Clear82° WeatherClear82° Weather

The card game that's offensive, and very proud of it

Friends playing Cards Against Humanity at a party in New York. It is Amazon’s best-selling game.

New York Times

Friends playing Cards Against Humanity at a party in New York. It is Amazon’s best-selling game.

moved 8/13

BC-CARDS-AGAINST-HUMANITY-ART-NYT,0866

(ART ADV: Photo XNYT37

In an age where honesty is often reserved for anonymity, and social media accounts are scraped for off-color content, a deck of cards with the slogan "a party game for horrible people" on its box has an undeniable allure.

That is part of the reason Cards Against Humanity, a card game that rewards the absurd, the offensive and above all the hilarious, has become hugely popular over the last three years.

"It's not a PC game,'' said John Sullivan, 28, who organizes monthly Cards Against Humanity sessions in New York City via the group meeting site Meetup. "It's a pretty harsh game, so you're bound to offend somebody."

Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with what they think is their funniest white card. A list on Buzzfeed of "24 times Cards Against Humanity was too real'' conveys the edginess of the game. One item shows an older woman holding up the card she played when confronted with the black card "When all else fails, I can always masturbate to...'' Her response card? "Grandpa's ashes.''

Created by eight friends from Chicago for a New Year's Eve party, Cards Against Humanity first became publicly available through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2010 and surfaced on Amazon soon after that. Demand quickly exceeded supply ("It just caught us by surprise from the beginning that people were interested," said Max Temkin, 27, one of the game's creators), and while the company doesn't disclose sales figures, its $25, 550-card starter pack has consistently been the No. 1 best-selling toy or game on Amazon since it debuted there in 2011.

"The biggest thing we can say about the success of the game is that we can write any kind of joke," said Temkin, who, like the rest of the creators, maintains a day job (he runs Maxistentialism, a design consultancy in Chicago) and treats Cards Against Humanity like a hobby. "That, to us, means we're successful."

Although a swath of its cards have the potential to offend pretty much every group of people under the sun, the game draws diverse fans. On a recent Wednesday night, nine gay men gathered at the Los Angeles home of Ryan Ross for Cards Against Humanity, wine and snacks. As guests helped themselves to malbec, Ross, 36, pulled a tray of pigs in blankets out of the oven. "It's Cards Against Humanity, so I figured something disgusting had to happen," he said.

Marcus Pimentel, 33, introduced the game to his friends in 2012. "It's the most un-PC game in the world, I thought it was hilarious," he said. And while most of the gay-themed cards elicited hoots from the group, "praying the gay away" in response to "This month's Cosmo: spice up your sex life by bringing 'blank' into the bedroom" fell flat. ("Stephen Hawking talking dirty," by contrast, was a hit.)

Major brands are aware of the game's reach. Before the second season of House of Cards, Netflix joined with Cards Against Humanity to release a deck themed around the political thriller (it sold out within hours, though a free version is available on the Cards Against Humanity website, where all of the game's cards can also be downloaded free and printed).

"They gave us a pretty wide berth to make fun of the show and poke fun at it," said Temkin, noting that "there was some degree of compromise" on jokes that producers and executives perceived as potentially offensive.

More such collaborations may be ahead, but Temkin noted, "we don't want to sell other people's things."

Nor do he and the founders want to water down the game, which they produce and print independently, for mass consumption. It's hard to imagine a big-box retailer marketing a cards that say things like "What's that smell?" and "Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine."

Contributing: tbt*

Cards Against Humanity will test your sense of humor.

In an age where honesty is often reserved for anonymity, and social media accounts are scraped for off-color content, a deck of cards with the slogan "a party game for horrible people" on its box has an undeniable allure.

That is part of the reason Cards Against Humanity, a card game that rewards the absurd, the offensive and above all the hilarious, has become hugely popular over the last three years.

"It's not a PC game,'' said John Sullivan, 28, who organizes monthly Cards Against Humanity sessions in New York City via the group meeting site Meetup. "It's a pretty harsh game, so you're bound to offend somebody."

Each round, one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone else answers with what they think is their funniest white card. A list on Buzzfeed of "24 times Cards Against Humanity was too real'' conveys the game's edginess. One item shows an older woman holding up the card she played when confronted with the black card "When all else fails, I can always masturbate to...'' Her response card? "Grandpa's ashes.''

Created by eight friends from Chicago for a New Year's Eve party, Cards Against Humanity first became publicly available through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2010 and surfaced on Amazon soon after that. Demand quickly exceeded supply ("It just caught us by surprise from the beginning that people were interested," said Max Temkin, 27, one of the game's creators), and while the company doesn't disclose sales figures, its $25, 550-card starter pack has consistently been the No. 1 best-selling toy or game on Amazon since it debuted there in 2011.

"The biggest thing we can say about the success of the game is that we can write any kind of joke," said Temkin, who, like the rest of the creators, maintains a day job (he runs Maxistentialism, a design consultancy in Chicago) and treats Cards Against Humanity like a hobby. "That, to us, means we're successful."

Although a swath of its cards have the potential to offend pretty much every group of people under the sun, the game draws diverse fans. On a recent Wednesday night, nine gay men gathered at the Los Angeles home of Ryan Ross for Cards Against Humanity, wine and snacks. As guests helped themselves to malbec, Ross, 36, pulled a tray of pigs in blankets out of the oven. "It's Cards Against Humanity, so I figured something disgusting had to happen," he said.

Marcus Pimentel, 33, introduced the game to his friends in 2012. "It's the most un-PC game in the world, I thought it was hilarious," he said. And while most of the gay-themed cards elicited hoots from the group, "praying the gay away" in response to "This month's Cosmo: spice up your sex life by bringing 'blank' into the bedroom" fell flat. ("Stephen Hawking talking dirty," by contrast, was a hit.)

Major brands are aware of the game's reach. Before the second season of House of Cards, Netflix joined with Cards Against Humanity to release a deck themed around the political thriller (it sold out within hours, though a free version is available on the Cards Against Humanity website, where all of the game's cards can also be downloaded free and printed).

"They gave us a pretty wide berth to make fun of the show and poke fun at it," said Temkin, noting that "there was some degree of compromise" on jokes that producers and executives perceived as potentially offensive.

More such collaborations may be ahead, but Temkin noted, "we don't want to sell other people's things."

Nor do he and the founders want to water down the game, which they produce and print independently, for mass consumption. It's hard to imagine a big-box retailer marketing a cards that say things like "What's that smell?" and "Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine." Contributing: tbt*

The card game that's offensive, and very proud of it 09/01/14 [Last modified: Monday, September 1, 2014 8:17pm]

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, NY Times Syndication.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...