Tell me if this situation sounds familiar to you.
You’re in your early-to-mid thirties.
You’re at a party with friends.
There’s about 8-10 of you sitting around a table drinking.
You’re two beers in. Someone asks if anyone wants to play a board game.
Someone suggests “Werewolves.” Another tosses in “The Resistance.”
And then it happens.
“Wait! Did anyone bring Cards Against Humanity?”
Three people inevitably raise their hand. And the night unpleasantly takes its turn.
Most people I know love Cards Against Humanity (CAH). It’s that card game where one player draws a white card with a phrase. There are some blanks that need to be filled. All the other plays pick a card from their hand with rude or bizarre words written on it, and toss it in the middle.
The first person then reads over the words to fill in the blank and selects a winner. Sometimes the final phrase when read out loud is hilarious. More often it’s nonsense. Everyone laughs. Win-win.
It’s like Mad-Libs, but for a group.
Or so it seems.
To be honest, I used to really enjoy CAH too. It feels like a thousand years ago when a friend of a friend brought a dirty paper back to a house party. In it were some cards he printed himself on his shitty office printer.
It wasn’t a bad time. But then the following thousand years happened. Now, every time I hear someone suggest we play that game, my eyes automatically roll. I start wondering how long it will take me to finish that six pack and be on my way.
Simply put: I’m sick and tired of playing Cards Against Humanity. I really am.
I even kind of hate it.
There’s a few reasons why. The first is how the game gives people a false feeling of cleverness.
More often than not, after a round is played, it’ll go something like this:
One person screams. “Oh no, you didn’t!”
Other person laughs and nods their head maniacally, like they just pulled a fast one on everyone.
Other players see what card was played to answer “What does Vladimir Putin enjoy for breakfast?”
“Pac-Man uncontrollably guzzling cum.”
Or maybe the card was “Coat hanger abortions.”
Laughter all around.
Oh, no they didn’t.
Well, of course they did. It’s the most random and bizarre card in their hand. The other choices were “Unicorns,” “Vikings,” or “Catapults.”
Even though any of those three would have made more sense (grammatically, and in terms of what a person can actually consume for breakfast), inevitably people gravitate towards the strange and obscene.
Naturally they will play that card and feel clever, even if it’s there’s nothing clever about it. It was simply written on the card for them. It’s not like they just conjured up that image out of their head.
Worse, they’ll be rewarded. The player selecting the winner will likely succumb to their devilish deed and award them one point for that nonsense.
And that’s where the flaw in the game lies. Not entirely with the nonsensical cards and simple structure (which is quite good), but with the way people play it.
It doesn’t award people for clever word play (unless you happen to be playing with a bunch of other lit snobs like myself). It rewards them for picking out whichever card from their hands makes them giggle the most.
Even though other cards would be more clever, or a better fit, there’s always the usual suspects.
“Mecha Hitler” and so forth.
Because the cards are pre-written, no one gets to be clever. They just act on instinct. They just pick the first card that leaps at them.
Like any number of bad YouTube videos, flash games or web cartoons, spontaneity is all that counts. Doing the most random thing, regardless of the consequences, is how you win. The game then rewards people for having the shortest attention span possible.
And that sucks.
The game basically rewards players for being stupid. Because people aren’t thinking about how to make the most ironic or grammatically correct phrase. Because people are too busy picturing Pac-Man downing a blue bucket of ghost cum.
CAH does work in the sense that it’s an icebreaker. Plenty of people (myself included) have noticed how playing board games gets people to open up.
In a sense, it forces people to socialize and become extroverted. By seeing how people play, we get learn more about people. Some people will take charge. Others might cheat. Some will go sit in the corner and talk over wine while the rest game on.
CAH at least manages to keep people entertained. It keeps the party together. But for the love of God, there are so many better games out there. Games where people can actually be clever.
Telephone Pictionary comes to mind. A game where you write anything on the first page; pass the stack; the second player draws what is written; pass the stack; the third writes what is drawn; and so forth.
For one, people get to choose what to write. You can start with something boring like “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Or you can go for the crude “Dick fingers.” Either way, you see where people’s minds take them and get a better sense of how people think than with CAH.