In 500 A.D., an Italian barber invented scissors.
Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, who commanded French forces during the American Revolution, brought the finished game to North America (don’t even ask).
RPS subsequently was used to hash out intractable arguments everywhere, like who gets to ride shotgun.
“It’s a game of honor, and from a philosophical perspective, a means of last resort,” said Douglas Walker, 33, a Toronto native and co-leader of the World RPS Society. “Four years ago in Florida? Definitely an ideal situation for RPS. That would have been pretty riveting on CNN.”
Following an epiphanic RPS match at a family cabin in northern Canada — cold, dark night; someone had to gather firewood — Mr. Walker and his brother Graham started a Web site devoted to the game, www.worldrps.com. Two years ago, they rented a Toronto bar for the first world championship.
“We really didn’t know how things were going to turn out,” said Mr. Walker, who works in public relations. “Really, we would have been happy if 25, 30 of our friends came to drink beer and play for a big prize.”
Hundreds of people showed up. The 2003 tournament was covered by CNN and Rolling Stone. This year’s event drew a Japanese television crew and more than 1,000 spectators and competitors, from as far away as England, Norway and the Czech Republic.
Lee Rammage, a 34-year-old from Ontario, captured a $7,000 prize by defeating Toronto’s Heather Birrell. Birrell wore a T-shirt inscribed with the letters “WWJT,” short for “What would Jesus throw?”
The King of Kings, she explained, was her rock.
“We take RPS about as seriously as someone can take something like RPS,” Mr. Walker said. “There is an element of tongue-in-cheek to all this.”
Indeed. The World RPS Society strategy guide features deadpan maxims such as “paper is the answer, should rock be the question.” At the world championship, outlandish costumes and pro-wrestling-shaming personas were the norm.
Team Bureaucrat’s nebbish competitors wore suits and glasses, boldly proclaiming “paper is the new rock.” Benjamin Stein, a New Yorker, wore yellow spandex tights and a Lone Ranger mask, dubbing himself “Scizzoro.”
As alter ego Master Roshambollah, Mr. Simmons boasts of being both the sport’s Bobby Fischer (“at 10, I was regularly beating players twice my age”) and Phil Mickelson (“the best player to never win a major”). He favors a bamboo hat and a purple tuxedo jacket.
“Anything to psych your opponent out,” Mr. Simmons said. “It’s kind of imposing when you’re standing across the table from six people who are wearing superhero costumes.”
See the rock, be the rock