Confessions of a Horrible Person: What I learned from Cards Against Humanity

It’s no hidden secret that my favorite game is Cards Against Humanity. How millennial of me. But it is. Somewhere between the uncouth jokes and the “I’m so going to hell for this.” statements lies a fundamental truth of humanity: everyone has some kind of prejudice.

On the other side of that truth lies its corollary: while everyone has a prejudice, only some people embrace them. Now, I’m not talking about a KKK-level embracing. I’m talking about something more in line with Avenue Q:

I think everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes
Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes
Look around and you will find
No one’s really color blind
Maybe it’s a fact we all should face
Everyone makes judgments based on race

No, not big judgments, like who to hire
Or who to buy a newspaper from
No, just little judgments like thinking that Mexican
Busboys should learn to speak goddamn English*

Everyone’s a little bit racist today
So, everyone’s a little bit racist, okay
Ethnic jokes might be uncouth
But you laugh because they’re based on truth
Don’t take them as personal attacks
Everyone enjoys them, so relax


*Full disclosure, I am Mexican. Yes it’s offensive. Yes, it’s HILARIOUS. No, there’s no dichotomy.

A Party Game for Horrible People

Vlad Dracul, the inspiration for Count Dracula. Otherwise known as a man who impaled his victims on pikes. How PC of him. Click on image for source.

So here we have a game that sells itself–quite well I may add–as being a game that the political correct crowd wants to impale on a pike. For those who have no idea what means:

That’s what it means. And if these cards make you feel uncomfortable or angry, this game is not only not for you–but you may want to reconsider your opinion about how fairness works.

So what, in the 2 years or so I’ve been playing this game, have I learned?

  1. People have different senses of humor
    1. I have friends who will only choose the most horrible card possible, with some thought to the context of the game. To them, the whole object of the game is to be a bad person. And since it provides such an easy excuse, why not go ham sammich? On the other hand, I have friends who are more nuanced, and who value wordplay or concept-play in their rounds.  People who enjoy the card “A really cool hat” just as much as “Being blind and deaf and having no limbs.” On the other hand, I’ve had friends storm out of the room in a huff after a (rather great, but definitely offensive) play has been made.
  2. Tact is key
    • It’s impossible to just go in guns blazing. Knowing or learning different peoples’ tastes can help improve a score in the game. Now, the game provides an excuse if you play something that’s too horrible–and it’s expected that the person who got a little offended (because let’s face it, everyone is going to end up at least a little offended before the game is done) let it go.
  3. It’s a great way to keep social issues fresh on the mind
    • It’s no secret that people change the channel immediately as soon as an ASPCA  commercial comes on. No one has a desire to watch abused animals. However, there are many campaigns that highlight social injustices in a way that keeps in fresh on the mind. Like, for example,  humor, which can be a helpful thing if used properly. Not only does the game expose the concepts by name, being able to play the game with wordplay shows that we know how these problems work
    • We know what the American invasion of Afghanistan did to the children of that country. And this,while joking–can be used as a tool. What better PSA than one where the target audience had no idea they’re getting a message?
  4. Lots of things I didn’t need to know
    • From the definition to certain words to combinations of concepts I never thought possible, the game taught me so much I didn’t need to know. But now that I know them, for some strange reason I feel better for knowing them.
  5. Being horrible is a great way to tear down social barriers
    • While playing in a dorm, I’ve had people ask to play or just sit around and watch. In either case, the players became closer to each other.When presented with an environment where people can be as horrible as they want to be in a judgement-free zone, people are more likely to be themselves. When people are themselves, true bonds can be forged in a real manner.
  6. Playing serves as a reminder that we are not always the perfect advocates for diversity we claim to be.
    • I love diversity initiatives. Almost everything I do in college has some diversity and humanity aspect to it. So why, then, do I love a game that I should hate? Because no one can ever keep up with an ever-changing list of things that offend people. At any given moment, your existing will offend at least three people and there’s nothing you can do about it. Take it from Dumbledore:
    • Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. ~JK Rowling

    • It’s more important to be the best person possible without regard to specific details of what does and doesn’t offend. Cards Against serves as a reminder for me that it will never be possible to be polite to everyone that crosses my path and that I will offend someone eventually.
  7. I will never be able to be polite to everyone and I will offend someone eventually.
    1. This is so important it gets its own number. Despite our best efforts, and despite all that we do to be perfect, a phrase that is PC to one party will be offensive to another. This isn’t an excuse to not try. But it should not be permission to continually bog others down with a daily list of words that are or aren’t offensive. The best approach is to slowly work to change the context and the words used. Taking the indirect path may be longer, but tends to lead to more long-term change.

And remember, if the game is good enough to inspire a CHRISTIAN VERSION of the game, the game is good enough for anyone.

The FAQ of the Christian version sums up the argument for being horrible quite nicely–if with a religious context.

My favorite quotes:

Are you smug, godless heathens who hate our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and are emissaries of the Antichrist, the Beast, and the Whore of Babylon?

Uhm, no.  The purpose of the game is NOT to mock the Bible. You might be offended by some of the cards. Good. We want you to figure out why you’re offended, especially if/when the card is a direct quote from the Bible. We love to hear “I didn’t know that was in the Bible,” “where the hell are they getting that from?,” and “wtf?!” so long as people are going back to the Text

Will God send me to hell for playing this game?

Your God sucks if He/She/It does. Besides, of all the things you’ve done, do you really think this will be the straw that breaks The Camel’s back?

A Game for Good Christians

I rest my case.

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