How to make a drinking game

Sure, we all know what a drinking game is: a game designed to get you wrecked. But what does it look like from the perspective of a game designer? How does it work?

Gaming critic Mattie Brice explores these questions in an article about her experiences at a drinking game jam, where participants set out to create original drinking games, and learn a bit about how these experiences function in the process.

In many popular games like Beer Pong or Quarters, players are given a challenge—say, making a shot—and drinking is the "punishment" for failure. But as Brice notes, it's often ambiguous whether this is truly a punishment or a reward, since drinking with friends is usually the explicit goal of drinking games from the outset.

"Creating a difficult choice between drinking and another action appealed to me, like having to confess an emotion or drink, or some other lose-lose situation," writes Brice. "We also noted that most drinking games are designed for skill level to steadily deteriorate once you've started to take some hits and drink, that is, the parts of your brain that is affected by alcohol will be the parts needed to avoid drinking." Of course, it's also important to make (and play) drinking games in a way that won't send someone to the hospital; games without an "ending condition"—where there is no way to win or finish—can be particularly dangerous.

Although some drinking games are simply endurance tests of how much alcohol you can consume, others like the confessional Never Have I Ever, aim to wear down inhibitions and promote intimacy. While encouraging emotional vulnerability and human connection sounds like a particularly interesting objective for a drinking game, Brice says she quickly discovered how hard it is to achieve, especially while keeping the rules simple and the experience low-risk enough for strangers to feel comfortable playing together.

Read the full article for more, including the rules for five original drinking games based around the theme of "mischief and subterfuge." Personally, I think Speed Fist sounds pretty fun.

Mattie Brice

Mattie Brice