Beer Pong Video Game Marketed to Teens

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 8, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

E.D. HILL, HOST: I'm not saying I did, but I do happen to know a couple of people who played beer pong in college. Now, there is a new video game by the same name and get this, it's being marketed to teenagers. Connecticut's attorney general calling out the video maker for its age inappropriate content, as he believes. It scores one point against the video maker. The game is being renamed "Pong Toss," but there's still the issue of rating this game suitable for kids as young as 13? Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and the director of development for JV Games Vince Valenti join me now. Gentlemen, thanks for being with us.



HILL: Attorney General Blumenthal, what was your problem with this, when you saw the game?

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BLUMENTHAL: Two problems. First of all, it obviously glorifies and promotes the use of alcohol. The name of the game plus the depiction and reference to alcohol, in my view, very much really promoted drinking, possibly binge drinking. And second, the rating, which was T-13 meant that it was rated acceptable and suitable for children 13 and older. And that's a problem with the rating agency, the software rating agency that remains, and I certainly appreciate that the company, JV Games is changing the name and also the content of the game in response to the concerns that I expressed.

HILL: Now JV Games does not have anything to do with the rating. It is the Entertainment Software Rating Board that independently rates this. So you've got to question them, I guess, but Vince Valenti, is it fair to say that this is a game that glorifies drinking and could lead kids who are underage to drink or even binge drink?

VALENTI: No, no, not at all. We do not promote binge drinking or alcohol abuse or under-aged drinking at all. The game is about the sport of beer pong that is really growing popular and there is a big tournament in Las Vegas. There is a $50,000 grand prize and that's what we were trying to promote, is the sport that's coming out of this game and not the alcohol that's associated with it.

HILL: Well, it is hard to promote a sport that revolves around alcohol though and not in essence be promoting the alcohol that goes along with it, isn't it?

VALENTI: Well, the game came from the old pong toss or pin ping-pong toss where you threw a ball into a little fish bowl, a little goldfish bowl and it developed from there. And that's all it basically is. You throw a ball into a cup and the person who does, you know, throws all 10 balls into the cup wins. That's basically the premise of the game. People add drinking to it, but that's not the premise.

HILL: All right, Attorney General Blumenthal, my kids have a lot of video games. I don't let them play it a lot but they've got them. And some of them have race car themes and the kids go racing around - and my kids can't drive yet — well, one just got her permit and it's scary, but they can't drive yet legally - and these games have them racing around streets and driving erratically. Wouldn't that be the exact same type thing?

BLUMENTHAL: It may raise similar concerns about promoting illegal content. Remember, 13-year-olds drinking is illegal. So this product, this game, essentially glorifies a practice. You can say that the drinking is incidental to it, but it is really central to what everyone knows. Anybody who has children — I have four of them — know is the essence of the game, knocking a ping-pong ball into a glass of alcohol that the other person then has to drink, not once, but twice.

I agree with you. There may be other games that raise concerns about safety, about appropriateness for certain age groups, and driving dangerously certainly shouldn't be promoted either, but here is one that is clearly dangerous.

HILL: Vince, if it's not about the alcohol and you think it is a fair game, why then did the company then decide to take all of the references to alcohol out?

VALENTI: Well that was the premise of the game, we wanted to show the sport of beer pong. And when we saw concerns raised about a month ago, we decided let's change the name to "Pong Boss," because that's the focus of the game is throwing the ball into a cup. We didn't want to, you know, extend alcohol into it, decided to change the name to "Pong Toss."

HILL: Vince Valenti from JV Games and Connecticut's Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, thank you both for being with us.

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