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Gaming the Game: Finding Balance in Fun and Party When Everyone’s Drunk

I’m horrible at math. Especially public math. It’s why I’m anxiously terrible at playing board games or tabletop campaigns. It’s why I love video games, flashy calculators doing all the physics and arithmetic behind the scenes for me. It’s why I basically majored in rules, words and basic probability, and game design, instead of coding at the video game college I graduated from. Alas, I’ve found myself scorekeeping, scribbling down results, rewarding sportsmanship and docking points for bad behavior, while a rowdy mass of geeks’ fair chance to win $200 rests in my hands.

“I just want to do a comedy show where we play video games and drink,” Jesse McGrath (SF Sketchfest) related two years ago. It was part joke, part wish, part gripe. We’ve been friends since high school, started doing stand-up in SF together, and, after four years, the everyday open mic grind had taken its toll. I was on my way out as a performer, Jesse was limited to weekend warrior status; our day jobs had caught up with us, waiting around for three hours for three minutes of stage time wasn’t fun anymore. It’s perhaps why our new venture. Super Trashed Bros, is the most fun: why it’s so easy, so natural; why it inspires our highest care, work, commitment, passion; why we’ve made fast friends with strangers; and why good natured strangeness—hilarious heckles, histrionics, naked or clothed costumes—is so encompassing. It’s why I’m doing the math.

Super Trashed Bros is a monthly show we put on in San Francisco. Teams of gamers, comics, wrestlers, people from all walks of life get together to compete to win prizes playing video and board games and getting drunk off their asses. Check out our site.

Our show streams online, but the magic (and debauchery) is in the room. Most comedy shows are stagnant, passive but demanding reaction. A lot of video game events (especially those with commentary), are intense, exclusive or intimidating. We marry the two to, hopefully, avoid the pitfalls of either. After being banned from Oakland’s video game museum, having a too-hot-for-TwitchTV party at FLOPHOUSE’s SylvanHouse, and establishing a flagship monthly residence at the 8-bit, Russian-inspired Soda Popinskis’s, we finally created Drunkathalon, with teams battling amongst yelling and showboating and wackiness every fourth Wednesday at PianoFight. It’s our culmination.

In game theory it’s called “the meta”, the game outside the game. The meta is usually in reference to leaderboards, social hierarchies and strategy lingo, juxtaposed to a game’s “mechanics”, its controls or allotted player actions. Our meta is meta: self aware and ironic tasks to take the seriousness out of competitive gaming. We call our drinking prompts “jarules”. Failure to call them jarules, take a drink. Lose a life in a game of Super Smash Bros—our namesake—take a drink. Fall off the track in Mario Kart, chug until you respawn. If you bring the Jenga tower down, finish your drink. All jarules are carefully considered, tweaked and honed for the most fun and least hangovers. We don’t want people obliterated, nor do we want the best players to get too comfortable. While we embrace the “Trashed” in our identity, the drinks can be nonalcoholic, only required nearby as a distraction from playing the game. The panic in having to sip, slurp, gulp, or chug while trying to shoot, punch, fly or score is priceless. How often that panic occurs is precision. It’s like we have sliders and knobs on being blatto (or just plain bewildered), like we’re dungeon masters for a nerdy house party. Strategies emerge to offset our irreverent handicaps. That’s meta on meta on meta.

And, the weirdest thing emerges: our audience, friends or soon-to-be friends, begin redefining the experience, making it theirs, imprinting their personality on the show and on each other. Garrish loudmouths like Bert Devietri (Don’t Watch This Show Live!) became our de facto heels, our villains, heckled for their flamboyant arrogance. Jacob Rubin (TBS’ King of the Nerds) is our resident know it all. Chants of “Ra-chael, Ra-chael” and “Roy’s Our Boy” have echoed into our lexicon. Creativity in a team’s theme, like being graced by a gaggle of Power Rangers, or somebody schtick, like the continual entry (and absence) of “God”, emerges independently, is encouraged innately and adopted immediately. Super Trashed Bros is everybody’s show and inspires unforeseen—but greatly appreciated—voluntary dedication and support. Justin Gomes (Sylvan Productions) has naturally grown into a co-producer; he just wanted to help out, said Super Trashed Bros are his favorite nights of the month. His and others’ sacrifices have bolstered what started as an excuse for two friends to hangout into a bonafide community. I guess other people just want to play video games and drink as well.

It’s a hard sell to get people to turn up for an hour and a half on a Wednesday night, but, with continual support, there’s no telling where Super Trashed Bros will go. There’s been murmurs of more events and bigger productions, the whisper of a crowdsource campaign, some roadtrips. Who knows, we might even pay someone else to do the math.

Drunkathalon occurs monthly every fourth Wednesday at PianoFight (144 Taylor St. San Francisco). The next show is 4/27, 7pm, $10 per player, 2-6 players per team, costumes and silliness strongly encouraged.

Ticket Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/super-trashed-bros-drunkathalon-tickets-20822855722

OJ Patterson is the scorekeeper for Super Trashed Bros.

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