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Rock, Paper, Scissors, Code

Experience a computer model based on a classic game

This project demonstrates the correlations between a computer model and the live version of a game. You’ll have to gather a group of at least 10 for the first two activities. If you only have a few members doing this project, ask other members to participate for just the first two activities (the live version of rock-paper-scissors).

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

PencilAndPaper
 

STEP 1
TIME: 10 MINUTES

Gather a group and play!

Get together a group of at least 10 people—the more, the better! Secretly choose to play as rock, scissors, or paper. Then start playing. (Quick review: Rock beats scissors by crushing them. Scissors beats paper by cutting it. Paper beats rock by covering it.) Players should randomly choose a player to play against and throw the symbol they were assigned. If two players have the same symbol, it is a draw and they should quickly find others to play against. For each round, the player that loses should sit down. Keep playing until there is one winner, or a few winners that all happen to have the same symbol.

Next, explain the rules to this special version of the game. Say: I will secretly assign each player as a rock, scissors, or paper. When I say “go,” choose a player to play against and throw the symbol you were assigned. For each round, the player that loses should sit down. If two players have the same symbol, it is a draw and they should quickly find others to play against. We will keep playing until there is one winner, or a few winners that all have the same symbol. Assign players symbols so there as equal a number as possible—don’t forget to include yourself! Then, say “go!”

Gather a group of at least 10 members—the bigger the group, the better the activity runs. Ask for a volunteer to explain the rules to traditional rock, paper, scissors. (Rock beats scissors by crushing them. Scissors beats paper by cutting it. Paper beats rock by covering it.)

STEP 2
TIME: 10 MINUTES

Game changer

Play again but this time with slightly different rules. This time the “loser” of each round will change his or her symbol to the winner’s symbol. For example, if two people play a round and one throws rock and the other paper. The losing rock player then becomes paper and continues playing with that symbol. The winning paper player continues to play as paper as well. Continue playing until one symbol is the vast majority of all the players.
Before playing again, explain that the rules have changed slightly. Say: This time the loser of each round will change his or her symbol to the winner’s symbol. For example, if two people play a round and one throws rock and the other paper. The losing rock player then becomes paper and continues playing with that symbol. The winning paper player continues to play as paper as well. Before saying “go,” ask for some predictions on which symbol members think will win the game.

STEP 3
TIME: 10 MINUTES

Talk it out

Talk about your observations of the game with the group or with a few people who are also doing this project. Or, if you prefer, you can write down your ideas.

  • What did you notice while playing the game?
  • Do you think it is possible to predict which symbol will win?
  • Do you think the game is completely up to chance, or does one symbol have an advantage?
  • How do you think the “human element” (for example, bias, mistakes, cheating, etc) affects the outcome of the game?
Facilitator note: You can put members in small groups to have this discussion and then share their thoughts, or lead a large group discussion using the questions to the left.

STEP 4
TIME: 10 MINUTES

Optional: Bring the offline model online

Click here check out a computer model of a rock-paper-scissors game. How do you think the computer model will compare to the live game?

Go to the computer model.

Click the “View Code” button on the right side.

On the left side of the page, click the “setup” button. This button makes sure the rock, paper, and scissors tallies all start at 30.

Next, click “forever.” This means that the simulation will continue until you press “forever” again to end it.

Check out the tallies and the graph that shows how the number of rock, paper, and scissors changes over time. When you feel like ending it, click “forever.” Now, click “setup” to reset the tallies. Before you start the simulation again, predict which symbol you think will win after a 30-second simulation.

Talk out these questions with someone else who is doing this project:

  • Did you notice a pattern?
  • Is there a way you could figure out which symbol will win?
  • What are the benefits of a computer model of the rock-paper-scissors game?
  • How are the computer model and the live versions of the game similar? How are they different?

You can share this site from a projector if you don't have devices for members to share. If you are doing this entirely offline, have a conversation with your members instead. Ask them what kind of "rules" the computer would need to run a simulation of the game they just played, and guess what kind of results they would get from different kinds of starting sets or rules. 

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