“You have like a big, giant cup or pitcher, typically in the middle of a circle at a party and everybody who sits around has their own drink, and you take a deck of cards that are mixed up in the center of the table around the pitcher and you go around the circle, one by one, and you pick up a card and depending on what card you choose will depend on what you have to do with your drink. So if you draw an ace, like that means that you drink, just you. If you draw a two, that means you get to choose someone to drink with you. If you draw a three, then you choose someone to drink. If you draw like a four, like you can come up with like the different rules, but the way I’ve played it like a four . . . all the women drink. If it’s a five, all the men drink. If it’s a six, you do categories, so somebody, like the person who pulls the card would say, ‘Animals’ and then you have to go around in a circle and at like a really quick speed name an animal off the top of your head and when someone pauses or can’t come up with one, they have to drink. Um, and after they drink they pour a little bit in the middle. And then if you pull . . . it goes on, till the end, but if you pull a king, you just have to pour in the middle pitcher.”
Interviewer: “What are the other cards?”
“I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but I know you can, like, there’s one that’s like . . . a rhyme and so like you can say, ‘fish’ and the person next to you has to rhyme with it and say like, ‘dish’ and then it goes around in a circle and if you can’t come up with a word, or can’t come up with a word that rhymes, you have to drink and then pour some in. And so at the end, the point is basically whoever draws the last king of the whole game has to drink the pitcher in the middle and it’s really disgusting because there’s usually like different alcohols involved so it’ll be like a mixture of like whiskey, and like tequila, and beer, and something that’s not tasty . . . There’s [a card] where like if you start to drink the person next to you has to start to drink and when you stop, they can stop, but it goes around like consecutively in the circle, um, so the last person can’t stop until everyone else has stopped in the circle, if that makes sense . . . I wanna say like ten, like the card ten, you drink for ten seconds. Um, I think seven rhymes with ‘heaven’ and I think we all drink. And then one card you have to do, like, ‘Never Have I Ever.” So like you put up five fingers and you say, ‘Never have I ever . . . kissed a girl’ and then anyone who’s kissed a girl, despite your gender, um, has to drink. And you do it, you have, um, you do it until your five fingers are down. And that’s King’s Cup.”
The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her where she learned “King’s Cup,” she said, “I couldn’t tell you who specifically, like a name, but, um, at my first party that I went to in high school, um, it was a game that was very often played and it’s typically more fun with the more people who play it, and so I was kind of like forced into playing it. And so I was forced into like learning the rules and for like my 21st birthday was when I played it with my closest friends and like my mom and we were all playing it. And we kind of just like took the rules that I knew and like would put a twist on it. So like we would change the card numbers, so instead of, I think the typical is like an ace being you drink, we would say like that would be the rhyme one. Like we’d confuse which ones were which, but we would write it down so we knew which card we drew.”
When asked why she practices it, she said, “It’s fun and it’s like a social atmosphere and it’s supposed to be funny to like . . . ‘Cause you could be the one who pours in a ton of alcohol and be like, ‘Somebody’s getting fucked up tonight! . . . I mean, screwed up tonight,’ and then, um, you end up screwing yourself over because you’re the one who ends up drawing the last king so then you have to drink the pitcher which is you pouring your whole entire drink basically in there trying to screw someone else over. So it’s supposed to be like funny and it’s like a game of fate, you kind of just, you don’t want to pick the wrong card, but there’s no one to blame but yourself if you do. I don’t know, I feel like people aren’t super serious about drinking the pitcher at the end because everyone kind of knows that if we’re all drinking different drinks it’s probably not gonna actually happen. But also like, people get sketched out, like they don’t want to pour all their drink in knowing the last king’s still out there, you know?”
I asked her what she thinks it means, and she said, “We’re all alcoholics! No, uh, I think it’s uh, I think it means . . . instead of standing around and drinking and talking or like forcing conversation, it’s like an excuse to be in a group and drink whether you know the person across from you or not, it’s just like a group game and you don’t have to know everyone in the game to play it.”
