New Wii game brews up controversy

The game, ‘Pong Toss,’ was originally called ‘Beer Pong.’

With a new game coming out on the Nintendo Wii , there might be no more need to make those late-night cup runs.

Next week, JV Games is scheduled to release “Pong Toss,” a game simulating the popular drinking game beer pong, on the Wii, a move that has multiple groups concerned.

The game is the first of the small video game developer’s Frat Party Games series, a franchise meant to mimic popular college games, JV Games vice president Jag Jaeger said.

“What our main goal is for the frat party franchise is to create very simple and competitive games,” Jaeger said. “The college-style games that we enjoyed so much, they fit into our goal models so perfectly.”

The game would use the system’s movement-based controls, allowing a player to simply flick their wrist to send the animated ping pong ball flying toward the plastic cups on screen.

When released, “Pong Toss” will only be available for download on the Wii’s WiiWare online component.

However, JV Games’ Web site features a mock-up of what the game’s packaging would look like: cartoonish lettering, a red plastic cup and orange ping pong ball – and it’s rating, “E” for everyone, means there are no restrictions on who can purchase the game.

Some have been critical of the game’s rating, including Jay Anhorn, president of the Association of Fraternity Advisors.

“The whole point of the game of beer pong is not to win, it’s to drink,” he said. “For a video game to come out mimicking a common college activity Ö bothered me the most.”

Anhorn wrote a letter to JV Games in June criticizing the game, then called “Beer Pong,” and its content.

While Jaeger said the game contains no alcohol content, Anhorn said he worries people will still use the game to drink.

“They would turn it into a drinking game,” he said of the game’s audience. “They would be playing it on the screen but drinking along with that. That was our bigger concern.”

Because of controversy, Jaeger said they changed the name to “Pong Toss” shortly thereafter, moving the game from its original “T” for teen rating to “E.”

“It’s a strange adversity to the word ‘beer’ being associated with the game,” Jaeger said. “I kind of think it’s ridiculous.”

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board , which rates video games based on their content, also received some heat for its rating of the game, including a letter from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asking that the game be given the “Adults Only” rating, the most restrictive available.

Nintendo has a policy against “AO” games on their systems.

In a statement, ESRB President Patricia Vance said “It would be improper to assign ratings solely based on the depiction of behavior which may be understandably discouraged by society at large.”

She then cited racing games and their common “E” ratings despite featuring illegal content such as high speeds and dangerous driving.

The ESRB has rated 770 games because of “substance” content, such as alcohol. Ratings based on violence, however, number more than 7,800.

Of the “AO” rated games listed on the ESRB Web site, only two contain references to alcohol.

Some University students were split on the game.

“I might play it, [but] I might not buy it,” biology junior Bobby Wasem said.

English sophomore Matt Hines said the game was just a way to make more money.

“Let’s just ‘Wii’ everything.” he said, adding, “Wii Reading.”

Science education graduate student Rebecca Usatine said she has friends who make drinking games out of other Wii games, such as “Mario Party.”

“It’s a dangerous combination,” classmate Julia Stanfield said.

Fellow graduate student Heather Oehler said she “hates beer pong.”

“I had a little bit of faith in the Wii,” she said. “Now that they have Wii beer pong, it seems like kind of a waste of effort.”

Jaeger said the backlash JV Games received for the game “came out of left field.”

“We had a couple of letters about the violence when we did James Bond [for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance], but that was like three letters,” he said. “Never anything like this.”