Screen shot of Wii "Pong Toss" game.

Video Game Maker Engages in Beer Pong Diplomacy

July 11, 2008 09:05 AM
by Denis Cummings
The makers of the Nintendo Wii game “Beer Pong” have changed the name and removed all references to alcohol after criticism from activists and politicians.

30-Second Summary

Beer pong, also known as beirut, is a popular college drinking game that involves tossing a pingpong ball into cups of beer. Vince Valenti and Jag Jaeger, co-founders of JV Games, created a downloadable WiiWare game that allows players to simulate tossing balls into beer cups.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gave the game a Teen rating, which means that it’s deemed appropriate for users as young as 13. The game has been criticized by many substance-abuse organizations and Conn. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

“It obviously glorifies and promotes the use of alcohol,” Blumenthal said. “The name of the game plus the depiction and reference to alcohol, in my view, very much really promoted drinking, possibly binge drinking.”

Blumenthal called for the game to be rated Adults Only, but Nintendo does not allow AO games to be played on its systems. In response, JV Games agreed to change the name of the game to “Pong Toss” and eliminate all references to alcohol. Players now throw the virtual ball into empty plastic cups.

The ESRB wrote a letter to Blumenthal telling him that, because he put the game into the national spotlight, more minors would seek to download the game. With a smalltime development company and little marketing, the game would have likely gone largely unnoticed if Blumenthal hadn’t become involved.

Both the video game and alcohol industries have come under fire recently for marketing inappropriate material to minors, particularly the popular Grand Theft Auto IV game and bottled alcoholic fruit drinks.

Headline Link: ‘Beer Pong’ becomes ‘Pong Toss’

Background: ‘Beer Pong’ draws criticism

Reactions: Blumenthal, Valenti and the ESRB

Related Topics: Video games and alcohol marketed to minors

Reference: ‘Pong Toss’ and beer pong


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