Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Cards Against Humanity" is a Terrible Thing ... And I Mean That Unironically

It's the continuing darling of slightly edgy hipsters and a fixture of nerd-cool gatherings everywhere.

Know Your Enemy

Creative Commons paragon.
Kickstarter success story.
Gaming phenomenon.

Oh how I hate it. My wife hates it. When I see people carrying it, I plot their cleansing murder. We have friends we simply will not accept invitations from anymore because they're CAH fans.

Don't jump to the obvious conclusion, its not that I find CAH's deliberately puerile subjects offensive. Or more accurately, I don't care that's it offensive, because its a juvenile type of offensiveness, barely above the level of a kid shouting "poop!" to make their friends giggle. Such a petty and lunkheaded caliber of transgression, it comes off not at all daring or powerful, just self-demeaning.

No, the real reason I want CAH purged from my social circles is that first, its a party game, and as a rule party games are awful experiences. Party games are half-assed substitutes for alcohol, in that they're supposed to serve as social lubricants. Get everyone doing and saying silly things, dropping barriers, sharing embarrassing stories and presumably friendships will be founded/reinforced. That alcohol-substitution is the reason the stereotypical image of teetotaling church youth clubs (all wearing purity rings) usually involves charades and pictionary (and despite the frat-boy branding that's exactly the social tradition CAH follows).

The Scattergory  is "S" for Son of God!

And because the goal is to force social interaction in a way that avoids exclusion, from a game-play perspective party games are weak. Play tends to be highly subjective, goals loose, play times indefinite, intellectual challenges minimal, and this is all aggressively manifest in CAH. The last time I was forced to play CAH, I stopped strategically choosing cards and instead played from my hand at random just to see what would happen; I won the game. About half the time I see CAH played, nobody bothers to keep score and the game devolves into people just drawing the cards directly from the box to read aloud and laugh at the sophomoric humor. Its barely more tactically challenging than War, but adult gamers everywhere still want to play it.

Maybe if I re-skin it with dick-jokes and racist humor, I can be a kickstarter winner to!

Worse, CAH is just a reskin of an earlier party game, Apples to Apples. Almost entirely the same ruleset and interminable play time (A-to-A games aren't won, they're abandoned). And I already got sick of Apples to Apples years ago.

All that on its own would be tolerable; there's plenty of games and whole game styles I dislike, but I can simply avoid them and thus not be agitated by them. But no, the second thing that makes CAH terrible is that it is ubiquitous and cancerous. Nearly every party I go to to, particularly gamer gatherings, somebody brings a CAH Big Black Box and sooner or later the cards get dealt, reducing a roomful of formerly conversant adults to doofuses braying "Poop! Haw haw haw, Poopie!"

Pictured: braying doofuses (allegedly)

Salting the wound, those people keep assuming that I automatically like CAH because I'm an avowed gamer, and that I owe them appreciation for bringing it (rather than, as mentioned before, a cleansing murder). Which is really aggravating when at those times what I'm really feeling is the same sort of stress I get from the song that's overplayed on the radio, the office joke I'm sick of hearing, the pop-up ad on every website. Grateful? No, my dear CAH fan, you are poisoning my social and gaming life with a petty, stupid thing, and might as well ask me to feel grateful for a box of fresh manure.

Until now, I've practiced tolerance towards CAH and those who promote it. Live and let live, let them have their kind of fun so I can have mine, don't espouse a negative attitude that may cost me friends, that sort of thing. But to Hell with it, I'm going proactive. From now on, I will clearly and directly tell people who bring it into my company that CAH is a terrible thing, and will treat it like the flatulent Saint Bernard stinking up the room that it is.  This may cost me some social contacts, but it'll be utterly worth it to purge Cards Against Humanity from my life.

My sentiments exactly.