Ping-pong, endurance, card, and other types of drinking games: are these games of the same feather?
The goal of this study was to investigate the structural heterogeneity of drinking games with respect to beverage type consumed, competitiveness, intoxication level and game duration, as well as the motives for participation in different games and their relevance to intoxication level while playing. Participants were female students (N = 162; M age = 20.3; 18-24 years) attending an all-women's college in the Northeastern U.S. Descriptive analyses revealed variations across the different types of drinking games with respect to popularity, type of alcoholic beverage consumed, competitiveness, intoxication level and game duration. Motivations for playing drinking games were also differentially associated with intoxication level across the different game categories. Implications for programming and intervention efforts and future research directions are discussed.
Epidemiological studies indicate that roughly 40% of college students drink heavily (O'Malley & Johnston, 2002). Moreover, 91% of the alcohol used by college students is consumed in the form of binge drinking (Ham & Hope, 2003). Researchers also note the growing rate of heavy drinking at all-women's colleges during the past several years (Ham & Hope, 2003; Wechsler, Lee, Kuo, Sibring, Neilson, & Lee, 2002). Many college students consume high amounts of alcohol during drinking games (DG) (Borsari, Bergen-Cico, & Carey, 2003). In fact, DG can promote elevated consumption in a short time and often facilitate intoxication (Borsari, 2004). Not surprisingly, Borsari's (2004) review of the DG literature highlights a number of adverse health and social repercussions resulting from participation in DG such as hangovers, heightened aggression, vandalism, missing class, and driving while intoxicated. Additionally, the role of gender is an important consideration with respect to DG participation; for example, a recent study indicated that the association between alcohol-related problems and DG participation was stronger for women than for men (Pedersen & LaBrie, 2006). Altogether, these statistics illustrate the need to further our knowledge and understanding of DG participation and related behaviors in college students, particularly among women. The present investigation was designed to examine the structural heterogeneity of DG and female college students' motives for playing DG.
Heterogeneity of Drinking Games
DG are heterogeneous and can be separated into several different categories (for a review of game descriptions see Borsari, 2004; Zamboanga, Leitkowski, Rodriguez, & Cascio, 2006). For example, Verbal games (e.g., Never Have I Ever) are structured such that specific verbal responses and/or questions dictate participants' alcohol consumption. Media games (e.g., Roxanne) are designed so that each participant imbibes when a verbal or action cue is depicted by predetermined TV/Video/Music sources. Endurance games (e.g., Power Hour) are set up specifically to promote elevated alcohol use in a short time and in general, these games do not require a lot of cognitive or motor abilities on the part of the participants. Because the structure and design of DG vary, one might also expect DG to differ with respect to popularity, type of alcoholic beverage consumed, competitiveness, intoxication level, and game duration. For example, Endurance games (e.g., Power Hour) are designed such that participants continuously drink for a given amount of time resulting in elevated intoxication levels and prolonged game duration. Consumption of hard liquor alone will likely preclude continued participation in these games, thus it is conceivable that gamers will consume soft liquor alone or in combination with hard liquor to allow extended involvement.
Conceivably, team oriented types of games such as Speed (e.g., Flip Cup) and Ping-Pong (e.g., Beer Pong/Beirut) games will be highly competitive. Borsari (2004) noted, "[d]rinking games often simulate a competitive environment, replete with winner, losers, and spectators" (p. 37). This sports-like feature can be appealing and as such, games that are perceived as highly competitive may also be very popular among college students.
Altogether, DG vary considerably by virtue of their structure and therefore participants' gaming experiences may differ as a function of the type of games they play. Surprisingly, many researchers often treat DG as homogeneous, and it is often assumed that all DG pose similar health risks such as heavy alcohol use. These assumptions have yet to be confirmed (Zamboanga et al., 2006); however, it is conceivable that specific types of DG (e.g., Endurance games) pose greater health risks compared to others (e.g., Coordination games). Moreover, DG may differ with respect to their contextual (e.g., popularity, competitiveness) and behavioral (e.g., type of beverage consumed while playing games, intoxication level) structure. Therefore, the heterogeneity of DG is an important factor worth considering due to the potential health risks they pose for college gamers.
