Oh man, he really had to pee. For a full hour, no one was allowed to go to the bathroom: one of the rules of the drinking game that he took part in during holidays. When the clock had finally turned full circle, Robin (25) made a sprint to the toilet but fell flat on his face due to his flip-flop shooting off.
A fellow contestant – with a bladder at least as full as his – was right behind him. “He was running, but he kept looking down to avoid slipping and falling. He didn’t see me and literally trampled over me. Due to all the booze in my system, it only started hurting the next day”, recalls Robin.
Moments before, the Business Economics master student had redecorated the tarpaulin with a coat of vibrant orange puke. “That was the paprika crisps”, he says with a wry face. “However, I did win the next bout. In so far as you can win Circle of Death*, that is.” The other thing he remembers from that evening: “At a certain point, one of the other fellows was standing around talking to a container, and later on, he started fighting it. That was weird.”
In short, drinking games can bring out an interesting side in people. Among students, they are virtually a staple of house parties and other get-togethers. In fact, according to researchers, playing games like this – in addition to membership of a student association and sports – is one of the key characteristics of student life.
Drinking games are entertaining, cheaper than hanging out in a bar and create a nice, ‘informal’ atmosphere. While there are countless variants, the underlying principle is always the same: to drink as much as you can in the shortest time possible – often by downing shots of hard liquor. Concerned researchers actually see a connection between drinking games and ‘an increase in alcohol-related problems among students’. Most students prefer not to think about this aspect, however, once the dice starts rolling and the beer starts flowing.
Drinking games can lead to ‘legendary’ evenings like the one mentioned by Robin. At birthday parties, he regularly looks back on the memorable evening when he was literally run over by his friend. He can laugh about it, and it’s an innocent anecdote.
But the games can occasionally take a more bizarre turn. Consider the London students, for instance, who caused quite a fuss when the public heard about their ‘Nazi drinking game’, which included performing actions like ‘salute the Führer’ and ‘Invade Poland’.
And there are also the well-known stories of students who pay for a bout of extreme drinking with their lives. For example, one Brazilian student died after downing 25 shots in one minute. And a Dutch student died during an exchange to South Africa, after friends used a funnel to ply him with drink.
There are hundreds of drinking games. In many cases, they are simply a twist on classics like the Game of the Goose, with the rules adapted. In these versions, the player who makes a bad move is required to drink alcohol in some form. Another well-known example is Stef Stuntpiloot, which was originally intended for younger children – you can buy it at the toy shop. Nowadays, it’s better known as a drinking game than something for the kiddies.
By now, there are even special websites devoted to the ‘drinking game’. Another popular version: drinking while watching television. Some students paste a fake moustache on the screen and drink a shot glass every time it fits perfectly over the upper lip of someone on screen. And there are less tasteful variants: Zap de Neger – take a shot every time a person of colour shows up on the telly – and – for the Game of Thrones fans – quaff one whenever a character dies.
Patrick (20) also enjoys the odd drinking game. He takes part for a number of different reasons. “It’s a fun thing to do before going out. You get drunk in no time, meaning that you don’t have to spend as much money after arriving at the club.”
And he finds games that involve assignments useful for getting to know each other better. “For example, there’s this one game where you name something you haven’t done before. It’s a great fun when you’re playing with colleagues.” He vividly remembers one particular house party. “You know the film Project X, in which a party spins completely out of control? This was similar. It was bizarre. The only thing missing were the flamethrowers.”
Loads of fun, in other words, these games – but they are definitely also suited for shyer students, according to Patrick. “It isn’t much of an issue for me personally, but you’ve got people who have difficulty mingling in a group. Drinking games make it easier for them to loosen up and join in the fun.”
This is also the philosophy held by Rotterdam native Bulent Yildiz (40). He is the founder of Rebelz Games, a company that markets slightly more ‘dynamic’ drinking and party games. Take Madpong, a variation on Beer Pong. Yildiz: “We’ve added new assignments to the game, like ‘touch the fattest person in the room’ or ‘do some twerking’. It leads to truly legendary evenings” – if you don’t mind him saying so.
‘A friend of mine once had to go over to the neighbour’s in his underwear and ask for condoms. You should have seen the look on his neighbour’s face.’
Yildiz, who sees the Netherlands becoming more and more Americanised with the growing popularity of those typical oversized drink cups – known as red cups – and Beer Pong, also enjoyed ‘letting loose’ as a student. “I’ve simply taken it to the next level.” All his games share the same, crucial element: namely the option for players to ‘screw’ each other.
“That’s the secret of a good drinking game. It’s ideal for leaving a whole week’s worth of stress behind you for a moment. To reset rather than meditate. You could compare it to Monopoly: in that game, you try to get the other players to pay as much as possible. In drinking games, you try to get each other to drink as much as possible.’’
According to Yildiz, games like this lead to fantastic evenings and amazing stories. There’s one anecdote in particular that he wants to share with us: “A friend of mine once had to go over to the neighbour’s in his underwear and ask for condoms. You should have seen the look on his neighbour’s face. We couldn’t stop laughing.”
Rules and standards differ from group to group. Oscar Yang (22), who is involved in ESN Rotterdam, points out that there are also differences depending on where you hail from. He uses drinking games to help the dozens of internationals in Rotterdam to get to know one another quicker.
“People loosen up a bit when they’ve had a few drinks. It becomes easier to let your guard down.” Although things really cocked up on one occasion. “My dare involved making horny sounds opposite a male fellow player. Two internationals who were walking over heard me. They were so shocked that they immediately turned away.”
Yang finds that he is mainly able to connect with European students through games like these. “You can see that Asians are less used to this sort of thing. They’re quite shy and it takes them a while to let their hair down. It’s a bit awkward playing with them. Americans, on the other hand, often go all out. If the dare involves giving someone a kiss, they give them a massive Frenchie.”
Master student Robin had a more or less opposite experience at the same campsite where he was stampeded by his friend. After thinking he had ‘scored’, he was sorely disappointed. “A girl walked by and asked us ‘Do you guys want to learn how to finger? Well, it turned out to be a drinking game in which the players all lay a finger on the edge of a glass and you need to guess how quickly someone pulls it back. Which is nice to know – but it’s a pity she was talking about a game.”