Clearly establish a standard ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ protocol for everyone to follow.
By demonstration, explain that with each and every round played, the winner advances up one level, and the loser goes down one level.
Everyone starts by standing on their two feet, facing their partner.
After the first round, the ‘loser’ will play their next round kneeling on one knee.
With each successive loss, the next three lower-levels of play are:
– Kneel on both knees;
– Sit on bottom; and
– Lie on back.
Ordinarily, individuals move up and down the levels (up when they win, down when they lose) several times during the contest.
When an individual loses a round from the position of lying on their back, they are eliminated from the game.
Play several rounds and/or swap partners.
Video Transcript for Rock, Paper, Scissors: Five Lives
presented by Mark Collard
Quickly find someone now who is a similar height to you. It doesn’t matter if you know them or not. If you don’t, quickly say hello. Someone who is a similar height to you, you might be standing right next to them.
(people choosing partners)
We’re not pulling out a tape measure. Just find a partner.
Alright, so we’re going to build on what we’ve already learned about the whole Ro Sham Bo business, but now you’ll just stick with your partner, and it has a little longevity. I’ve just learned this so I’m only still playing with it. I can see some great potential.
So for example could I ask for a partner, someone just to step forward and I’ll show you what this looks like.
Brilliant. I love the enthusiasm. Thank you, Alex. So here’s what’s going to happen.
We’re just facing off. It’s a standard thing. So we go one, two, three.
Now we each have a certain number of lives, I think it was about four or five lives each. At this point nothing has happened, so off you go. Okay, in this case who wins? I do. So let’s say it was the other way around. You do a rock and I’m actually the scissors. I lose.
I lose. The first part of my loss, anytime you lose you go down a level. In this case you lose a leg, so you go down on one leg. If I lose again, I lose my second leg. If I lose a third time, this is all in a row, I go down to my butt. And if I lose again, I’m now on my back. I’m still in the game though. And if I lose for the fifth time, I’m now dead.
I’m now out of the game, except if at any of this process I actually win something, I go back up a level. So I go on my butt, I then go up on two knees, one leg, and then two legs. So you can’t go any higher than two legs up. So if you keep winning you’re not going to go anywhere beyond there.
So let’s just do a quick couple of rounds and see what happens. Are you ready? One, two, three. So you’re down on one knee, just one knee. So you come back up and I go down one. See, every time you win or lose there’s always a consequence.
I’m dead. You got the idea, now go!
(people playing Rock-Paper-Scissors)
How To Play Narrative
This is a wonderful variation that injects a little longevity into the classic ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ game. Because, let’s face it, it’s not much fun when you’re eliminated in the first round of this (or indeed, any) game.
Ask each person in your group to find someone who is wearing similar coloured socks, or announce some other random method to form into pairs (see Getting Into Pairs for ideas.)
By way of demonstration, ask for a volunteer to be your partner, and establish – for the benefit of your group – a common Rock-Paper-Scissors protocol. You know, clenched fists bounced up and down three times, and on three, each person forms a rock, paper or scissors with their hand to establish a winner.
Explain that each pair is invited to play as many rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors as is necessary until one person loses a round from the fifth and lowest level of competition. There are five levels from which a player can compete, and with every round the winner goes up one level, and the loser goes down one level.
The highest (and starting) level is standing on two feet. A loss from this position will mean the player will kneel down on one knee. A loss from this position will mean the player must now kneel on two knees.
However, note, that a player who wins from the kneeling-on-one-knee position will go up one level to return to standing on two feet.
A loss from the kneeling-on-two-knees position, will cause the loser to sit on their bottom. A loss from this position will have them lying flat on their back (but still able to play). And then from this rather vulnerable position, a further loss will end the match, causing this person to spread eagle out on the floor.
Everyone starts from the standing position, and play begins.
Expect lots of energy, laughter and squeals of delight as the games progress.
Practical Leadership Tips
Remind your group that with every round played, the winner goes up a level, and the loser goes down a level. It’s not a simple matter of only having five lives (despite the name of the game.)
Think carefully about where you present this exercise. Naturally, as some people will end up lying on their backs, choosing a comfortable, harm-free surface is recommended.
You could integrate Rock, Paper, Scissors: Five Lives as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical activity and a good laugh.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play this game may speak to the benefits of building a resilient or growth mindset because it is not unusual for a player to lose more rounds than they win, ie teaching lessons of persistence.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Rock, Paper, Scissors: Five Lives could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
RPS Championship: Set up the game as an elimination, whereby the winners of each pair of players remain to compete with another winner. The last person standing wins.
Varying Levels: If asking your group to lie on their backs is not appropriate, or asking too much, present the game with only three levels (kneel on one knee, two knees, sitting on bottom, then out). Or, introduce a series of alternative levels, such as standing on two feet, standing on one foot, sitting down on a chair, crossing your legs, etc.
RPS Teams: Take a look at Ro Sham Bo to enjoy another fun variation of Rock-Paper-Scissors action.
Physical RPS: Take a look at The Splits to challenge pairs in a physically-demanding RPS duel.
You Might Also Like...
Leaning Tower Of Feetza
Quick problem-solving game for large & small groups.
Highly skilled variation of a classic tag game.
Highly focused, energetic & fun partner-duelling game.
Useful Framing Ideas
Did you now that much of the world knows ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ as ‘Ro-Sham-Bo?’ – the game is often referred to as such in honour of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, compte de Rochambeau, French hero of American Revolution. Rochambeau was present in York when General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington. It is believed that Washington, Cornwallis and Rochambeau played ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ to decide who would be the last to leave Cornwallis’ tent after the exchange of formalities. At the time, it was considered most honourable to be last. Rochambeau ‘won’ the game, and it has been known as Ro-Sham-Bo ever since!…
Did you know that there are professional ‘Rock, Paper, Scissor’ Leagues around the world, and first prize can fetch as much as USD$50,000? Perhaps we’re in the wrong business, but let’s practice the highly refined art that is Rock, Paper & Scissors…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun partner game:
Do you believe it was pure luck that you won or lost?
What else do you tell yourself (your inner voice) during the game? What do you make these words mean?
On average, do you expect to win as often as you lose?
Or, is there a strategy for winning more often. Please elaborate.
The inspiration for Rock, Paper, Scissors: Five Lives is difficult to recall. As a staple of my ever-expanding repertoire of activities, I know it was learned from a fellow colleague many years ago.