Motives for Playing Drinking Games
According to Johnson and Sheets (2004), "motives or reasons for drinking ... refer to specific outcomes that an individual intends to produce from drinking." (p. 92). Although prior research has examined specific motives for alcohol use and their relevance to consumption, few studies have investigated these motives across specific drinking contexts (Johnson & Sheets, 2004). Indeed, DG are one social context in which heavy alcohol consumption is prevalent. Johnson and Sheets' (2004) work builds on prior research on college students' motives for alcohol consumption by examining specific motives for DG participation. They researched eight dimensions: competition and thrills, conformity, fun and celebration, social lubrication, novelty, sexual manipulation, boredom, and coping. Their findings showed that competition and thrills, fun and celebration, social lubrication, sexual manipulation, coping, and boredom were positively associated with the amount of alcohol consumed per week while playing DG. In short, Johnson and Sheets' (2004) findings suggest that college students' motives can impact their consumption level when playing DG. Because DG are uniquely structured, particularly with respect to the task(s) involved, competitiveness, social atmosphere, and intoxication level, one might expect differences regarding the associations between motives for playing and intoxication level across the different types of games.
Study Aims and Research Questions
The primary goal of the present investigation was to examine the heterogeneity of DG among female college students. Building on Zamboanga et al.'s (2006) and Johnson and Sheet's (2004) work, this investigation was designed to address three limitations in these previous studies. First, Zamboanga et al. (2006) examined the heterogeneity of DG with respect to popularity, type of beverage consumed, and intoxication level. However, they did not examine other relevant aspects of DG such as competitiveness level and game duration. DG that are highly competitive can be attractive for some students which could make certain games highly popular. Moreover, game duration is a relevant consideration because it sheds light on the rate of alcohol consumption. As such, we explored these structural elements in the present study. Second, Zamboanga et al. (2006) did not examine how motives for DG participation and their relevance to intoxication level might vary across different games. Given the heterogeneous structure of DG, it is conceivable that students play and become intoxicated when playing different games for various reasons. To address this limitation, we examined motives for DG participation and their relevance to intoxication level across different game categories. Third, one aim of the Johnson and Sheets (2004) study was to examine the associations between specific DG motivations and alcohol consumption. However, they did not investigate how specific motives might be associated with intoxication level across different game types. Thus, we examined these associations in our investigation. We focused on intoxication level because prior research has highlighted the important role of drunkenness with respect to alcohol-related problems (Nagoshi, Wood, Cote, & Abbit, 1994). Given the heterogeneity of DG and prior reports (Borsari, 2004; Zamboanga et al., 2006), we expected variations to emerge with respect to popularity, type of beverage consumed, competitiveness, and intoxication levels across different games. Moreover in light of the unique structures of DG, we also anticipated differences in the associations between garners' motives for playing DG and intoxication level across different types of games. We did not advance any specific hypotheses regarding these associations; rather, we treated this issue as an exploratory research question.
Participants and Procedures
Participants in this cross-sectional study were 162 traditional age (M = 20.3, SD = 1.36; 18-24 years) students at an all-women's college in the Northeastern United States who indicated that they played DG. Respondents were pooled from two different studies in which participants completed a 30-minute self-report questionnaire after providing written informed consent. The first study focused exclusively on college athletes' social and health behaviors (N = 98). We collected data for this investigation over three-weeks during the spring semester. After completing the survey, participants received a written debriefing form and $25 cash/gift certificate. The second study focused on drinking behaviors among college students in general (N = 256). We collected data from several large psychology courses during the fall/spring semesters; respondents received course credit.
