Are alcoholic games prepping our teens for bingeing?

Remember ping pong balls aimed into cups of beer? Losers guzzle. Now eager participants can hook up to Wii and catch a thrill without the buzz. But is this REALLY what 13 year olds should be modeling?

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Let the Frat Games begin!


Frat Party Games is a series of “college style party games for WiiWare.” The first game in the series models Beer Pong, a drinking game involving ping pong balls aimed into cups of beer. Losers guzzle. You get the picture.

Whether we viewed it in Animal House or on MTV’s A shot at Love or on our Nintendo screens, binge drinking is glorified as a rite of passage in American culture. What makes gaming so powerful, however, is the psychological ramifications of participation. Games are, in effect, teaching tools.

The brain is wired with mirror neurons which are responsible for learning new skills by imitation. Monkey see, monkey do. “Learning is helped by active involvement. If you actively involve rather than observe, it is even more effective,” say psychology and child psychiatry professor, Alan Kazdin, of Yale University.

But will the Nintendo game lead to alcoholism or engagement in Beer Pong in the future?

Let’s just say that a brain that is susceptible to being influenced … will be influenced. Scientifically, it’s hard to prove the connection between gaming and behavior because many factors lead to any one decision. Therefore, “Pong Toss” is technically off the hook.

But I worry. As a 13 year-old, I would have tried it out and learned both the mechanics and the layout for the game. With a template, who knows what could have happened? I didn’t even thinking about the bowling – like set up until now…10 cups in a pyramid strip. Dang. Now that’s institutionalize binge drinking!

What do you think? Should “Pong Toss” be taken off the market? Are Frat Party Games appropriate for teens younger than 18? How socially responsible and accountable should game producers be?

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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