Looking at King’s Cup in particular is really interesting to me because it is an extremely popular drinking game within parts of my generation, yet I have never met two people who play it the same way. Despite the fact that the informant is sure there are some official rules somewhere that would be the “correct” way to play, she does not know what these are and it does not seem to matter. What matters is that there are specific rules and actions associated with every card that someone pulls, and that these are strictly followed once the game begins. In addition to this game being entertaining and a reason for a group of people to get drunk together, it also acts as a way of dividing up the group and defining the people playing it. Many of the cards pulled mean only a part of the group drinks, e.g. the men or the women present, and this draws a subtle, but perceptible line between the people playing. The frequent involvement of other games such as “Never Have I Ever” occurs to reveal embarrassing or “secret” information about the participants to the rest of the group, thereby bonding them to one another or singling out someone at whom everyone else can laugh.
“Here are the directions: Start by building a honeycomb of cups at the center of the table and filling each with about a 1/3 of a cup of beer. 20 should be enough. In the center of the honeycomb, add some extra beer and a few shots of hard liquor to the cup because that’s the ‘bitch cup.’ Gameplay starts with as many people as you want, with two cups with two players at opposite ends of the table starting the game. Players try to bounce pong balls into the cups after one bounce on the table. If they get a ball in their first try, they quickly pass it to the left of the person who’s trying to get the ball in the other cup. If the person it’s passed to is able to get the ball in while the other person is still struggling, he stacks his cup in the strugglers and the person who couldn’t get it in has to grab a cup from the honeycomb and drink it. If a player doesn’t manage to get the ball on his first try but manages to on another try, he or she can only pass the cup one person to their left. Gameplay continues until all the cups are left but the bitch cup. The last person who is unable to get their ball into their cup is then forced to drink it upon getting their cup stacked.”
This game represents a typical university drinking game that is meant to get students drunk, and fast due to the quick and tense play of the game. I had heard of the game before through students in class talking about it. My friend, the informant, plays it frequently, so I had him teach me it when I went to a party with him last weekend. He had learned it from older members of his fraternity, who too learned it from older members when they were younger. From what I’ve surmised, such games are part of fraternity/college identity and tradition, as its almost expected that such games are meant to be played on weekends and during parties.
Drinking games are an interesting part of folklore, and like folklore, they often possess variations that lead to arguing and disagreement. In playing the game that one time, I heard people debate the “after one miss rule” of having to pass it to your left and also how much hard liquor should be added to the “bitch cup.” Though drinking games are similar in many parts of the world, there are always rules in the games that greatly differ. People often argue the rules because they learned from others a specific method of play and are unwilling to bend based off what others feel is correct. I always find debates regarding the rules humorous, as it is impossible to distinguish who is correct in the argument. Just as in folklore, there is no correct version of a story.
Informant: I learned Rage Cage from [older sorority sister], actually! Yeah, she taught it to me at [fraternity]. We were over there one night, and she was like, “[informant], why aren’t you drunk yet? You gotta get on my level!” So she got some of the guys in a circle around the table—the beer pong table—and put a bunch of red cups in the middle of the table, and we filled them all with a little bit of beer. And then she took two empty cups and uh, gave them to two of the guys. And they each had one ping pong ball, and they had to bounce the ping pong balls into their cup. And when the guy on the left of the other guy got his in, he’d pass the cup and the ball clockwise. If the guy on the right got his ball into the cup before the other guy, he got to stack his cup in the other guy’s cup, and then he’d pass the stacked cups to the next person in the circle. The guy who lost—who didn’t get his ball in and got another cup stacked in his—has to drink one of the cups of beer in the middle of the table. Then he can use that empty cup and try to bounce the ping pong ball into that. He passes the cup clockwise when he gets it in.
Me: So you just keep passing the cups clockwise in the circle?
Informant: Yeah. Well, unless someone gets the ball into the “chasing” cup—the cup that isn’t stacked—on their first try. Then they can pass it to whoever they want.
Me: Is there, like, someone you want to pass to in particular?
Informant: You want to pass it to the person to the right of whoever has the stacked cups. It’s easier to get them, then.
Me: How does the game end?
