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Who Plays Which Drinking Games and Why?

Researchers produce an exhaustive study of college drinking game habits. Will beer pong win?

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Beer Pong is the #1 offender. Photo via

By Bryan Le

04/11/13

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Why do college students play games like beer pong until they pass out and puke, and wake up remembering nothing? Drinking games are hugely popular on college campuses across the nation, and often entail risky amounts of boozing. Seeking to understand the phenomenon, psychology professor Joseph LaBrie and his team surveyed almost 5,000 college students on their drinking game activities. “This is something that still—35 years after Animal House—is an issue that we don’t understand fully its impact,” says LaBrie. “Administrators and public health personnel ought to be concerned with addressing the drinking game situation. It’s not enough just to talk about drinking, you’ve got to talk about the kinds of activities that lead to the most problematic drinking.” Of the students surveyed, seven in 10 claimed to have played a drinking game in the last 30 days, and about 30% would drink to a point of memory loss. To break it down, LaBrie's team categorized the games into different types:

  • Targeted and Skill: Skills determine the loser who will drink, like Apples to Apples or Truth or Dare
  • Communal: Everyone drinks when agreed-on set conditions occur, like Mustache TV or Spin the Bottle
  • Chance: Skill has little say in which loser must drink, like Drinking Poker or King's Cup
  • Extreme Consumption: No rules, just drink. Keg Stands and Edward 40 Hands are prime examples
  • Even Competition: Versus games in which the losing side must drink, like Flip Cup or Beer Pong

 

The most popular game category by far is "Even Competiton," which 72.8% of participants had played recently. More than half of students say these games involve the highest booze intake—which researchers attribute to the popularity of beer pong. "Extreme Consumption," was the least popular category, with a mere 7% admitting to doing activities like keg stands. LaBrie says these numbers are "low ball estimates," accounting for the high possibility of memory loss, and miscounted drink numbers. “They put a beer into a big red cup and that’s really the equivalent of almost two drinks, but they think it’s one drink,” he explains, “I would say this is even more risky than we think it is.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, white, male students who belonged to Greek organizations played competitive games and drank the most. Non-white women who were not Greek-affiliated were more likely to play "Chance" games, with the aim of socializing. LaBrie hopes understanding the motivations behind these games, and breaking down more "at risk" demographics, may help authorities to prevent risky college drinking.

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