December 11, 2007

Roshambo, Exquisite Roshambo

This is a photograph of Andrea Farina (left), one of my new heroes, the first female & the first American to win the World Rock Paper Scissors Society World Championship, in 2007 in Toronto, Canada. Women's intuition, indeed.

I have been hoping to get into some good online Rock, Paper, Scissors games on Facebook, & have challenged people all over the world, but no one is biting. Playing it online has a curious deliberating effect of adding tension & consideration, like playing chess thru the mail with an inmate.

The Wikipedia entry on RPS talks briefly about the mating strategies of the Common Side-blotched lizard:

Biologist Barry Sinervo from the University of California, Santa Cruz has discovered a RPS evolutionary strategy in the mating behaviour of the side-blotched lizard species Uta stansburiana. Males have either orange, blue or yellow throats and each type follows a fixed, heritable mating strategy:[11]

* Orange-throated males are strongest and do not form strong pair bonds; instead, they fight blue-throated males for their females. Yellow-throated males, however, manage to snatch females away from them for mating.
* Blue-throated males are middle-sized and form strong pair bonds. While they are outcompeted by orange-throated males, they can defend against yellow-throated ones.
* Yellow-throated males are smallest, and their coloration mimics females. Under this disguise, they can approach orange-throated males but not the stronger-bonding blue-throated specimens and mate while the orange-throats are engaged in fights.

This can be summarized as "orange beats blue, blue beats yellow, and yellow beats orange", which is similar to the rules of rock, paper, scissors.

The proportion of each male type in a population is similar in the long run, but fluctuates widely in the short term. For periods of 4-5 years, one strategy predominates, after which it declines in frequency as the strategy that manages to exploit its weakness increases. This corresponds to the stable pattern of the game in the replicator dynamics where the dynamical system follows closed orbits around the mixed strategy Nash equilibrium[citation needed] (Sinervo & Lively, 1996; Sinervo, 2001; Alonzo & Sinervo, 2001; Sinervo & Clobert, 2003; Sinervo & Zamudio, 2001).

Mr Golden, Miss Ball, & some other friends of mine were refining a game called, tentatively, Exquisite Roshambo (applying the surrealist principles of Exquisite Corpse to rock, paper, scissors), at a cabin in Sonoma County a few months back. Basically, the idea is that anything can be played, & an odd number of judges discuss & vote on the winner. (Hence, you need five or seven or more players, &, preferably, a bottle of Jim Beam.) Then, one of the judges challenges the reigning champion, et cetera. I seem to remember a heated round where "socks" somehow beat a "sperm whale". And "candle" beat "atom bomb", to my immortal frustration. (Our judges had a penchant for the metaphorical victories.) Concepts (like "compassion" or "heat death"), proper names (like "Arthur Schlesinger, Jr." or "Kennebunkport, Maine") & pretty much anything is fair game. The night's champion is the player who is undefeated the longest. Don't skip out on the hand representations! That evening, Miss Ball was more or less undefeatable.

1 comment:

Andrea Farina said...

This made my day! Someone sent this my way a little bit ago, and I just wanted to thank you...not enough appreciate RPS. This certainly is a surreal thing for me, to find myself worthy of a mention in the blog of someone I don't know! Feel free to contact me at
Thanks for making my day!