Preliminary analyses revealed significant group differences in motives for playing DG between student athletes and non-athletes with respect to coping, F(1, 158) = 7.92, p < .01, [[eta].sup.2] = .05 and social lubrication, F(1, 158) = 5.87, p < .02, [[eta].sup.2] = .04; compared to student athletes, non-athletes were more likely to endorse these motives. No significant differences emerged among the other study variables. Preliminary descriptive analyses also showed that when participants reported the gender of the individuals they typically played DG with, 28% indicated that they usually play with all women, 22% said that they play with an equal proportion of men and women, 35% reported that the groups were mixed but usually consisted of more women, 12% reported that the groups were mixed but usually comprised of more men, and 4% indicated that the groups consisted of only men.
Drinking game type. Respondents completed a grid that listed popular categories of DG played on college campuses (e.g., Verbal, Ping-Pong, Card); in this grid, participants reported the specific type(s) of DG they have played during college. For each category, one or two examples of specific games [e.g., Card Games (ex: Kings); Ping Pong Game (ex: Beirut/Beer Pong)] were provided. For each type of game played, participants also indicated the type of alcoholic beverage consumed (hard liquor; soft liquor; both soft/hard liquor), the competitiveness level (1 = Not at all competitive to 5 = Extremely competitive), their perceived level of intoxication (1 = Not drunk at all to 5 = Extremely drunk), and game duration (in minutes) (see Table 1).
Motives for playing drinking games. Respondents completed the Motives for Drinking Games Measure (MDGM; Johnson & Sheets, 2004). The MDGM measures participants' specific motives or reasons for playing DG including competition and thrills (M= 1.65, SD = .54, range, 1.0-3.4, [alpha] = .72; e.g., "for the competition"), conformity (M = 1.62, SD = .64, range, 1.0-4.0, = .86; e.g., "to fit in"), fun and celebration (M = 2.65, SD = .66, range, 1.0-4.0, [alpha] = .78; e.g., "to liven up a boring party"), social lubrication (M = 1.87, SD = .65, range, 1.0-3.6, [alpha] = .79; e.g., "a way to get to know other people"), novelty (M = 2.08, SD = .64, range, 1.0-3.7, [alpha] = .60; e.g., "a more exciting way to drink"), boredom (M = 1.76, SD = .64, range, 1.0-4.0, [alpha] = .66; e.g., "to kill time"), coping (M = 1.50, SD = .57, range, 1.0-4.0, [alpha] = .72; e.g., "to forget about problems"), and sexual manipulation (M = 1.14, SD = .30, range, 1.0-2.3, [alpha] = .66; e.g., "to have sex with someone"). Due to the restricted range of responses to the motive of sexual manipulation, we did not include this motive in our analyses. Participants reported the importance of each statement with respect to their decision to play DG using a 4-point scale (1 = Not at all important to 4 = Very important). Respondents received a score for each DG motive by summing across all items within each subscale and dividing by the total number of items within that subscale.
Data Analytic Approach
We conducted our analyses using SPSS (Version 11.5). First, to explore the heterogeneity of DG, we computed descriptive statistics of their various characteristics (popularity, drink type, competitiveness, intoxication level, and game duration). Second, we conducted bivariate correlation analyses to examine how students' specific motivations for playing DG are associated with intoxication level across different DG.
Structural Heterogeneity of DG
Descriptive analyses revealed variations across the different types of DG with respect to the structural elements of DG (see Table 1 for description of different categories of DG). Descriptive statistics are presented below.
Popularity. Participation in Ping-Pong (73%) and Card (60%) games was the most frequent among respondents. Participation in Speed (41%), Board (32%), Verbal (24%), Coin (15%), Endurance (13%), and TV/Video (11%) games was reported less frequently. Participation in Musical (8%) and Coordination (6%) games was infrequently reported.
Type of beverage consumed. Across all games, the majority of participants consumed soft liquor alone or in combination with hard liquor. Consumption of soft liquor alone was quite prevalent during participation in Speed (76%), Ping-Pong (75%), Endurance (67%), Coin (46%), and TV/Video (37%) games. Consumption of hard and soft liquor was frequently reported by those who played Musical (57%), Card (50%), Coordination (50%), and Verbal (41%) games.
