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International Drinking Game Rules Explained

There are a number of rules that most people playing drinking games--no matter which country they may come from--agree upon as "International Drinking Game Rules." These are the default rules that are always considered to be active no matter what game you might happen to be playing. Violation of these rules means--surprise surprise--that you have to take a penalty drink (anywhere from a sip to a healthy swallow of alcohol. Not shots, unless you're playing with particularly cruel people).

The Rules:

  1. No pointing. You need to either indicate by nodding your head, or, more popularly, use your elbow to indicate.
  2. No swearing. Depending on the crowd, blasphemy is usually excluded as "swearing" (people who play drinking games aren't, on the whole, particularly religious).
  3. You must drink with your left hand. Failure to do so means you do all your drinks over again. Sometimes an added wrinkle is included: you must drink with your left pinky finger extended, as if you were a "sissy drinking tea" as a co-drinker so colorfully put it.
  4. You are not allowed to say "drink," "drunk," "drank," or any variation thereof. You must find other euphemisms for the oral consumption of alcohol.
  5. No calling people by their popular names. (Usually this rule is ignored unless you know everyone quite well and have plenty of pet names for people, as it can make a game quite chaotic and disorganized when everyone is trying to learn everyone else's name).
  6. False accusation. If you accuse someone of violating a rule that they in fact didn't, they drinks karmically come back. As you sow, so shall you reap.

So, a typical line of dialogue from a neophyte playing a drinking game with us goes something like: "Okay Stu, that's three drinks for you. [pointing and catching himself] Oh shit, that means I have to drink as well now. Fuck, no swearing either. I hate that fucking rule! How many drinks do I have now?" earning himself a total of 8 drinks (one for rule 1, three for rule 2, three for rule 4, and one for 5). If telling Stu to drink was a false accusation, he has another three drinks waiting for him, and there will be a crowd of people watching his every move to see if he slips up and uses his right hand to drink so they can make him go through it all over again.

The upshot of this is that it creates a very palpable aura of paranoia. People learn to act as if these rules continue to apply even when they're not playing drinking games (or sometimes, not even drinking), and get into an extreme state of unease about the entire thing. You can figure them out because they're the group of people gesturing with their elbows, who never learned each others' names, won't swear, and refuse to touch anyone's "tasty beverage" with their right hand, even for a swig. Generally they speak in elaborate euphemisms and seem pathologically afraid of violating the rules. They are suffering from an alcoholic form of shellshock. They are the bottlecases.

This is complicated even further by the individual rules of various drinking games--including the drinking games that allow you to make up rules as you go. In games such as Around the World, one rule forces you to drink if you were to answer someone's question, in another game you must ask permission to leave the table, and every once in awhile someone makes up a rule that you must ask permission to smoke or touch your face. It's easy to tell what specific games a bottlecase has been playing by their neuroses. (A partial list of these potential rules can be found in the Extra Drinking Game Rules page of the "Drinking" section of this website.)

At first glance, it seems as if these rules attempt to impose a Fascist order onto what should be a gleefully chaotic bout of Dionysian revelry (after all, I have been called a Game Nazi before). While this is not entirely inaccurate, it does kind of miss the point. Like the tenets of National Socialism, drinking game rules give you a faux legitimate excuse to do what you wanted to do anyway: in the Nazis case, it was kill Jews and take over the world, in our case, it's to get as pissed as possible as efficiently as possible (hopefully more successfully than the Nazis).

Okay, maybe that's a bad example. Let's try again. Everything holy acquires rituals. Why should drinking large quantities of alcohol with a group of friends or strangers be any different?


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This page last updated on 12 January, 2002, and has been passed out on the couch ever since.
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