CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN BAD LANGUAGE, ADORABLE THINGS, AND BAD LANGUAGE COMING FROM ADORABLE THINGS
I seem to be putting cautions in front of a lot of my articles these days…Spoilers, Bad Language, Use of the word “Gnarley”…will it ever end?
Across the Black Friday sales, I got tempted to buy a lot of games. It turns out that most of my games wishlist entered a sale of some form or other, and so naturally I had to take a look. Some games that weren’t on my wishlist also entered the sale, games I wouldn’t usually buy, that I thought “yeah, okay, I may as well” and purchased them anyway. Exploding Kittens was one of those games. I mean, who doesn’t want to try the game that raised over $8.7 million on Kickstarter, am I right?
Only, I managed to miss the standard Exploding Kittens flash sale by around 30 seconds, but as I missed it an alternative version of the game came onto the sale. Yes, Exploding Kittens: The NSFW Deck. Things are going to get naughty.
I, by default, am a curious person, and as someone who takes board game blogging (and board games in general actually) fairly seriously, I actually own a few “not safe for work” games. Cards Against Humanity is the classic one; however, Big Potato Games have been churning out a few NSFW games like Scrawl and Bucket of Doom over the past few years. Bucket of Doom was actually another Black Friday purchase, so expect to see another article appearing on it soon.
So, with a marketplace rife with naughty adult games, what can Exploding Kittens: The NSFW Deck do to stand out? Well, dear readers, today, on this blog, I will sacrifice my innocent mind to find out.
How Dirty is Exploding Kittens: NSFW Deck?
On a scale from one to a hundred, the Exploding Kittens: NSFW Deck is actually pretty tame. In a world where the norm has become cards stating obscure sex acts and things that are illegal most places on the planet, Exploding Kittens is actually not too bad on the naughty scale. This is the first game I’ve played that has filth intermingled with artwork (err…generated by the designers, so I’m not including Scrawl…) and the artwork for Exploding Kittens does a lot to mitigate the dirt.
One primary example of this is, when opening the box, I flipped one of the two halves of the deck over to reveal an adorable card of a baby owl in the well known Exploding Kittens style. Rather than being overbearingly cute, the owl is smoking a crack pipe with the speech bubble of: “Let’s smoke this rock <insert swear word here>”. These two images counteract each other and surprisingly it’s way more entertaining than a card just saying “a baby owl smoking a crack pipe”.
The deck for Exploding Kittens: NSFW (said he, shortening the name for convenience) has 56 cards in it. Out of these, there are three or four pictures of penises/penis shaped apparatus style jokes, two pictures with breast jokes, and quite a few butt jokes. There is one vomit joke, and two or three cards or characters holding up middle fingers. There are no other cases of bad language bar the baby owl.
So far as adult games go, so far as a NSFW version of a game goes, that’s actually fairly safe. It doesn’t reference sex acts, which tend to be the go to, and there are a couple of really intelligent cards in there as well. These include references to some fairly high brow ideas, the likes of which tend to belong being brought up by college students in the pub before fading into the realms of the unimportant as adults. One of my personal favourites is Cat’s Schroedinger, which is clever on a few different levels.
It’s really weird, Exploding Kittens offers forward a juxtaposition in the world of gaming. It offers a simple game, with intelligent cards that are both cute and crude. It is this weird mix which means that Exploding Kittens can more or less get away with whatever they want. They are given a kind of “Get Out Of Jail” free card to be just weird as they want to be. This is especially obvious with some of the cards, like Bikini Cat which is just…well…
Protected by Weirdness
Games like Cards Against Humanity often get a bad rep for how crude they are, and with some games, it can be seen that they are really pushing the boundary. With Exploding Kittens there are some really explicit images, and yet it never quite feels like it is at that point of absolute disgust. Somehow, even with a card showing a picture of a man with a sex toy strapped to his head, it doesn’t feel like it is really breaking boundaries.
This is a fine and delicate line, the likes of which very few games can get away with, yet in its own way, I can’t help but feel that Exploding Kittens does. It breaks boundaries by, I think, pointing out the absurdity of what it is saying. Yes, it may be talking about something taboo, but the image that accompanies it almost mocks us as the player. It tells us that we are over thinking it, that it is really strange, and it almost laughs at us for having taken it even remotely seriously to begin with.
Interestingly, Exploding Kittens: NSFW is a dirty game where the whole NSFW nature is actually optional. Unlike with Scrawl, Cards Against Humanity, or Bucket of Doom, where the player needs to interact with the objects and items on the cards – with Exploding Kittens: NSFW they don’t have to. Instead, the game still exists without the theme stuck on top.
What this means is it is actually possible to completely ignore the theme, and still play the game. This, I suppose, is both a strength and a weakness. The theme is, for want of a better term, passive rather than being overtly imposing. It is not thrusting a card in your face saying “ha, and now you need to talk about filth” but is instead saying, “here’s a card you may want to play, by the way, it has a filthy reference”.
So, How Dirty Is Not-Safe-For-Work?
Since this is ultimately subjective, I thought I would do the only honourable thing and get a second opinion on how rude the cards are – so, with that in mind, I thought I would run them by my parents. I mean, these guys have played Cards Against Humanity with me, so they’re pretty good judges.
Their reaction was: “It’s not that dirty, I mean there are a couple of things that could cause a reaction, but it’s not that dirty. There are a couple in there that are a bit close to the knuckle, but they’re not rude rude.”
So there you go folks. The Exploding Kittens: NSFW deck is “not rude rude”.
No matter what though, there is no denying the brains behind the humour. It seems completely random, but I am not 100% sure that it is. Instead there seems to be a fine line that Exploding Kittens: The NSFW Deck is walking in order to remain acceptable.
So there we go. I haven’t explored too many of the cards in too much detail; however, I am curious to know what you think on the matter of humour within adult games. Where do you stand? Is there a place for it or is there no need? If there is a place, then what defines that place? Let me know in the comments below.