's water balloon.
An episode of the topical news quiz Have I Got News for You used this to decide a tie breaker at the end of the season, presumably because it was humorously trivial and cheap for a game show, and because it was a game Ian Hislop would know.
A season two episode of Joan of Arcadia had Joan and her brother have an epic battle of rock-paper-scissors, which culminated with the song "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background. Joan, unfortunately, lost.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete: In a two-part episode, a particular schoolyard villain, Papercut, used this as his gimmick, forcing kids to play Rock-Paper-Scissors with him and lose or else (everyone knew he always choose "paper", but they were too afraid to use this against him). In the end, the kids banded together and came up with things like "Meteor" and "Volcano" against Papercut.
A Rochambeau tournament is one of the ESPN-created side events that occurs at the World Series of Poker in the "The Nuts" segments. Which they've stopped doing recently. Ah, well...
Arrested Development has an episode showing GOB and Michael deciding company business through RPS (with Michael being Poor, Predictable Rock), although the climax of the episode occurs when GOB, wielding ribbon cutting ceremonial scissors, comes at Michael who is holding a fake "Solid as a Rock"... rock. Rock beats Scissors, but the entire embarrassing ordeal is covered by the Paper.
In NUMB3RS, after two others RPS, Charlie begins to explain some mathematical strategies to FBI agents. He stops short and say he'll save them in case he "has to throw down with them" someday.
In one episode of Leverage, Eliot and Hardison do RPS. Haridson loses twice, to which Eliot replies that he has a tell.
Supernatural: Sam and Dean often use Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide which of them will do something unpleasant or dangerous (like crawling into a vent shaft to find signs of a creature)—except Sam, knowing Dean, plays strategically and usually wins. In one episode, Dean wins, which turns out to be a clue that they're in an alternate timeline.
Done in an episode of NCIS between Tony and Ziva, to decide who was going to keep the map and do the navigation in the woods. Tony wins, but start walking in the wrong direction.
The MythBusters build team will occasionally use RPS to decide who gets to pull the quick-release or trigger the explosives.
Similarly, the presenters on Top Gear played it to determine who would have the "honor" of driving the Caterham-7 kit car they'd just assembled.
Appeared in the QI episode "Fingers and Fumbs," as a double-or-nothing wager if the panelists used the special forfeit "F-word" (no points for guessing which one). Stephen Fry spent a good five minutes explaining winning game strategies — and then lost or tied every single game.
That '70s Show had a variant created by Hyde called "Cockroach Foot Nuclear Bomb." He explains it here.
An episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has Warrick and Nick make eye contact and play a round from some distance after Grissom states that someone will need to dive into a murky pool to see if anything's underwater. Nick loses and volunteers.
In Hawaii, there used to be an entire game show dedicated to RPS. It didn't last long, however.
On The Amazing Race, racers will sometimes do this to determine which of them is going to do a Roadblock if they're fairly evenly matched physically and it's still early going, so they're not worried yet about hitting up against the individual-racer Roadblock limit.
On some occasions of Takeshi's Castle contestants would decide who would get over the wall and into the next round and who not only helps said contestant over the wall but could also be eliminated at that very early stage. There was also a one-off challenge in the third Japanese Special that has contestants playing Jan-ken-pon against a guard while doing a dance beforehand.
In "Shall We Dance?" on Imagination Movers, Nina has an extra ticket to the ballet, so the Movers and Warehouse Mouse play rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets it. Mouse throws down cheese and everyone tries to figure out whether or not that beats Smitty's rock, they are then interrupted when the ballet's two big stars show up with a problem, and the game is eventually rendered moot when the entire group receives an invite to be guests of honor once they solve the problem.
In Series 4 Episode 2 of Misfits, Rudy challenges Curtis to a rude version, penis-scissors-vagina, in order to determine which of them may romantically pursue Ally. Curtis picks scissors which Rudy unrealistically beat by picking vagina.
An early episode of The Mentalist has Patrick Jane use Rock Paper Scissors to demonstrate to a local sheriff how skilled he is at reading people. Jayne accurately predicts what the Sheriff is going to throw, and chooses the appropriate winning move in each game shown.