Competitiveness level. Participants of Speed (M = 4.02, SD = 1.24) and Ping-Pong (M = 3.88, SD = 1.23) games perceived these games as highly competitive. The participants of Coin, Coordination, Card, Endurance, Board, and Verbal games viewed these games as moderately competitive, whereas the participants of Musical (M = 1.71, SD = 1.07) and TV/Video (M = 1.58, SD = .96) games perceived these games as modestly competitive.
Intoxication level. Most participants who played Endurance games reported high intoxication levels (M = 4.10, SD = 1.00); conversely, the majority of those who played Coordination games reported low levels of intoxication (M = 2.00, SD = .82). Across the other games, most participants reported moderate intoxication levels.
Duration of game. Participants in Ping-Pong, Card, Board, Endurance, and TV/Video games reported the longest average playing times, lasting between 48-54 minutes. Participants in Musical games reported the lowest average playing time of 16 minutes. The other categories of DG lasted between 24 to 37 minutes, on average.
Motivations for DG Participation and their Association with Intoxication Level
The DG motives of conformity and boredom were not associated with intoxication levels for any game types. Across the majority of DG categories, the motives of fun and celebration and competition and thrills, were positively correlated with intoxication level. For Coin and Endurance games, coping (r = .46, p < .05 for Coin games; r = .36, p < .10 for Endurance games) and novelty (r = .32, p <. 10 for Coin games; r = .50, p < .05 for Endurance games) were positively correlated with intoxication level; social lubrication was also positively associated with intoxication level for Coin games (r = .34, p <. 10). For Board games, social lubrication was the only motive positively correlated (marginal) with intoxication level (r = .24, p <. 10). For Verbal games, all of the DG motives examined were positively associated with intoxication level. We conducted follow-up bivariate correlation analyses controlling for athletic membership on the motives of coping and social lubrication for playing DG. Overall, results yielded highly similar correlation coefficients and p-values.
The prevalence of elevated alcohol use among college women (Ham & Hope, 2003) and the heavy drinking endemic to DG (Borsari, 2004) underscore the importance of alcohol research in this population and served as the impetus for the present study. Given our descriptive analyses, it appears that not all DG pose the same health risk for participants, which is consistent with Zamboanga et al.'s (2006) prior findings. For example, on average, when partaking in Endurance games, participants reported higher intoxication levels than when playing Coordination and Musical games. Furthermore, although participants in Board and Endurance games reported comparable game durations (50 min. vs. 54 min., respectively), the average intoxication level reported by participants differed (2.80 vs. 4.10; on a 1-5 scale). Given these descriptive findings, Endurance games pose a great health risk for participants. Endurance games foster high-risk drinking contexts and the motives for participation in these types of games likely involved coping and novelty. Students who are involved in these types of games may be experiencing other psychological challenges (e.g., coping issues) and tendencies (e.g., novelty-seeking) that warrant attention. Health educators and practitioners should therefore consider the type of DG students play, as well as their reasons for participation. For instance, a high proportion of respondents indicated participation in DG which were perceived as highly competitive (e.g., Ping Pong, Speed); this suggests that students might be attracted to the competitive feature of these types of DG. Altogether, these descriptive statistics shed light on the heterogeneity of DG and gaming-related behaviors.
Our findings revealed that among students who reported playing Verbal, Ping-Pong, Card, and Coin games, the motives of competition and thrills as well as fun and celebration were positively associated with levels of intoxication in these games. While Johnson and Sheets (2004) did not examine specific games, their study also found that these motives (among others) were associated with consumption levels when playing DG. Because the college years can be described as a period of elevated social activity during which alcohol use is likely to take place (Baer, 2002), students may learn or perhaps become socialized into thinking that fun and celebration calls for participation in gaming activities.