Informant: When all the cups are stacked. But [older sorority sister] plays it so, like, the last person to lose—to get a cup stacked in theirs—has to chug a whole drink.
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.
The informant told me she has played Rage Cage at numerous fraternity parties since learning it during her sophomore year at USC. The game is usually played in mixed-gender groups of five or more players (up to as many as can fit around the table, although a group larger than twelve may have trouble keeping the attention of players stuck on the opposite side of the circle from the action) and takes place at fraternity houses or otherwise private location where those who are not yet of the legal drinking age can participate.
This drinking game is typically played early in the evening as a way for men and women to loosen up around one another. Since fraternity party culture at USC revolves around partygoers being intoxicated, Rage Cage is often used as a comfortable and fun way for participants to ease into drinking for the night. The competitive “stacking” element of the game also allows for participants to gang up on certain members of the group who they believe should drink more.
About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.
“Just don’t drink and drive man. That’s all there is to it.”
When I was at school at the George Washington University in the Fall of 2012, I met some ultra-cool people who I started to hang out with. One of them, a guy named Spencer, shared my love of early 90’s video games. When we were all together one weekend, Spencer introduced us to a game (supposedly of his own invention) called “Beerio Kart”.
What you need to play Beerio Kart:
*A Mario Kart™ video game, though any multiplayer video game that involves racing is fine as well.
*An alcoholic substance, though any beverage is fine.
Beerio Kart, is essentially a “drinking game”, though it can be played without alcohol. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Spencer, and he was able to explain the rules to me in better detail.
“It’s pretty simple. All you do is load up a game that involves racing (the objective being to beat the other opponents to the finish line) and grab a drink. Your goal is to finish that drink before you finish the race. The catch is, you can’t drink and drive your car at the same time, that’s illegal! You have to stop your vehicle in order to drink. The first person to reach the finish line with an empty glass/can wins. Just don’t drink and drive man. That’s all there is to it.”
Beerio Kart became something of a regular game that we’d play when we were together. I can almost guarantee that none of the original game developers could ever envision that their games would ever be played like this. We’ve all sort of gone our own ways; I transferred to USC, and most of them graduated. However, I still keep the tradition alive, teaching new friends the wonder and joy of Beerio Kart.
This was received via Facebook message from my informant, and is a drinking game that she played with her friends in the UK during university.
“Kings… A deck of cards in arranged in a circle facedown with an empty cup in the middle. Before you play you decide what each card value is… Some are normally agreed upon, some vary per group…So like 2 is you (pick somebody to drink 1 fingers worth of their drink), three me, four floor (whoever touches the floor last drinks), 5 guys drink, 6 chicks drink, 7 heaven (point up), 8, 5 fingers of never have I ever, 9… There are lots of random ones like funny accents (must speak only in an accent til the next 9 is picked), 10 waterfall (first person drinks, next, etc, until the first stops, then next stops… Etc), j make a rule (can’t say “drink”, can’t point, can’t say first names… Etc. break one and you drink), and some other random ones for Q and A, king you put some of your drink in the middle cup. Last king picked has to drink the cup. That is pretty common across the UK, with varying rules for each number. Also fun if you can help design (so I don’t like accents and we normally don’t use the cup because its gross)”
This drinking game is very complicated and flexible, changing every time it is played and changing based on who is playing it. Essentially, each card drawn from a normal playing card deck has a rule assigned to it, and that rule must be obeyed. If that rule is broken, the person who breaks it must take a drink. This game is popular because it is highly adaptable, can be used with any type of alcohol, and only really requires alcohol and a deck of playing cards. It’s also easily customizable, as the players can assign their own rules to each card to incorporate inside jokes. This kind of drinking game is a bonding experience, as the players will get increasingly drunk together while playing a potentially embarrassing game in which alliances are often formed between players against others. It isn’t one generally played with strangers, as other drinking games such as beer pong can be; rather, it is meant to cement already existing friendship ties among a medium sized group.
It can also include other drinking games within it, such as the reference of ‘five fingers of never have I ever’, which is a drinking game in which one person says that they have never done something, and those in the group that have done it take a drink (or put a finger down, as in this case where they would each have five fingers up).