A newspaper sold at Hooper's Store on Sesame Street featured the headline "Rock Wins! Paper and Scissors are bummed..."
In sports, this is occasionally used in place of flipping a coin.
The homebrew comedy Tabletop RPG Mascot-tan uses rock-paper-scissors instead of dice to determine the results of actions.
In many live-action role-playing systems, conflicts are resolved via RPS. This is joked about in Dork Tower during a Vampire party.
In the Alex Kidd video games, this game gets played a lot. This is how some of the boss battles are fought in Miracle World and Enchanted Castle, and in the latter game, it is required to win items as well.
In the original WarioWare, one of the games is Rock Paper Scissors against Mario. On the first difficulty level, you just have to beat his hand sign; on the higher ones, he'll switch signs after a couple of seconds.
In Mother 3, Lucas must do this with all the members of DCMC to get Duster to rejoin the party. It's literally impossible to lose, too, as the guys will have you re-do a move if their hand beats yours.
Rock-paper-scissors is a common mini-game in edutainment software for children, being both easy to program and with rules known even by young kids. One such game about The Little Polar Bear features a RPS played between a polar bear and a penguin — and not even as anthropomorphic animals. Just think about it for a second....
The Japan-exclusive PlayStation game Finger Flashing combines this with a Shmup-type setup: rock, paper or scissor-themed enemies come from the top of the screen, and can only be killed by shooting them with the corresponding gesture. Shooting them with the wrong one causes them to duplicate.
In some of the Naruto: Ultimate Ninja games, if two players' attacks collide against each other, this can trigger a "clash" sequence, the outcome of which is decided either by a Button Mashing contest or a choice of rock-paper-scissors between the two players. (Loser takes an extra hit.)
The GF summons Brothers in Final Fantasy VIII has the two brothers, Minotaur and Sacred, play RPS to determine which one will Fastball Special the other at the enemy. Minotaur always wins. And Sacred never notices that his brother was obviously cheating (Minotaur was a split-second late in the draw).
Xenogears had an RPS-obsessed guy early in the game who'd give you a badge if you beat him five times in a row. The badge is a nasty combination of Guide Dang It and Lost Forever because it's part of a set that you can use to trade for a strong piece of armor about halfway through the game.
In Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 5: Rise of the Pirate God, Reginald Van Winslow has been working on a game he calls "Rock, Paper, Fountain Pen", and describes to Guybrush how the game is played: "Well, paper beats rock. And then the player must shame the paper into defeat by filling it full of lewd phrases using the pen."
Stage 2 of Parodius ends with a ship shaped like a hand that challenges the player to a game of rock-paper-scissors. If you lose, it's back to the beginning of the stage; if you win, the ship explodes. A tie leads to a normal Boss Battle.
In Sonic Adventure 2's Tiny Chao Garden, you could play a game that was based on RPS. A circle of cards would go around, each with a RPS Symbol, and at the bottom of the screen were three shooters, again with a RPS symbol on them. You fired the symbol at the circle of cards. If your symbol beats that of the symbol of the card, it's knocked away and you score rings. A tie just makes the opposing card disappear, but you still get the symbol back to shoot again. If your symbol loses, it's knocked away and you lose a life. Lose all 5 lives or run out of time, and the game's over.
Three Mooks are doing this during the side-quest to recover Mr. Freeze's wife in Batman: Arkham City. One of them is apparently smart enough to question if you can do this with three players. It doesn't matter, since they all end up chosing the same thing over and over. And then one of them decides to start tripping the rules...note The dialogue order below is from Batman's perspective in the grate, right behind the armored guard, with the camera turned to them — you'll find out who they are with Detective Mode.
Inmate #3: Gun beats paper. Inmate #2: No, gun doesn't beat paper. Stick to the rules! Inmate #1: One, two, three! Inmate #2: What the hell is that? Inmate #3: Dynamite. Inmate #1: For the love of... Again!
In the tie-in game for The Tigger Movie, Tigger's Honey Hunt, one of the multiplayer games is this.
