As any grizzled veteran of the collegiate social scene will tell you, college parties come in all sizes. From small student group gatherings to once-in-a-blue-moon bangers, there is no such thing as a “typical party.” Still, across this diverse range of inebriating environments, there is one constant — beer pong.
As a true test of pseudo-athleticism under the influence, this is the game you can expect to find in any room with beer, Solo cups, and a table. Against all odds, people find ways to make it work from wadding up tape for make-shift balls to building tables out of old doors and folding chairs. In spite of all the work it may take to get a game started, players rarely take a moment to consider if beer pong is really the right game for the party.
It’s abundantly clear that people love to play games. They give you purpose at a party and are a get-out-of-jail-free card from awkward conversations and even more awkward dancing. Most importantly, they help you make the most of budget-grade beverages. Am I going to savor my Busch Light over small talk with a stranger? Get real.
The best use for my Natty Ice is some contest of a mediocre skill with low stakes for losing. It is not the booze itself, but the games that help melt away the social pressures of a party scene, allowing you to focus on a simple objective and just have fun.
With this in mind, we examine the nature of beer pong itself. No matter what attendance is like at the party, a game of beer pong can only ever have 4 people. Given the fact that this noble sport requires a reasonably long table, it eats up the space of 8 dancing humans. So, not only can only 4 people enjoy the party benefits of playing a game, it actually takes away the amount of room there is for alternate rager activities.
Of course, people will line the table to spectate and perhaps exchange bets, but rarely is a game of beer pong actually worth watching (no offense, frat stars).
More than just keeping people entertained, beer pong tables usually allow the winning team to stay on for the next game. Once a skilled team takes over a table, all balance is lost. To put it another way — the rich just get richer. Alcohol being a pretty good equalizer, the ideal party is a community-oriented event, without true leaders or power structures. Here, by honoring the elite, less competitive folks looking to play a casual game might not want to play. Beer pong not only actively excludes people from participating in the fun, it creates a divide within the party.
This is not to say that beer pong doesn’t have its place in the college drinking scene — on the contrary, it can really save smaller hangouts from becoming one long awkward pause. However, in a room with one table and numerous would-be players, beer pong can be a huge waste of potential. Excluding all but 4 people from the wonderful world of drinking games is never the way to go.
Beyond the Pyramid
How, then, can we maximize the fun for everyone and make the best use of our beat-up basement tables? By employing a wide variety of drinking games, each fitting a different-sized crowd. So, the next time you look around the room at a party and see your friends looking wistfully at the Pong table, take back the table and try some of these alternatives:
No. of Players: 6 and up
Beer Pairing: Miller High Life
This is a good party staple for when ping pong balls are in short supply and you have a long table to work with. A team based game — it’s good for building camaraderie between two groups of people. I recommend playing with High Life, as its superior bubble content makes the cups easier to lift, making for faster flips.
No. of Players: 4 and up
Beer Pairing: Pabst Blue Ribbon
A real barn-burner, this game can end friendships. While slapping the cups is optional, the playful violence can add to the intensity of the game. This is by far the most sophisticated drinking game that is still widely played, so enjoy with a case of equally sophisticated PBR.
No. of Players: 6 or 8
Beer Pairing: Bud Light
For those who just can’t let beer pong go, but still want to be inclusive, Civil War is a happy medium. The teams are just small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to ensure everyone who wants to play, can. For maximum enjoyment, grab your buddies and some cans of Bud and have at it.