Saturday, 23 March 2013

Cards Against Humanity

Skip this post and get right to the game.

I don't have people over for dinner all that often, so it's kind of an occasion when I do. We ate figs baked with cheese and bacon, with huge wedges of sourdough bread and butter, and for dessert we ate synthetic flavoured ice cream with pop rocks sprinkled over it. After dinner, the conversation foundered a little bit. "Let's play a game," I said after a minute, and fired up the printer.

I'd wanted to play Cards Against Humanity for a while, and after-dinner seemed the perfect time to do it. "It's an open source party game," I explained, feeding the printer. "You take these cards we're making - have you ever played Apples To Apples?" No one had.

"Well - there are black cards with questions, and white cards with answers. Every round one player - the Card Czar - draws a black card, and the others have to answer it with a white card. The Card Czar picks which answer is funniest, and that player keeps the black card - that's a point."

"How do they tell which card is funniest?" asked K, logically.

"It's subjective. So you can play strategically, a bit."


"Assless chaps," read J.

"All the cards are - awful. Look at this - 'Daddy, why is mummy crying?'"

"That's a question card. Look, answer it with a white one - 'Lance Armstrong's missing testicle,' or - 'Puberty.' But first we have to cut all these damn things out, so get another pair of scissors."

Of course we laugh when we get together. But we don't always laugh until we cry. "This game is great," said J. "We should play it again."

As we played, we sifted out the Americanisms we didn't understand, and anything too rapey-sounding to be funny. 

In my Googgling, I discovered there's some dissidence in the card playing community about "sanitizing" CAH like that. It's not how the inventors intended the game to be played, humour's a way of dealing with issues, and can't you take a joke?

CAH was released under a creative commons license: "That means you can use and remix the game for free, but you can’t sell it." Remixing is how the inventor intended for the game to be used.

If you genuinely have a joke about ethnic cleansing, I'd love to hear it. I will listen carefully, and if it's funny, I'll laugh and repeat it when you're not around. But I bet you have a lot of other jokes too. I bet you can talk all night about horses walking into bars and men from Nantucket without ever once mentioning ethnic cleansing. If that's not the case, and ethnic cleansing is the nucleus of your humour, that all your conversations revolve around ethnic cleansing, and you drop ethnic cleansing every other sentence like a verbal tic - well, I probably wouldn't be your friend.

What's more likely is that you can go entire years without using the phrase "ethnic cleansing," or "pixelated bukkake," or "two midgets shitting into a bucket," or just about any Cards Against Humanity Card. No one card is essential to make up the game, and taking out some of the triggering things isn't going to make the game weaker.

Triggers are things which can bring up awful memories or emotions. They're things that make you cry, basically.

The last time I was triggered by something, something which I'm sure seemed innocuous to the person upsetting me, I stormed out of the gathering, made my way home in tears, and self-harmed in a way I had managed to avoid for, oh, three years. (I don't want to get any worried phone calls - I'm fine - it's not the sort of harm that does any real damage, and I haven't done it since.)

That was caused by a careless word. I'm sure they'd say, "I was only talking," which is well and good, except they were talking, I was freaking out and they weren't savvy enough to pick up on it. I know how conversations work: there's a volley back and forth, with all parties participating and enjoying it. When only one person's talking, it's a lecture.

Jokes work kind of the same way. When everyone's laughing, it's humour. When someone's deeply, profoundly upset by the punchline, that's not funny.

So I took the challenge laid out by Cards Against Humanity's creators, and remixed the game.

I've taken out all the rape and pedophile references, the Americanisms, most of the references to race and celebrities, and some American historical references... Anything which I think might be upsetting or confused someone when we played. In the interests of thoroughness, I kept a list of which cards I removed - I'm sure I missed writing down a couple of cards, but the outraged or the curious can view the list here.

I prettied up the remaining deck so you can download it too. It's here. Please note that this is just a safer version - it's not guaranteed 100% safe for everyone. I suggest you go through it yourself before playing (or just go buy Apples to Apples).

You might also like to download the extra cards I made to help make up for the ones I removed. All the pictures in this post are from this deck. Dylan Reeve has also made a NZ version.

Invite me round for dinner. Let's play.

5 comments:

  1. For several years now we've played a private version of Apples to Apples with some friends, except for trademark reasons we call it something different. Our cards are handwritten and invented/discarded as we go, and half the fun of the game is the ongoing arguments about which ones should be included/excluded. We have *hundreds* of cards by now.

    I'll talk to the cabal about letting you in on the next game.

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    1. That'd be rad - I'd be keen as!

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    2. Also it's amazing you have a cabel.

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  2. if offends you why do you play it?

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    1. The game mechanism is fun, but some of the jokes are offensive. I removed the offensive jokes. I don't see why that's hard to understand. You can still engage with things which are problematic: it's not always necessary to ignore them out entirely.

      To quote myself: "If you genuinely have a joke about ethnic cleansing, I'd love to hear it. I will listen carefully, and if it's funny, I'll laugh and repeat it when you're not around. But I bet you have a lot of other jokes too. I bet you can talk all night about horses walking into bars and men from Nantucket without ever once mentioning ethnic cleansing. If that's not the case, and ethnic cleansing is the nucleus of your humour, that all your conversations revolve around ethnic cleansing, and you drop ethnic cleansing every other sentence like a verbal tic - well, I probably wouldn't be your friend.

      "What's more likely is that you can go entire years without using the phrase "ethnic cleansing," or "pixelated bukkake," or "two midgets shitting into a bucket," or just about any Cards Against Humanity Card. No one card is essential to make up the game, and taking out some of the triggering things isn't going to make the game weaker."

      Delete