In Final Fantasy XIII-2, one of the Datalog entries describes how Mog came to serve Lightning. "It was an exciting duel. She threw down scissors three times in a row, kupo! I wasn't expecting that. Maybe I shouldn't have picked swords after all, kupo..."
In Army Of Two: The 40th Day, Salem and Rios can play Rock-Paper-Scissors to help make decisions, complete with greatly overexaggerated celebrating in victory and much despair and punching in defeat.
Yoshimitsu plays RPS with Roger/Alex in their ending in Tekken Tag Tournament. Thanks to their boxing gloves, they're only able to pick rock, which allows Yoshi to win handily.
In Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, if you get Sterk's ending, Sterk suggests this as the method of choosing when Rorona and Totori have an argument over which of them should get to take him out for the day. They insist he has to make the choice. He suggests a compromise that works for both of them.
The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: Wonderella meets the Lady of the Lake and demands a Cool Sword. Since the Lady doesn't do that anymore, the best she can offer is a pair of invincible shears that can cut through anything. Wonderella turns her back on it dismissively, but regrets it when her city is invaded by elemental monsters of Paper and Rock.
Inmy rock-paper-scissors? It's more likely than you think. Behold: RPS 101! You read that right. Rock-paper-scissors with 101 hand signs instead of 3. Good luck with that. To boot, clicking on a hand sign in that Flash application brings you to an explanation of why that sign dominates each of its 50 victims. Some are really weird, naturally.
In the pilot for Regular Show, Mordecai and Rigby play rock-paper-scissors (or as Pops calls it, "Quartz-Parchment-Shears") to see which of them will get a discarded chair, but they keep tying. After tying 100 times, they accidentally summon an Eldritch Abomination that can only be dismissed by breaking the tie.
In the main series, they sometimes play rock-paper-scissors to decide who has to do some unpleasant task.
In The Powerpuff Girls episode "Curses", the girls play this game with the loser having to see if dinner is ready. Using their Powerpuff Girl Hands, Blossom states that scissors beat paper. Bubbles complains she always loses.
Futurama has this gem from the incomparable Zapp Brannigan:
Zapp: It was almost the perfect crime. But you forgot one thing: Rock crushes scissors. ...But paper covers rock. ...And scissors cuts paper. Kif, we have a conundrum.
In Indonesia, there is this version: Elephant crushes Person, Person crushes Ant, Ant drives Elephant crazy by crawling in its ear. Elephant is the thumb, Ant is the pinkie, and Person is the index finger.
A U.S. federal judge ordered a minor (but lengthily debated) side issue to be resolved by having the disputants play rock-paper-scissors:
Upon consideration of the Motion — the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts — it is ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of "rock, paper, scissors." The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006.
Or be aware that the judge was trying to embarrass the litigants' lawyers for arguing at length over such a frivolous matter and wasting everybody's time.
Mongolia has a slightly more complicated team version where each finger beats the one immediately below it, with the little finger beating the forefinger. So there are more combinations, but more of them result in a draw. You're knocked out after the best of three, at which point your next teammate takes over until one team or the other is eliminated. For somebody who isn't used to it, the hardest part is managing to extend the correct finger at speed...
Way back when, with the After Dark Screensaver program for Macintosh, there was a screensaver with a Rock, a piece of Paper, and a pair of Scissors walking around, and they'd fight whenever one of them met. However, sometimes Rock would jump through Paper, Paper would whip the screw out of Scissors, and Scissors would sculpt Rock into a statue. When you returned to wake up your computer, the screensaver would inform you of which had the most victories.
There is also a crazy Russian variation, where the poem goes: Камень, ножницы, бумага, карандаш, огонь, вода, и бутылка лимонада, и колодец тоже надо, и железная рука, цу-е-фа! (translation: Rock, scissors, paper, pencil, fire, water, and a bottle of soda, and a well you need too, and the iron hand, ro-sham-bo!). No one seems to remember how the figures past "pencil" relate to each other, so a game of this variation is nearly always resolved by loud dispute on what beats what: a pencil, a well or a bottle of soda.
It's more a comical rarity, more often the standard three variation is played, accompanied with a faux-Chinese "Tsu-ye-fah!" (or a thousand of regional varieties).