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.


  1. Truly, let this be preserved in posterity as a rant for the ages. It is like I am in the room with you. Nervously nodding and chuckling while looking around for the exit.

  2. CAH is a useful indicator that there is no fun left in a party and that I should go home. I wish no harm to those that play the game, I simply wish that their cards turned to ash in their hands.

    -the wife

    1. Lovely, you are the Yin to my Yang, the Good Cop to my Bad Cop, the Reasonable Response to my Felonious Intent.

  3. I remember you two mentioning this over the summer, and I gave some thought to it, and I've come to agree. It always seemed like a good idea to start playing, whenever someone pulls it out... but fairly soon after, it gets kinda boring. I think you vocalized it quite well, here. Are there games you would recommend to do in its place? Not necessarily "Party Games", but games that can accommodate a larger group.

    1. You've got personal experience with my version of Favor-Swap Poker, which is sort of my take on party games, and could probably manage up to eight people at once. I should probably formalize those rules someday. For commercial games, I'm having success with "Mascarade" from Repos Productions. It handles up to 13 players, takes only five minutes to teach, plays fast and encourages a lot of fun social interaction.

    2. I've heard folks suggest Dixit instead of CAH / Apples to Apples with some success. E.T. was recently playing Dixit Jinx in a social like manner at a party while I was playing 7 Wonders with another group. I would recommend 7 Wonders for a biggish group - but it has a pretty serious learning curve and only goes up to 7 or 8 (with an expansion I think).

      I recently heard the defense that CAH lets buttoned up people go wild, which is an interesting goal I suppose. I've never seen that occur.

    3. I do love Dixit... that's a cute little game, but I haven't played with more than 4 people.

  4. Perhaps we don't play enough Apples to Apples, or we have enough mundane friends who think it's still a novel experience, but it's still in our rotation.

    CAH are for those people who think "Fluffy = The Holocaust" isn't EXXXTTTRREEEEMMMMMEEEE!!!! enough. Masturbating Pandas and roided out Professional Wrestlers belong in HoL, not a card game.