tl;dr: We played Rock–Paper–Scissors with 500 people in ~06:40 minutes to kick off a tech conference. It was a well-received energizer game and provided a lot of fun to all attendees.

Why we did it

Every year, trivago organizes an event called Tech Get Together. An event with a particular focus on bringing tech-related people from all trivago offices together, get to know each other, and exchange knowledge. tech-related means Engineers, Data Scientists, Product Managers, Designers, and more.

The major part of this event is a two-day conference with workshops and presentations. This year (2019), my peer Wolfgang Gassler and I were responsible for organizing this conference. We were thinking about how we can kick off this event.

One week before the conference, I was attending a workshop about Stress, Resilience, and Conflict Management by Philip Schwidetzki from CONTRACT. After lunch, typically, you play quick energizer games to avoid fatigue. With eight people, Philip played Rock–Paper–Scissors differently than we were used to it.

The idea was born to scale this up to 500 people and to start the conference by this.

How we did it

We played the standard version of Rock–Paper–Scissors. But how did we scaled this game up to 500 people and finished it in under seven minutes?

Rock–Paper–Scissors: The gameplay - Every loser joins the winner as a fan and cheers them up during the next game to continue the winning streak.

The gameplay - Every loser joins the winner as a fan and cheers them up during the next game to continue the winning streak.

Every player chose an opponent by random and started playing the first round. Every loser of the first round joined their opponent (the winner) as a fan. The responsibility as a fan was to support the player by cheering them up during the next game. The winner searched now for another winner of the previous game and started playing the next game.

By this technique, we divided the crowd by two in every round. In the first round, 250 games happened in parallel, 125 games in the second and so on. The final round has formed by the two winners with 249 fans each in their back.

To execute this with 500 people, we had to apply one organizational trick: Divide it!.

Rock–Paper–Scissors: How we divided the location into four areas to play the game with 500 people and used volunteers to help out

How we divided the location into four areas to play the game with 500 people and used volunteers to help out.

We played this game in a big audience room with ~500 seats and enough space at the side. Space is essential because people need to stand up, move, and find their next opponent. We divided the room into four areas and assigned two volunteers with experience in facilitation, or agile coaching to one area. The volunteers don’t play the game itself. They actively push the winning players to their next opponents to avoid groups standing around. We executed the gameplay per area with ~125 people until we had one winner per area. This procedure led to the final two games with four people in total. After that, we had a winner.

The final result

It went smooth and better than initially expected. Due to the split into areas and the helping hands of the agile coaches, the people were able to find their next gaming partner quickly. We played Rock–Paper–Scissors with 500 people in ~06:40 minutes. Imagine how you would feel to win against 499 people in Rock–Paper–Scissors in only one day?

The feedback from the audience was positive. Many of them had a lot of fun; it was a quick game, not dull and highly energizing. Especially when the people start cheering up one person with >= 30 people (the fans!). We can recommend this game in a bigger audience.

Fun Fact: According to Philip and his peers from CONTRACT, we are holding the inofficial record of the most players with this game. Start playing it, record it, and beat it!

Here are some impressions of the event.

The official event video from trivago

Rock–Paper–Scissors: Pictures from a game, the empty room and Wolfgang and me.

Top: Area winners are playing; Lower left: The location; Lower right: Wolfgang and Andy before the game

Recording by Hans Puac of the final game

Recording by Beatriz Huélamo of the final game play

Appendix

Rock–Paper–Scissors gameplay

You play the game Rock–Paper–Scissors with one of your hands. There are three different actions:

  • Rock (hand forms a fist)
  • Paper (all your fingers are straight)
  • Scissor (two fingers form a scissor)

You and your opponent are staying in front of each other. You count down from 3 … 2 … 1, and both come up with one of the three actions by forming your hand accordingly. Based on the actions, the winner will be determined:

  • Scissor beats paper
  • Paper beats rock
  • Rock beats scissor
Rock–Paper–Scissors: The game rules - Three actions, simple rules.

The game rules - Three actions, simple rules.

That is everything you need to play it with two persons.

If you think this is to easy and you want more complexity, have a look at the game extension Rock–Paper–Scissors–Lizard–Spock from the series The Big Bang Theory.

Credits

This game would not have been possible without a few people. They deserve a vast Thank you for this:

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