For those who haven’t seen Prongles, I suggest you look it up. Cards Against Humanity recently made an announcement to the world, that they were putting down the card games in favour of creating a snack dangerously similar to Pringles. The potato chip (crisp, Pringle, whatever you want to call it) comes along with the slogan “Once you pop…that’s Great!” and even has its own rap to go with it. The move is a ballsy one, and for a couple of days, they completely overwrote their current website in favour of their Prongles one whilst they released the snack in stores. Doing something like this goes beyond parody, to the point where they are fully invested in pulling such an insane publicity stunt, into the realm of genius.
That got me thinking, what is Cards Against Humanity now that it is no longer a game? I mean, it is still a game, the parody didn’t withdraw the game from existence, just overwrote it temporarily on their website and released a new snack product, like…you know…all game companies do. This is way above and beyond the call of what Cards Against Humanity was originally about. Now it has evolved into something more, something incredible.
So, what is Cards Against Humanity? Well, on one side of things it is an adult card game centred around filling the blanks in statements with hilarious alternatives; however, that is not what I would like to argue for in this article. Instead, I want to put forward the idea that Cards Against Humanity is not a game anymore – but instead, it is a movement.
So, sorry if you clicked on this genuinely wanting to know what the game is about, but…you know…they have a Wikipedia page if you want to know that. Let’s talk about instead what Cards Against Humanity stands for and what it has become.
So what has Cards Against Humanity become?
Over the past years, we have seen a great revolution in the gaming world. As a past time, it has gone from a fringe hobby with the likes of Dungeons and Dragons, to a fully accepted beast in its own right. It has gone from being something only toy stores or specialist stores stocked, to something high street retailers are now taking seriously. There are more gaming bloggers out there than ever before and I believe the revolution is partly because of games like Cards Against Humanity.
I’ve stated before, on this blog, that Cards Against Humanity was a revolutionary game (is a revolutionary game) because it works as such an awesome gateway game. Part of this is due to the humour, but the majority of it comes down to the simple rules and scope the game allows for around a table. Any game where the rules can essentially be written on the back of a bookmark has got what it takes to become popular as a board/card game.
From a gaming perspective, what this means is that games like Cards Against Humanity (or CAH) have opened floodgates. They, and CAH in particular, helped paint a new face on gateway games to show that you didn’t need to be a board game nerd to enjoy a new version of a party game. In an era where board gamers were seen under the same light as the stereotypical D&D fanatic, Cards Against Humanity made being a game lover cool again.
Well…sort of. Maybe not cool, but it helped bring a new type of person to the gaming table, opening it up to a whole new demographic who didn’t tend to game before. Cards Against found its way everywhere, from the shelves of hardcore gamers, to dorm rooms, to the risky (pronounced riskaaaay) after dinner game that real adults play when entertaining. I hope I never become one of them.
Success means that Cards Against Humanity has managed to keep growing, not only as a game but also as a company. They have not only fuelled a craze of games based around adult humour (just today I’ve loaned three of mine to a friend who is new to gaming, for a dinner party) but they have actually surpassed the gaming world into something even bigger.
I started this article 500 words ago by saying I’ve recently been thinking about Cards Against Humanity and what it is, and I am not sure the fact it is a game really matters anymore. Yes, it is fun. Yes, it is furious; however, what is more impressive is it is symbolic. Yes, Cards Against Humanity has become a symbol of libertarianism. It has become a symbol of choice – it gives us the options to choose what we want and make sure that becomes a reality.
Okay, by this point I can already sense some of the hardcore gamers reading this screwing up their faces and proclaiming “what?”. There will probably be some rage quitters at this point as well, but I ask you to think about it. All I ask you is to think hard.
The good that men do, fighting the evil that men do.
So far as organisations go, Cards Against Humanity, contrary to the point of their game, are really good people who, against all the odds, stand up for the little guy. As a company, they are well known for their charitable donations, having donated well over $4 million as a company to the likes of the Sunlight Foundation (who expose who is giving what to whom in politics), Worldbuilders, and have even started a “Full-Ride Scholarship” to help women get degrees in science. Even when they were donated, as a company, over $71,000 on their website and gave it to their staff to do with what they will, the majority ended up going to charity. These are really good people who do a lot of good.
That being said, recently they outdid themselves (Prongles aside) with a series of stunts that proved how incredible CAH is.
Yes, Cards Against Humanity recently raised money and bought a stretch of land on the USA/Mexico border in protest to Trump wanting to build a wall there. They went on to procure lawyers to defend them and make sure the land isn’t forcibly taken from them. As more of a symbolic gesture, they build A FREAKING TREBUCHET to symbolically knock down any wall that would be built there. For legal reasons, they then say they won’t actually knock down the wall, but the symbolism is there. The message is there.
That’s pretty awesome, but what does it mean?
I think this all amounts to two things for Cards Against Humanity. The first is the example they are setting the board game world.
Let me tell you a story first though – a small divergence to talk about Star Trek and George Takei.
I, like many other people, am a Trekkie. I grew up with Star Trek, and adore everything about it. For us Trekkies, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” is not just a saying, but a mantra. Meeting other Trekkies at the 50th Anniversary Celebrations in Birmingham was an eye-opening experience that creates unity the likes of which I have never seen before. I still remember George Takei saying:
“It is because of our fans that we have lived long and we have prospered.”
Only to be greeted by 1500 Vulcan salutes raised into the air. It is a fandom of unity and, being a regular gaming convention enthusiast I can tell you that gaming is very similar. Gaming is also a fanbase of togetherness.
A Fanbase of Unity
On George Takei’s birthday this year, there was a bit of unpleasantry on Facebook. A few people disliked the fact it was his Birthday because of the fact that he is gay. Firstly, why dislike a Birthday? It’s not like disliking it is going to change it from happening next year – it’s a freaking birthday.
Secondly, I saw an amazing Facebook comment that said (and I paraphrase):
“Trekkies who don’t like George Takei because he is gay are not really Trekkies. They have completely missed the message of Star Trek.”
And that commenter (who shall be immortalised here in spirit, if not remembered in name) is completely correct. Star Trek is about unity and celebrating our differences together.
The same goes for board games. Cards Against Humanity are showing, in their own way, that we (as gamers) are unified together under a collective. We believe in togetherness because it is the whole point in board games. It is a social hobby. It is a thing we instinctively believe in.
Seeing companies like Cards Against Humanity so publicly bringing that to the forefront of the world is amazing for those two reasons – it brings gamers forward as an active part in society and it brings unity forward as an active part in gaming.
The Point of it All
So there we have the point of it all. Cards Against Humanity, no matter what gamers may think of them, are something different. However, they are far from the only game company doing work to bring the world of gaming to the forefront of public attention. There are lots of good companies out there.
To summarise as well, I think there are a couple of valuable lessons here.
Firstly, there is a lesson in the aforementioned unity. There is a lesson that we can be united under one banner and as gamers we can get involved in the wider world. We have such an insane and awesome community – a respectful community, used to strategy and controlled conflict resolution. We, like any other fringe of society, are powerful if we simply unite.
Secondly, I think there is a lesson here about judging books by their covers. Cards Against Humanity are a company who have created a “card game for horrible people”, and yet this could not be further from the truth. I mean, it is a card game, but; Cards Against Humanity and the people who buy all the expansions, the sets, the additional little jokes and incentives, are actively supporting charities to make the world a better place. The same company who have a card with, and I tell no word of a lie, “shitting out the perfect Cumberland sausage” have raised more than $4 million for good causes.
They may be Cards Against Humanity, but they are gamers FOR.