DG are inherently different (Borsari, 2004) and motivations for playing vary across game type. Among students who reported playing Board games, social lubrication was associated with higher levels of intoxication; perhaps students participate in Board games purely for social reasons and to get to know others. Among the students who played Verbal games, all the DG motivations examined (with the exception of boredom and conformity) were associated with elevated intoxication level. The reason for this finding remains unclear; however, it is possible that the structure of these games contains a variety of attractive features that make them appealing to students. Though Borsari (2004) noted that DG are "replete with winner, losers, and spectators" (p. 37), Verbal games embody a unique kind of competition. The competitive nature of these games can serve as a means to compare one's social status with others without concrete winners or losers per se. Verbal games also have the potential to create a therapeutic social context whereby participants "loosen up" and are able to verbalize their life experiences. As such, participants may perceive these games as a coping mechanism and a way to relax. Given the social context it creates, Verbal games allow participants to get to know and learn about one another, thus it is not surprising to find that students become more intoxicated during these games for social reasons.
The present findings have potential implications for college programmers and counselors. First, because DG are heterogeneous and students' motivations for playing DG vary, college officials should work to educate staff and students about these issues. Second, college programmers and counselors should provide non-drinking activities as an alternative to DG for all students. Perhaps they might consider providing alternative, low-risk social outlets that embody a similar competitive climate to those found in DG. Third, health practitioners and college officials should be mindful of students' alcohol consumption and their participation in specific types of DG as an outlet for fun and celebration. Providing alternative, safe student recreation activities can help address students' tendencies to imbibe heavily in times of celebration (e.g., post-exam periods). These intervention strategies could be tailored to all students and contain different information based on the student's individual and personal motivations for playing DG.
There are some key limitations worth noting regarding our study. First, the study population consisted of students at an all-women's college; thus, the findings may not generalize to other students (e.g., male and/or female students at other colleges). Second, we acknowledge the limited sample size of participants who reported playing certain categories of DG in our study. Future studies on the heterogeneity of DG should be conducted with students from a variety of colleges with large sample sizes. Furthermore, research could take a person-centered approach (i.e., cluster analysis) to examine the heterogeneity of DG. Third, given the cross-sectional design of our study, any inferences of causality with respect to our study findings and the associations between DG motivations and intoxication level cannot be made. Experimental studies designed to examine how the various structural elements of DG influence college gaming behaviors will contribute to researchers' and educators' understanding of drinking behaviors in this context. Fourth, although college students would be expected to be familiar with the difference between hard and soft types of alcoholic beverages, it is possible that some respondents may have reported their use of these drinks based on their own understanding of these drink types. Finally, because we used self-reports of DG behaviors and beliefs, statements reminding participants that their responses would be kept confidential were incorporated throughout the questionnaire. Although such precautionary measures were implemented to help with data accuracy, the possibility remains that participants may have under- or over-reported their responses. Despite these limitations, the present study addressed the paucity of research on DG in the alcohol literature, particularly with respect to the diversity of these games. Altogether, we examined the structural heterogeneity of DG and the motives for participation in specific games. Further research and education on this topic can help guide programming and intervention efforts aimed at reducing hazardous drinking behaviors on college campuses. Such efforts will allow researchers and health practitioners to better understand which DG pose a serious health-risk for college students and which ones are simply "just games."
We are grateful to Dr. Sam A. Hardy, Dr. Laura Padilla-Walker, and Janine Olthuis for their thoughtful comments on this paper. We also thank Jennifer Hockensmith, Jennifer Paul, Rachel Russell and Mona Sabagh for their assistance with data entry on this project. This investigation was supported by a grant to Byron L. Zamboanga from the Committee on Faculty Compensation and Development and the Office of Research and Development, Smith College.
