Rock Paper Scissors – Hiroshima

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19 and 15
Occupation: Students
Residence: Boston, MA and Salt Lake City, UT
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

  • Context: The informants are two teenage boys, one 15 (B) and one 19 (A), who took upon the task of explaining rock paper scissors. At first they explained the simple game used to decide the winner in a tie or make a decision between two options, but as the time went on, they explained variations of the game. By adding the words gun, bazooka, nuke, Hiroshima, or God the game is continued on beyond the three options of playing rock, paper, or scissors to ensure an immediate victory.
  • Text:

B: “I say Rock, Paper, Scissors like a… a… a sane person…”

A: “I do as well.”

B: “And you have to go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!'”

A: “This is an audio… they can’t see your hands dude.”

B: “Ohhh…. so you have a closed fist and you hit in on your hand… and you go ‘Rock’ and you lift it up and hit it again and you go ‘Paper’… lift it up… ‘Scissors’… lift it up… ‘Shoot!’… and on ‘Shoot’ you show, well, a hand motion you want. And I always go with gun because gun can kill anybody.”

Me: “What’s gun? You can do Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! and do a gun?”

B: “No, it’s just uh…”

A: “No. That’s like a joke people do… but the real game…”

B: “There’s more.”

Me: “Tell me about all of them.”

B: “So there’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot! Bazooka. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Nuke. Or Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima.

A: “Oh God. Don’t say that.”

Me: “So what do all of the different ones do?”

B: “It’s a thing!”

Me: “It is a thing. So what do all the different ones do?”

A: “They just all try and one-up each other.”

Me: “Okay. So what do they mean? What’s rock?”

B: “Hiroshima blows up the person.”

Me: “What about Rock, Paper, and Scissors?”

B: “Rock is a Rock and Rock beats Scissors because they can break the Scissors. Scissors beats Paper because ‘cus they can cut the [Paper]. And somehow Paper beats Rock ‘cus it can cover [the Rock].”

Me: “And what’s a Gun kill?”

B: “Anything. Bazooka kills a Gun. Nuke kills Bazooka. Hiroshima kills a Nuke.”

Me: “Why don’t you say those when you’re…”

A: “Because one of those is very… uh…”

B: “Overpowered?”

A: “Well no, not overpowered. I was going to say not politically correct.”

B: “Sorry!”

Me: “So it stops at Hiroshima?”

B: “No you can go to like GOD.”

A: “It stops at…”

B: “GOD!”

Me: “God kills Hiroshima?”

A: “God kills everything, unless you pick something that kills God. It can go on forever which is why I just like doing Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

Me: “When do you play this?”

B: “Say if you were playing like a tag, like um… a game in P.E. and the P.E. teachers had you like you play Rock, Paper, Scissors so you can advance. You would always go Rock, Paper, Scissors, Hiroshima…”

A: “If there’s a tie.”

Me: “If there’s a tie?”

A: “If there’s a tie in a competition they do Rock, Paper, Scissors a lot…. Anyway… but what we were talking about before [B] went off on that tangent was…”

B: “That wasn’t a tangent.”

A: “…was the different versions of how to say Rock, Paper, Scissors which is… the two I have heard is Rock, Paper, Scissors and then people in Australia and then some other Asian countries say Paper, Scissors, Rock. And that’s the norm over there… I don’t know why…”

B: “Ive heard some people say Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Boulder?”

A: “What the fuck are you talking about bro?”

B: “Yeah! I know this kid… he goes Scissors, Paper, Boulder.”

Me: “Where is he from?

B: “Utah.”

A: “He probably made it up.”

B: “Or the weird kids who don’t even play Rock, Paper, Scissors. They go ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, I beat you’ and then they run away. Those are the worst kids.”

Me: “So how old are you when you play Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Any age.”

Me: “Every age plays Rock, Paper, Scissors? Like if you’re in a business deal are you playing Rock, Paper, Scissors?”

B: “Most likely not.”

Me: “When do you stop? What kinds of decisions do you use Rock, Paper, Scissors for?

B: “Like if you’re playing like a team sport, in like P.E. you can play it… if you… if you’re trying to decide who… uh… who won… but like it’s a very close call, you can play it… um… if you’re trying to decide who to kick off your team you can play it… oh yeah… just like very simple decisions. Like I’m pretty sure when America signed that agreement with Japan so we would stop fighting each other they played Rock, Paper, Scissors. Maybe that’s why we say Hiroshima.”

  • Analysis: I played rock paper scissors as child in school when decision making, and even use the game to this day when making insignificant decisions. That said, I had only ever known of the first three options of displaying either a rock, scissors, or paper. No one has ever played a gun, bazooka, nuke, “Hiroshima” or GOD against me. Each of these tries to one up the next. For example, hiroshima kills nuke, nuke kills bazooka, bazooka kills paper, paper covers rock, rock smashes scissors, and scissors cut paper. I believe kids added in the extra terms for a few reasons. One to try and “out-kill” their opponent. Another to create an in-group and out-group of kids who know the alternate rules and kids who don’t. And lastly as a form of dark humor, poking fun at tragic historical events and utilizing their knowledge of the events in a game used mostly for mundane decisions. I would account for the variation in order of Rock, Paper, Scissors to regional differences in the way the game is taught.