'Beer Pong' Video Game Has Controversy Brewing

Connecticut's attorney general isn't happy that a video game called "Frat Party Games: Beer Pong" was rated suitable for children as young as 13.

Richard Blumenthal said Monday that the Entertainment Software Rating Board made a mistake by clearing the game for young teens and he worries other games in the yet-to-be-released Frat Party Games line will also be approved for those same gamers.

"Beer Pong" was designed by Las Vegas-based JV Games Inc. as a downloadable game for Nintendo Co.'s popular Wii game system.

• Click here to watch a YouTube clip of 'Beer Pong' being played.

JV Games Vice President Jag Jaeger informed Blumenthal last month that the company is renaming the game "Pong Toss" and eliminating all references to alcohol.

The company's Web site still promotes the game as "Beer Pong," but that's supposed to change soon.

"We stopped this game, but that is only a minor victory if it is followed by others," said Blumenthal, who believes the game glorifies alcohol abuse and binge drinking.

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The video game is based on a popular college drinking game where competitors toss a pingpong ball into the opposing player's cup. If the ball lands in the cup, the opposing player typically has to guzzle beer.

Jaeger said the video game was never about alcohol, but rather the growing sport that has developed around beer pong. There's even a World Series of Beer Pong that is held in Las Vegas where contestants vie for $50,000 in prize money.

"The game never showed any drinking, it never depicted anyone getting drunk," he said Monday in a telephone interview from his Las Vegas office. "The thing is, it's becoming a really well-known sport."

Jaeger said he hopes the revised "Pong Toss" will be released at the end of July. The other games in the "Frat Party Games" line are not yet finalized.

In a letter to Blumenthal last month, Patricia E. Vance, the Entertainment Software Rating Board's president, justified the rating of the original Beer Pong game, saying that alcohol played a minimal role in the game and no one was shown drinking beer.

"Despite being premised on a drinking game, the game's content involves essentially nothing more than tossing pingpong balls into plastic cups," she wrote. "We are thus unsure of the basis for the statement in your letter suggesting that this content 'glorifies alcohol abuse and binge drinking."'

Vance said three "specially trained, adult raters" with no ties to the industry reviewed the game and recommended the "T" rating for people 13 years old and older.

Blumenthal sent a second letter to the board on Monday, asking that other video games that contain alcohol content be given an adult rating, for users 18 years old and older.

He criticized the board for saying the appearance of alcohol in the game was minimal. Blumenthal said the name "Beer Pong" directly refers to a drinking game.

Also, beer is depicted in the graphics used for the game's title, some of the beer pong tables in the game displayed images of kegs and mugs of beer, and there's a full bar in the background.

"The whole basis for the games is heavy alcohol consumption — simply not appropriate for teenagers and deserving more consideration by the Board," Blumenthal wrote.

Jaeger said it would be "ridiculous" to rate "Beer Pong" for adult audiences, the most restrictive rating in the system. He said the game "Grand Theft Auto," known for its violence, was given a lesser "M" or mature rating.

Also, he said, Nintendo will not publish adult-rated games.