Cards Against Humanity gains appeal by being politically incorrect

Photo Illustration by Taylor Alderman | The Collegian

It’s self-described as being “as despicable and awkward as you and your friends,” and thrives on being politically incorrect.

Cards Against Humanity, originally funded through Kickstarter, is a game that aims to make people laugh by answering questions with politically incorrect response cards. Similar in concept to Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity has received good reviews from critics and players.

Game play

Each deck consists of almost 100 black cards, and hundreds of white cards. The black cards contain open ended questions or theoretical situations, such as “What is Batman’s guilty pleasure?” and “______. That’s how I want to die.”

Each player has 10 white cards with nouns or situations on them, such as “edible underpants,” “the heart of a child,” or “ass-less chaps.” The “judge” of the round reads the selected black card aloud while the other players chose a white card they deem best for the current situation or question.

The judge is free to pick the “winning” card, often based on humor. The winning player keeps the black card as a means of counting score. The objective is to collect as many black cards before the game is called to an end by the players.

‘For horrible people’
The game describes itself as “a party game for horrible people,” due to the crude and politically incorrect nature of the cards. Despite the game’s crude nature, Cards Against Humanity has seen market success. The original version occupies the top spot in Amazon’s “Toys and Games” category, with an overall rating of 4.9 of 5 stars. Four of the five expansion packs hold the next four spots, sharing the same rating.

The game was created by Max Temkin and friends on New Year’s Eve 2008 in his parent’s basement.

Jenn Bane, community manager for Cards Against Humanity, said the game was created without any plans of selling it or any idea of “what it would turn into.”

“They distributed it to all their friends, put it on a PDF and sent it around a bit,” Bane said.

The PDF of cards and instructions can still be downloaded and printed off on Cards Against Humanity’s website for free.

The game first gained a following at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md. where Temkin was a student. In 2010, sensing the increasing popularity of the game, Temkin and his team decided to begin selling the game. They sought to raise $4,000 for the printing of cards through Kickstarter, a crowd-funding website.

In the 60 days between Dec. 1, 2010 and Jan. 30, 2011, the Cards Against Humanity team raised more than $15,000 from more than 750 different “backers.”

Since the end of its Kickstarter campaign, Cards Against Humanity has sold nearly 500,000 copies, generated an estimated revenue of $12 million and has spawned multiple spin-offs, including a “Dr. Who” version, a feminist version and a “House of Cards” version. Bane said the success came unexpectedly for the creators of the game.

“It’s kind of amazing to see how it’s grown,” Bane said. “The best part about it is that it has allowed them to do some really fun things, like work on other games and make more expansions.”

Popular at K-State
At K-State, the game is popular with many students.

“I played the game a few months ago with some friends,” Taylor Shanklin, freshman in secondary education, said. “I loved it. We spent a couple of hours playing it, and I remember laughing pretty hard.”

Shanklin said one of the best things about the game was that it gave people an outlet to say things that would be otherwise unacceptable.

“Some of the combinations you make for the cards are hilarious,” Shanklin said. “But I would never say anything like that to people in normal conversation, so just knowing that in the back of your mind, I think, makes it funny.”

While the game seems popular on campus, there are some who said they feel that some cards can be a little offensive.

“I love the game,” Lindsey Truesdell, sophomore in nutrition, said. “But sometimes when I see a card, like ‘picking up girls at an abortion clinic,’ I think it’s a bit offensive. I can see how people might take objection to that.”

Bane agreed that the game does not have a universal appeal. The company does get emails from people offended by some of the cards.

“It’s not a lot, but we do get one every couple of months,” Bane said. “When we get emails, we’re always trying to figure out why it’s offensive.”

Always changing
Bane said the team places a high emphasis on the feedback they receive from their users, and uses it to improve the test runs and future writing for the game. They also use the feedback to edit issues of the main game.

“The main game has five versions right now,” Bane said. “That means we’ve swapped out cards we didn’t like, aren’t funny to us anymore, relevant or ones we thought were just not appropriate.”

Bane said when the creators made the game, they wanted to have fun with it. It was never the intention of the team to offend people.

“It would be terrible if people actually used this game to bully somebody else,” Bane said. “That’s not the point of the game.”

Bane said what she liked most about the game was its ability to bring social issues and conversation to people without realizing it.

“I heard feedback from college and high school students who never knew what the words ‘white privilege’ meant,” Bane said. “You would be amazed by the people who play this game with no understanding of the language and come home actually having learned something.”

Creative Commons Licensed
The game and its expansion packs are priced at $25 and $10, respectively, and are available from the Cards Against Humanity website and Amazon.

It is also available for at-home printing as part of a creative common license that, according to the Cards Against Humanity website, allows people to “use and remix the game for free,” but prevents them from selling the game. Instructions on how to make the cards and popular rule variations are also available for free. The set includes 460 white cards and 90 black cards.

“They did not want to limit anyone else’s creativity,” Bane said. “The business decisions are all based around how much fun they can have and whether they can make people laugh. It’s not really based around how much money they can make.”