Tapper was an arcade game released in 1983. You play a bartender that has to serve all of the customers in the bar until they leave. It sounds monotonous, but is surprisingly addictive. You slide beers down the bar toward customers and if they are not served they march toward you until they reach you and slide you down the bar like the beers you didn’t serve them. Alcohol has quite a bit of rules in America, so we’ve got some things we can examine this week.

You do not check if anyone is old enough to drink when you play the game. This means that either there is a bouncer outside making sure everyone can legally drink, but the bouncer isn’t making sure that the crowd isn’t too much for you to handle; or there is simply no rule on who is allowed to drink and who may not. If there is no law regarding legal drinking ages then that means there is also no penalty for creating a fake identification card and there is no penalty for procuring alcohol for people. In some States it is illegal to serve alcohol to intoxicated persons. In Tapper the customer will keep advancing to you until you have served them a beer. This could create a loop where you haven’t served enough for them to leave, but you keep serving enough to make sure they don’t reach your end of the bar. This leads to the only conclusion that you do not have to worry about over serving in the Tapper universe. That or, it is impossible for a person to get intoxicated in that world.

Outdoor bar!
Outdoor bar!

If the world does have underage drinking laws then we can also worry about the bartender’s liability. The Wisconsin Statutes state that a person is not liable for selling or giving alcohol to a person under the drinking age unless they knew or should have known that the person was underage. Wis. Stat. §125.035 (2015). They also do not escape liability if they force someone underage to drink alcohol or if they represent that the drink is not alcoholic. Id. It is arguable that the characters in the game look like they are old enough to drink. We do not know if anyone is being asked for identification when they come into the bar. If they are not being asked to prove that they are above the drinking age and the bartender is forced to check we might have a problem. The bartender’s role in this game is to serve beers as quickly as possible. If customers make it to the end of the bar they throw him. He likely is not spending enough time making sure everyone is old enough to drink. This means he is either never liable for serving underage persons, or there is no drinking age and he doesn’t have to worry about serving minors. It is also important to remember that there is the possibility of the employer being legally liable for the actions of the employee, but I’m not examining that today.

The final level of the game also introduces some fun concepts. All of a sudden you are in a bar in outer space. It looks fairly similar to the previous levels, but you are now serving aliens. They shuffle down the bar towards you and they drink beer when you serve it to them. It is probably easiest to assume this alien community operates just like the world the bartender has just left. Anyone is allowed to drink, no one drinks more than they can handle, and it is completely fine to attack the bartender when he doesn’t do his job quick enough. How did this space bar become a thing? Is it the flagship bar and the bartender has gotten a few promotions and finally gotten to the most important bar in the franchise? If that’s the case then the rules were first established there and were put in place on Earth as well. How does this space bar operate under the same laws as Earth? Well we are possibly in some sort of intergalactic council that has a uniform set of rules. That is probably the easiest assumption to make. In Tapper, Earth has joined up with an unknown amount of planets in peace and all the laws are the same. Intergalactic tourism is a thing and our horizons have been limitlessly broadened.

This is not Tapper In Space
This is not Tapper In Space

One side effect seems to be some sort of super liability for property owners. In Tapper you are punished if you slide a beer toward someone who cannot catch it, if someone slides an empty mug back and you and you don’t catch it, or if someone reaches your end of the bar. If the final one happens you are tossed down the bar and straight out the door. No one questions these three truths. It seems reasonable for the bar to take responsibility for recklessly throwing beers at people, but for some reason they also face consequences for not doing their job quickly enough. Attacking the bartender is not illegal. The new laws we live under on Tapper Earth must allow customers to demand a pound of flesh for quality customer service. This is obviously different from how we operate now, and probably not ideal.

In Tapper, a simple arcade game released in 1983, the Earth is one of many countless planets joined in a peaceful society. Like in our world, people enjoy having a beer or three when they head out. Unlike our world, there are no laws about who is allowed to drink, and it is completely reasonable for a customer to send a message about their service with their fists. This is all the simplest explanation for what happens when you play this delightful little game.


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