The informant describes a drinking game by the name of “Klegoff” that his fraternity plays once a semester. The informant explains that he first learned this game and tradition once he had joined his fraternity his sophomore year of college. This game has sentimental value for him because it represents a bonding brotherhood event and an integral part of what it means to be in his fraternity.
A “klegoff” is a keg race with typically one team versus another or three teams in a sort of free-for-all. The game involves everyone dressing up in the most ridiculous, funny costumes and having a keg race. Each team tries to finish their keg first, while also trying to steal the tap of the other teams’ keg in order to slow down the other teams ability to drink. The informant considers it one of the most loved brotherhood events in the house because everyone has a chance to be aggressive, but in a non-malicious way. The informant also explains that the game is a good pregame to a party. After “klegoff” finishes with one team winning the entire fraternity goes outside the house and gathers in a circle and sings a traditional fraternity song called “Raiders.” Afterwards all members shake hands and hug it out to make sure there are no hard feelings.
This description of the drinking game “klegoff” makes evident how important drinking games, which involve the whole fraternity at once, are to the brotherhood and bonding the members have. It is through these games that stories, great successes and triumphs are made. It also displays the large role that drinking has in the relationships between fraternity brothers. It is central to their bonding.
Contextual Data: I asked a friend of mine if there was any particular drinking game that she enjoyed playing, and she mentioned this game “Kings” or “King’s Cup.” I’d heard of the game once before, and I asked her if she could explain to me how it was played and why she enjoyed it so much. The following is an exact transcript of her response.
“Um, okay, so… Kings is like a great game to play with like a whole bunch of people, because, well, you’re drinking, you’re all sitting in a circle, maybe you don’t really know everyone. So first you get a deck of cards, and you—everyone has cups, and of course, various alcohols, so whatever everyone is drinking, um… Maybe different pops or whatever or, like, mixed drinks. So you put one cup in the center of the deck of cards that you lay out in a circle in, like, kind of a fan around the center cup. And… Basically everyone just goes around and picks up a card when it’s their turn. So… I guess like… There’s rules, basically, that correspond with each card. I guess I can go over the rules.
“So when you get an Ace, um… I, I mean all the rules involve drinking. So every time you pick a card, something on that card is going to tell you an instruction on what you have to drink, how you have to drink it, um, who’s going to get stuck drinking, basically. And the point of the King’s cup is that as you go on, people are pouring, like, different things like their drink into that specific cup. And, um… it gets grosser and grosser, and at the end, the person who loses is gonna have to chug that disgusting, like, gross cup. Um, so…
“When you pull the cards—So you get an Ace. And if someone gets an Ace, um…it’s called ‘Waterfall,’ so the person who gets the card can, um, start drinking—whatever time they want—they start to drink whatever drink they have in their cup, and they can stop at any time, and—Oh! Everyone’s drinking at the same time. So everyone, um, in the circle of friends or whoever, starts drinking at the same time that person does, and then they can stop whenever they want, the next person can stop whenever they want, and that means the person next to them gets to stop whenever they want. So, basically, everyone’s getting screwed. Like, everyone’s getting plastered. Um, the second rule—a Two means You, so when it gets to Two, you have to drink. Three means Me, um, so—Oh wait. No. Two means You, so when you pick a Two you can designate someone that has to—so you like point to a person that you…has to take a drink. Three means Me, so when you pick that, um, you yourself have to drink. Four… Drinking games are sexist so Four means Whores, and all the women, um, in the group have to drink. That annoys me [Laughs]. As a side note. Um…Five means Jive. It’s like a really fun one. Um…Every—The person who picks it has to do a dance move, and the next person—in the circle—has to add on to it. And everyone’s probably drunk, so you have to keep building on to those dance moves, and if someone messes up, like the sequence, they have to drink. Um…It’s always fun to watch drunk people try and dance. And…Six means Dicks. More sexism. The men have to drink. Um…Yeah [Laughs]. That’s problematic. Then Seven is Heaven. Um…Everyone—the person who gets the card reaches up and puts both hands up to…touch the sky [Mimes putting both hands straight up in the air]. And the last person to notice and put their hands up has to drink. So if you’re not paying attention or, like, you’re just drunk or like, ‘What’s Seven mean?’ you get screwed and you have to drink. Um…Eight means Mate. So this is where you can pick someone and for the rest of the game when you have to drink—so when you are the last one to do the Seven Heaven thing or something that person has to drink too. And that’s a really good way to… Whatever. Either get back at someone or flirt with someone or whatever. Um, lets see. That was Eight—Eight means Mate. Nine is Rhyme. So…Someone—The person who draws the Nine thinks of a word and then everyone else after them has to, um, think of a rhyme to that word. And if they…The last person to either repeat the—something that someone’s already said or not be able to think of one has to drink. Um, Ten is Catagories. It’s like a similar idea, I guess. Um, so you pick a category, like ‘types of cereal’ or like… I don’t—Anything, really. It…In a party situation people usually pick something like…More vulgar. So ‘types of sexual positions’ or something and just like…Yeah. Interesting ways of getting people talking. And the last person—like the same thing with the rhyme—the last person to either mess up, not be able to think of one, or something else that someone’s already said has to drink. And then Eleven…Oh. No. There’s no Eleven in cards [Laughs]. Jack. Um, people play it differently, I guess. Like, there’s different rules, but when I play it, it just means, like, Jack means Back. I think other people play, like, Jack means, like, ‘Never Have I Ever’ or something. But that’s like a little aggressive to me…I don’t know. Um, Jack to Back is easier. So the person to the…Um, right of where you’re sitting when you pick the Jack has to drink. And… Queen is Question Master. So when the person draws the Queen, um, they kind of, like, don’t tell anyone. They might just say, like, ‘Oh, I got the Queen. I’m Question Master.’ But maybe no one notices and so that person, um, whenever they ask questions from that point—‘till someone else draws a Queen—they’re the Question Master, and if you answer—if someone playing answers the question that they’re asking, um, you have to drink. So, you can really mess with people because you just ask them, like, ‘Hey, is there anymore, like, in that cup or anything?’ If they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah! I can see some—Aww, you made me drink, like [Laughs], fuck you.’ Um [Laughs]. And…The King is like the whole point of the game—the King’s Cup. So when you get a King, you get to pick a rule for the game, like—same thing with the Queen, until someone else gets the King. And, um…The… So you might make a rule, like, ‘No swearing.’ And everyone’s drunk, so that’s pretty hard. [Laughs.] So if you do swear you have to drink. And then—or any kind of rule, basically. There’s like a few common ones, like…Again, like to mess with people, like…Whatever. There’s like…Yeah. Um, and then for the last King, whoever draws the last King, um—we kind of keep track—has to drink the King’s Cup and the game’s over…And they’re clearly messed [Laughs].”
- End Transcript -
When I asked my friend why she thought people played this particular game, she mentioned that it’s somewhat different from other drinking games, like Beer Pong or Flip Cup, because it doesn’t require any sort of “athletic” skill, it’s a game that could be played with large groups of people, and it’s a game that moves fairly quickly. She also mentioned that it’s a good game to get people talking and socializing. She said that she first learned to play it in college, and that it is particularly fun to play with people who have never played before, because when you first learn, it’s difficult to keep track of the rules, and so the “newbies” end up getting drunk very quickly. In that sense, it also seems to be a kind of initiation ritual in the drinking culture that’s often so prominent in the college social setting.
Her answer was fairly thorough and seemed to provide an insightful reason as to way the game is passed on — in particular that it is about getting drunk quickly (which is usually the reason people play these games) and that it does seem like a very good game to play to get people to start speaking and socializing with one another, which is certainly part of its appeal.
Interestingly enough, the game was made into an app for the Android, for those that don’t have a deck of cards handy. Different versions of the app do offer different sets of rules, which underscores that there are many variations to the game. It’s also interesting to note that the app exists under the name “Waterfall Drinking Game” and that an alternative name is “Ring of Fire,” which both emphasize that it is ultimately a game about getting drunk, which again, is why people usually play such games.
