King’s Cup: Drinking Game

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Tacoma, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background: DL is a childhood friend of mine who grew up in Long Beach, California before moving up north to attend college in Washington. He a transgender man in his early twenties and lives in an eight-person household with roommates that all identify as LGBTQ+.

Context: King’s Cup is one of DL’s favorite drinking games. This particular instance of King’s Cup was celebrated on DL’s birthday with about ten schoolmates/friends/roommates of DL, shortly before the COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders were put in place. A little while afterwards, he celebrated someone else’s birthday over Zoom due to the COVID-19 stay at home orders. DL expressed sadness over not being able to play King’s Cup at the Zoom Party.

Main text:

(In the following interview the informant is identified as DL and the interviewer is identified as JS.)

DL: It’s like…you put a big cup in the middle of the table and, um, spread a deck of cards around it and you take turns picking a card from the ring of cards around the cup and each number on the card signifies something that you have to do.

JS: Okay

DL: Um…most of them involve drinking or [laughs] something of that context.

JS: Does it change each time or is there a specific ruleset that you used?

DL: There’s like a pretty specific ruleset that people generally use. Although we altered it because it’s pretty gender-specific sometimes

[At this point, DL tried to remember some of the rules but couldn’t recall them off the top of his head. He promised to follow up later with a few examples.]

JS: So, you pull the cards out, you go around the table, and they each have a different related thing on them.

DL: Yeah, um, it’s just like a deck of standard cards. And some of them it’s like you have to pour some of your drink into the big cup in the middle and then at the end, like, the loser has to drink the “King’s Cup.”

JS: [laughs] God, that’s so gross!

DL: [laughs] Yeah, we didn’t actually get that far we all kinda shared it and it was disgusting. Whatever you’re drinking, so that’s, like, the disgusting part. I had like some fancy sambuca from my mom so there was some of that in there, and some beer, and some cider, and some…wine I think. [laughs]

Examples of rules include:

Number two cards are titled “you”: Choose someone to drink

Number three cards are called “me”: The person who drew the card must drink.

The biggest modification A and his friends made to the rules set was for cards five and six—instead of sticking to the gender-exclusive rules of “guys and chicks” where either men or women drink, they changed it to “fags and dykes,” and it was up to the players to choose whether they would drink on the card that was pulled.

Thoughts: King’s Cup is a pretty standard drinking game, like much Beer Pong. Drinking games are a unique way to transform relatively standard American college practices (drinking to excess) into “events,” typically by way of making them game-ified or competitive. As DL explains at the end of the interview, the pretense of rules usually begins to fade as a drinking game goes on—there’s no need to keep on playing once the objective of the game (getting drunk) has been completed. What’s particularly interesting is how DL has customized the game to have certain “house rules”—particularly those for five and six. Some of the people DL lives with are nonbinary, making the guys and chicks rule obsolete. Instead, by customizing it with queer terminology, DL and his friends were easily able to tailor the game to their particular environment. I think it’s also important to note that the words “fag” and “dyke,” though often considered insulting and homophobic slurs, are fairly natural in this context for this group of friends—instead, they function as an insider/in-group joke.