Cowboy, Ninja, Bear

Rachel Lovinger   November 6, 2009


Rest in peace Rock, Paper, Scissors. (Images via swirlingthoughts, macfixer, and blockpartypress)

At some point in your life, you’ve probably played Rock, Paper, Scissors. It’s a child’s contest that uses simultaneously cast hand gestures to settle disputes. Perhaps you wondered, even while playing it, about the validity of this model.

In the game, Rock (a fist) beats Scissors (two extended fingers). Ok, that makes sense – you could use a hard, heavy rock to destroy a relatively delicate metal hinge. Scissors cuts Paper (flat hand), which also makes sense – it’s what scissors were designed to do – but not very dramatic. And lastly, Paper… covers Rock. How does this demonstrate dominance on the schoolyard?  “I smashed your scissors” is way more menacing than “I covered your rock. Now you can’t see it!

This may be a victory, but it’s kind of a hollow one. Which is why I was so excited when a friend taught me the updated version: Cowboy, Ninja, Bear. Win that contest and you’ve really accomplished something – a potentially life threatening battle between dangerous creatures! So, how is it played?

The two players stand back to back. Someone counts to three. On three, both players spin around and face each other, striking their chosen pose:

  • Cowboy = both hands mimicking pistols, pointed at your opponent
  • Ninja = both hands at about face level, hands flat and poised for a martial arts attack
  • Bear = hands up, fingers curled like claws, ready to rip your opponent to shreds

The winner is determined like this: Cowboy shoots Bear, Ninja sneak attacks Cowboy, Bear mauls Ninja. The underlying structure of the game is the same, but the new nomenclature makes the logic more apparent and raises the stakes. Plus, it’s so fun, you might forget what your dispute was about in the first place.


3 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Now I grow up I can leave the Paper, Rock, Scissors and Start with the Cowboy, Ninja, Bear lol

    Gracias for the advice

    Un abrazo

  2. Ry Koteen says:

    Hi, I am one of the originators of BCN and I was just looking at books for my son when I stumbled across a title by the same name. Good to see the good word being spread.

  3. The book series looks adorable. And they even have rules for the game on their site:

    Thanks for helping to bring the world new options, Ry!

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