“The Tour de Franzia” is a spinoff of “Le Tour de France”. In the informant’s words: “You bike with a bag of Franzia and see where the night takes you”. Franzia is a cheap wine that usually comes in a box, produced by The Wine Group. The idea is to get drunk off wine while biking and to have an adventure.
The informant first heard about The Tour de Franzia from a female friend at his old college. They were sitting in a dorm with a group of other students “taking shots of Sobieseski and listening to Cake”, and she was telling him about how she broke her wrist. She and her family would go to their summer house on Cape Cod every year, and all the adults and older kids would do the Tour de Franzia. It was a rural tradition. But the last time, she had broken her wrist. The informant claims that he would love to try the Tour de Franzia, despite the girl’s broken wrist account. The informant enjoys drinking alcohol and trying new things for fun, and he thinks that this tradition sounds like a blast.
The Tour de Franzia is a rural tradition, probably because there are less clubs and bars in rural areas, unlike Los Angeles, so the locals have to be more creative with their nighttime adventures and drinking. Furthermore, the tradition centers around bringing people, adults and older kids, together. It is a fun group activity. I feel like smaller towns celebrate connections between family and friends because they share common ties to a place.In contrast, Los Angeles is full of immigrants from both in and out of the country, and there aren’t big familial connections to be celebrated. However, the tradition has been appropriated by college students, such as the informant. This is because college students enjoy drinking, especially when it is cheap, and going on fun/dangerous adventures. I don’t think I would try this particular tradition, but I would be willing to lend a helmet to someone who would. It is an interesting combination of a material brand, Franzia wine, and a folk tradition.
My informant is a 19 year old college freshman studying theater at an academy in Hollywood, California. This student is deeply involved in the active social aspect of life as a theater student – frequently attending wrap parties, after parties, and general Friday night parties to blow off steam after a week of classes. Because the academy is not a traditional college or university, the student body contains a wide range of student ages, from teens just out of high school, to men and women in their late thirties.
My informant was observed playing the game detailed below. He was not the only underage student there.
“Two is you, three is me, four is whores, five is drive, six is dicks, seven is heaven, eight is mate, nine is rhyme, ten is thumb master…”
There are many variations of the rules of the game known as King’s Cup. It’s a party game, played by young people, often in their teens or mid-twenties. In this case the game I observed was being played by a group of four students. The game involved a can of beer placed in the center of the table with a deck of cards fanned out around the can. Each student also held a cup of their own filled with beer. The students took turns choosing cards from the circle – each card had a special action associated with it. For instance, if a player draw a “7,” they would quickly drop the card to the table and point both fingers in the air (toward heaven). The last player in the circle to follow suit and point at heaven would take a drink from their cup.
At one point my informant drew a jack. He was told to make a rule (that the other players must follow until another jack is drawn from the deck) and he decided on the “little green man” rule. To demonstrate, he pointed his fingers like a gun and “shot” at the top of cup of beer. He explained to me that this killed his “little green man.” By establishing this rule, now whenever any player needed to take a drink, they would first need to kill the little green man sitting on the rim of their cup.
My informant’s demonstration of the rule led to a dispute. Another player had heard the little green man rule played differently. In her version, the little green man should be taken carefully off the rim of the cup and set aside on the table, allowing the the player to drink, and then placed back onto the cup when the player finished drinking. My informant had never heard this variation, and claims he finds his version to be more fun because players can be very creative in deciding in what way to kill their little green man.
The rules to King’s Cup, and even the name of the game, varies wildly depending on the group one is playing with. The little green man rule is one example of how the game changes between groups. However, in both cases the little green man rule allows the player to act out the removal of an obstacle to drinking. A drinking game itself can have only one purpose – to aid in the intoxication of the players. As this is a game that is often played among groups of young adults, and in some cases including the game I witnessed, with students who are not yet legally old enough to consume alcohol, the little green man rule asserts the players ability to get drunk together and party in spite of the restrictions of parents, their academic institution, and the law. The little green man is an alien outsider who represents anyone or any institution who would put a stop to the dangerous and potentially illegal behavior, and must be removed before a drink may be taken.