On entering University, we are all introduced to the weird and wonderful methods of intoxication – from playing a light-hearted game of Ring of Fire, to slyly attempting to ‘penny’ someone else’s beverage. With such strange inebriation techniques in existence, it is very rare indeed that one is ever invited for a casual drink before a night out on the town. Instead, invitations are for a ‘drinking session’, and enclose an unspoken, “come and get wasted” instruction.

But since when did our drinking habits become so organised? Our fascination with a structured alcohol intake has consequently caused an eruption of games, rules and regulations to compensate our apparent need for a strict drinking regime.

For decades students have been proud soldiers of the drinking game frontier, and have been only too eager to obey their self-inflicted laws. From the cramped common rooms and corridors of dubious university housing have come forth some of the greatest inventions known to student-kind. However, much to the disappointment of many, we cannot truly take credit for being the creators of these ‘weapons of lash destruction’.

Drinking games were introduced as social catalysts to create a lively atmosphere and to provide a degree of entertainment. This is still true today, but it can’t go unnoticed that our usage of such games is somewhat more rigorous and concentrated!

The earliest reference to drinking games can be found in Plato’s Symposium, which literally translates as “drinking together”. In this literature, Plato describes how a bowl of wine was downed, then slapped, refilled, and then passed along to the next guest. Perhaps not the most complex ancestor of our modern creations, but they had to originate somewhere – bravo, Greece. These lavish affairs were enjoyed strictly by the male population, but often included serving girls, dancers and professional escorts. (Calm down boys, before you get any ideas for your next prelash.)

However, a later game named ‘Kottabos’ introduced the notion of rules and punishments– something that seems to be at the heart of nearly every modern drinking game. The Ancient Greek game was based upon throwing wine at a designated target. Sadly, due to the shear waste of alcohol that occurs while playing ‘Kottabos’, it could not possibly survive in the stingy student world we inhabit.

On the other side of the world, China was developing its very own source of alcoholic entertainment. A game called ‘Jiuling’ emerged during the Tang dynasty that involved a silver vessel containing fifty silver counters. Each was inscribed with an instruction such as ‘drink’, ‘punish’, and, ‘persuade others to drink’; counters that would be randomly selected by the players. This game also saw the arrival of a ‘Registrar of Rules,’ whose duty it was to maintain order and set punishments for any offenses throughout the game. But do not be fooled my fellow students – these punishments were no fun. If you failed to fulfil your penalty, the Registrar declared you a ‘Deserter’ and you simply wouldn’t be invited back for future events.

The earliest of Chinese drinking games were played amongst the elite and educated members of society, and so games often comprised of spouting poetry and exchanging riddles. Can you imagine their disgust on discovering that the ‘elite’ of today spend their drinking activities mimicking bunny ears and chanting obscenities?! Believe it or not, vast mental skills were required to succeed in the ancient world, and unfortunately the achievement of funnelling a pint in under four seconds would not have got you far.

Through the centuries, tales of these events travelled far and wide, spreading like wild fire across the entire globe. An evolution of drinking games Darwin himself would be proud of took place, giving birth to an array of new techniques and tactics in getting ‘utterly paninied.’ These are some of the variations that can be found around the world today.

RUSSIA

Now we have all heard of Russian Roulette, but thankfully not all of Russia’s drinking games share the same intensity! ‘Tiger Has Come’ involves shots, a table, and a game master. The rules are simple, when the game master declares that, “The tiger has come”, all players must down their shot and dive under the table to hide. They may only come out when the game master states that the tiger has left the building. If a player loses their balance or falls when coming out from under the table they are eliminated. This bizarre cycle continues until one winner remains. However, the winner must host the next game and provide all of the alcohol, which for us students in particular presents an interesting ultimatum; our purse or our pride?!

IRELAND

I’m afraid this one is for the boys, but be warned as it must only be endeavoured by the very manliest of men. ‘The Belfast and the Furious’ does not involve fancy cars, pink slips or a girl draped across the bonnet – instead it is simply a footrace for honour and pride. The challenge is a ‘drag race’ around the block but the participants must wear heels and any other clothing they can sway off their female company, effectively assembling a ‘drag’ costume. The loser gets a hefty alcoholic fine from each of the other participants, and the winner walks away with respect.

USA

This article would not be complete without touching on one of the greatest productions of the modern gaming world, Beer Pong! This game has been so influential in the United States that national competitions have now been established, and Nintendo have even brought out a game for the Wii called ‘Pong Toss Pro’. Two two-player teams set up a triangle of six or ten cups at each end of a ping pong (or just an ordinary) table. The cups are half filled with beer and then the players start throwing ping pong balls at their opponents’ triangle. If a ball lands in a cup, the opposing team must down it. The game is won by eliminating all of cups on the opposite side of the table, after which the losing team must also consume the beer remaining on the winners’ side.

UK

Last but not least, what has been our greatest contribution to this realm of delusion I hear you say? We gave the world an iconic drinking vessel: the yard of ale. Traditionally, this glass will hold three pints, and the only objective is to consume it as fast as you can without pausing. The first record of this device explains that James II was toasted with a yard of ale in 1683, but unfortunately the King’s downing time was never documented!

At this point I should probably remind you to drink responsibly, and as philosopher Seneca once said, “Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness”. But just to construct a thorough and balanced analysis of the subject, the Urban Dictionary proposes that drinking is, “The act of pursuing happiness and self destruction at the same time”. So whom ever you side with, join me in a salute to our ancestors, the creators of punishments, downing and game masters, for initiating our obsession with regimented intoxication. And here’s to you, the students who have fought to keep our evening entertainment alive with the extensive use of invigorating and innovative new drinking games. Cheers!

Chelsey Toms

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1 Comment

  1. Natasha Smith
    November 18, 2010 at 12:12 — Reply

    Very interesting – I never realised there was such a wide-ranging history to drinking games!

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