Send correspondence concerning this article to Byron L. Zamboanga, Department of Psychology, Smith College, Northampton, MA, 01063, US. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Byron L. Zamboanga, Barbara D. Calvert, Siobhan S. O'Riordan & Elan C. McCollum
TABLE 1. Descriptive Statistics for Specific Drinking Games. Beverage Drinking Games Popularity Type Game Type: Example(s) n (%) H S B Ping-Pong: Beirut/Beer Pong 118 (73%) 3% 75% 22% Card: Kings, Up & Down the 97 (60%) 14% 36% 50% River Speed: Flip-Cup, Boat 67 (41%) 6% 76% 17% Races, Chug-A-Lug Board: Monopoly, Cranium, 52 (32%) 22% 39% 39% Apples to Apples Verbal: Categories, Never 39 (24%) 21% 38% 41% Have I Ever Coin: Quarters, Moose 24 (15%) 25% 46% 29% Endurance: Power Hour, Century Club 21 (13%) 5% 67% 29% TV/Video: Movie, Sports 19 (11%) 32% 37% 32% Games Television Shows Musical: Roxanne 14 (8%) 0% 43% 57% Coordination: Jenga 10 (6%) 10% 40% 50% Competitiveness Intoxication Drinking Games Level Level Game Type: Example(s) M/SD Range M/SD Range Ping-Pong: Beirut/Beer Pong 3.88/1.23 1.0-5.0 3.00/1.00 1.0-5.0 Card: Kings, Up & Down the 2.56/1.18 1.0-5.0 2.94/.88 1.0-5.0 River Speed: Flip-Cup, Boat 4.02/1.24 1.0-5.0 3.00/1.10 1.0-5.0 Races, Chug-A-Lug Board: Monopoly, Cranium, 2.25/1.00 1.0-4.0 2.80/.85 1.0-5.0 Apples to Apples Verbal: Categories, Never 2.23/1.25 1.0-5.0 2.90/.96 1.0-4.0 Have I Ever Coin: Quarters, Moose 3.00/1.16 1.0-5.0 2.75/1.00 1.0-5.0 Endurance: Power Hour, Century Club 2.38/1.20 1.0-5.0 4.10/1.00 2.0-5.0 TV/Video: Movie, Sports 1.58/.96 1.0-5.0 3.10/1.20 1.0-5.0 Games Television Shows Musical: Roxanne 1.71/1.07 1.0-5.0 2.79/.89 1.0-4.0 Coordination: Jenga 2.90/1.29 1.0-5.0 2.00/.82 1.0-3.0 Duration of Entire Drinking Games Game (Minutes) Game Type: Example(s) M/SD Range Ping-Pong: Beirut/Beer Pong 48.2/41.0 4.0-280 Card: Kings, Up & Down the 48.0/52.0 1.0-350 River Speed: Flip-Cup, Boat 23.8/36.7 .80-225 Races, Chug-A-Lug Board: Monopoly, Cranium, 50.5/37.2 8.0-189 Apples to Apples Verbal: Categories, Never 29.0/20.4 1.5-80 Have I Ever Coin: Quarters, Moose 35.0/26.3 10-100 Endurance: Power Hour, Century Club 53.8/38.6 2.0-180 TV/Video: Movie, Sports 48.8/38.5 2.0-100 Games Television Shows Musical: Roxanne 15.7/18.7 3.0-56 Coordination: Jenga 36.7/33.9 15-120 Note. N = 162 respondents with complete cases; some participants reported having played more than one game. Games with <10 participants are not shown (Dice and Luck Games). H = Hard Liquor, S = Soft Liquor, B = Both Hard/Soft Liquor. TABLE 2. Motives for Playing DG and Level of Intoxication by Game Type. Game Type Motives for DG Verbal (a) Ping-Pong Card Coin (a) Participation (n=39) (n=118) (n=97) (n=24) Fun and Celebration .57 ** .36 ** .36 ** .50 ** Competition & Thrills .39 ** .24 * .26 * .29 + Coping .35 * .01 .06 .46 * Novelty .29 * .10 .02 .32 + Social Lubrication .42 ** -.03 .05 .34 + Game Type Motives for DG Speed Endurance (a) Board Participation (n=67) (n=21) (n=52) Fun and Celebration .38 ** .33 + .04 Competition & Thrills .14 .05 .01 Coping .11 .36 + .03 Novelty .06 .50 * .12 Social Lubrication .07 -.10 .24 + Note. N = 162 respondents with complete cases; some participants reported having played more than one game. (a) One-tailed test, + p <.10 (marginally significant); * p <.05; ** p <.01. The DG motives of conformity and boredom were not associated with intoxication level for any DG category and were therefore excluded from the table.
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|Author:||McCollum, Elan C.|
|Publication:||Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2007|
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