Back in the day when I walked two miles to school in the snow, uphill, both ways, year round– the game of choice, late
Friday every night, was quarters. A simple game, a hard top table, a cup or glass and beer. Shot glasses and Tequila for the adventurous. It was quite popular, supplanting the older games of loser drinks, insert activity here, or winner chooses who drinks, insert activity here. The equipment was simple every day objects and a lack of imagination. Perfect for college in other words. In high school the game of choice was called buying beer, which for those keeping track, er, never mind.
Somewhere deep in the annals of history, someone with a degree of imagination more than quarters, took the concept of tossing a ping pong ball into a small bowl with a goldfish and beer and turned it into beer pong. The wiki explains a somewhat different origins, but since nothing can be verified– ahem, the game essentially has no rules other than arranging cups at two ends of a table and creating teams of two who compete by tossing a ping pong ball into the other sides cups. Which happen to have some beer in them. Which if the ball lands in the cup, you get to drink. Simple enough. Yet some video game company decided that the game was worthy of being video-gamed. And thus was born Frat Party Games, and the Wii version of beer pong. Because assembling a bunch of cups, a table and beer can be too much effort.
The Wii, if you are unfamiliar with the latest in video game consoles, is somewhat different from its video testosterone cousins X-Box and Playstation, in that it doesn’t 3-D every graphic animation with fake realism, and instead provides a wireless wand like controller than is motion sensative. Which means that the games sense the movement of the controller and the gameplay reacts. Great for sporting games, golf, baseball, bowling and my personal favorite, boxing. Oh yes, I love nothing more than cranking up the Wii and jumping into the ring to box with the glee knowing my opponent will never lay a glove on me. The Wii is fun, video games are fun, but video games are not reality. And this is something that Connecticut’s Attorney General clearly doesn’t get.
AG Blumenthal has taken exception to JV Games naming of their Wii game, Beer Pong. So they changed it to Pong Toss. I guess Blumenthal is unfamiliar with the connotation of the word toss, as in cookies, which really cuts to the the results of a bad round of Beer Pong. Score 1-0 for JV Games. Today Blumenthal, according to an AP report, objects to the Entertainment Software Rating Board giving “Pong Toss” a teen rating. Probably because the action of the game is to score points, instead of as in real life, drink. Check out the gameplay here:
Blumenthal has his boxers in a twist over the depiction of beer mugs and kegs in the background. The AP:
Blumenthal sent a second letter to the board on Monday, asking that other video games that contain alcohol content be given an adult rating, for users 18 years old and older.
He criticized the board for saying the appearance of alcohol in the game was minimal. Blumenthal said the name “Beer Pong” directly refers to a drinking game. Also, beer is depicted in the graphics used for the game’s title, some of the beer pong tables in the game displayed images of kegs and mugs of beer, and there’s a full bar in the background.
“The whole basis for the games is heavy alcohol consumption – simply not appropriate for teenagers and deserving more consideration by the Board,” Blumenthal wrote.
In a written statement, Eliot Mizrachi, spokesman for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, said the board’s role is not that of a censor.
“Our job is to impartially and consistently label content about which there may be a diversity of views so consumers can make informed choices for themselves and their families,” he said. “‘Pong Toss’ involves nothing more than players tossing virtual pingpong balls into plastic cups, which hardly qualifies it for our most restrictive rating of AO (Adults Only, for 18 years old and older).”
Ah yes, the world, as in the entire United States must conform to the paranoia of Connecticut’s Attorney General whose lurid imagination sees great harm that someone under the age of 18 might see a virtual beer mug on a television set. I guess all those beer bottles in ads are not suggestive at all, or did I miss Blumenthal’s attempt at banning beer advertising recently? Let’s take a look at some retro gaming milestones.
Here’s a screen shot of Larry Laffer in a bar. The premise of the game was: “In general, the games follow Larry’s escapades as he attempts (and mostly fails) to convince a variety of young nubile women (rendered with increasing sophistication throughout the series) to have sex with him”
Of course when Leisure Suit Larry first came out there was no ESRB, and access to the game was mostly determined by access to a computer and buying the game. Which is the point at which anyone who cares about the content of any entertainment product should be able to discern whether said content is acceptable for their precious offspring. Games these days are the not so affordable $45-60 range. And any game called Beer Pong, plopped on the conveyor belt at the local Walmart by a 13 year old, should normally elicit some sort of parental conversation right? But Blumenthal thinks parents are too dumb to figure that out for themselves. Er, maybe he’s right, some people just keep voting for him after all.
The constant pressure by politicians with over-sized egos isn’t new. In the 1950′s it was the ban on comic books put forth after Dr. Fredric Wertham published Seduction of the Innocent, whose premise was that comic book reading causes juvenile delinquency. The Senate held hearings and the Comics Code Authority created, and promptly censored such classic titles like Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt. La plus ça change …
Apparently generations of kids running around playing cowboys and indians or cops and robbers, with the classic goal of “bang your dead” led to generations of kids running around in later life wielding semi-automatics and killing people. Just like video games like Joust caused people to jump on the nearest ostrich with a lance and impale them. Or Final Fight led legions of spandex clad street fighting.
Whenever these bastions of banning stab their pointdexter views of the world on mere entertainment products, they fail to provide one example, one actual real life example of any entertainment product influencing the behaviors of kids. Whether its the “Banned in Boston” list of books, comics or video games, the reality is they are censoring imaginative expressions. That is wrong. Beer Pong is a mindless game. It is can be played by anyone with or without beer. To liken a virtual version played in the privacy of homes as something that promotes heavy alcohol consumption just suggests to me that someone must have lost quite a few rounds of quarters years ago. And still being a sore loser about it.
source: Courant, ‘Beer Pong’ game’s teen-friendly rating criticized, by AP, July 7, 2008