For and Against: Cards Against Humanity

Thursday, 2 April, 2015


What would Grandma find disturbing yet oddly charming? Cards Against Humanity. For those arseless chaps who are stupidly unaware, Cards Against Humanity is a simple game where phrases varying in degrees of offensiveness are spit-balled around a group of fun-loving youths until someone is declared king or queen of hilarity and the game progresses, often more drunken and always more lol-worthy. Played in groups ranging from two to twenty or more, the game can be enjoyed sober or intoxicated -either way you are guaranteed a good time.

The first time we played the glorious game that is Cards Against Humanity, we were socially awkward first years nervously wandering around university, when we suddenly found ourselves on the third floor of Union House (much like the forbidden third floor of Hogwarts) accosted by (not a giant three-headed dog but) the noisy shenanigans of what we soon found out to be Cards Against Humanity. As the game began we realised that being politically incorrect was not only super fun but also brought humanity together – unity through general wickedness.

Cards Against Humanity was also one of the best ice-breakers we’ve ever come across. We naively thought that the game required us to be ruthless and mean with people back-stabbing you every step of the way (#team-buildingexcersises). It certainly can be this, but we soon learned Cards Against Humanity was more frivolous than feisty, more chatty than chastising. The game takes the piss out of stereotypes (#theAmish) and manages to touch on pop culture and current affairs in hilariously apt ways, making people’s specifically chosen cards and remarks all the more scandalous.

When our cards ran out and the game had to finish, we realised that through offensive banter and inappropriate remarks we had made a group of friends. From ‘winking at old people’ to ‘ anal beads’ and ‘Steven Hawking talking dirty’, the potential to create comedy and make pals with Cards Against Humanity is endless. Although the players of Cards Against Humanity can be crude, rude and during games have occasionally been known to use the ‘picking up girls at abortion clinics’ card, they are just people finding humour in the unacceptable. They are not bad people. We are not bad people. Alas, we are just people who like a few lols at the expense of others, and ourselves. Don’t we all? #fierypoops



A disclaimer to commence my case: I like this game. I don’t think anyone can say that it isn’t fun. Cards Against Humanity is easy to pick up for newbies, it’s a great social game, it can be downloaded free and legally off the internet for easy access. And it’s pretty hilarious. However, I still have some major concerns with a) the reasons we have for choosing to play it and b) its so-widespread appeal, which I shall explain forthwith.

The developers of CAH market it as the “game for horrible people”. It’s an opportunity for us, the players, to temporarily transport ourselves to a limbo-state where decorum, tolerance and, you know, basic human decency are null and void. Once those black cards are laid down, the gloves are off. All participants in the game share in a mutual understanding that no matter how politically incorrect, racist, sexist, homophobic, and so on the white response cards that you play are, the space is one that is (ironically) free of judgement. For the sake of some light-hearted fun, no one can or should really take offence with what you say, because after all you didn’t really mean it. It’s just a game.

CAH is, then, an exercise in those of us fortunate enough to live on the dominant end of the sociocultural hierarchy deciding what is and is not an acceptable thing to think, say and joke about. Everybody gets the chance to be the racist uncle at Christmas lunch with his cringe-inducing tirade of xenophobia. No longer do we merely giggle nervously and wait for the jokes to stop; we become the joker, vying for the title of ‘worst person at the table’ and then patting ourselves on the back when we say something so terrible that we would never even dream of repeating in front of someone whose respect we might lose.

I appreciate that comedy needs to push the limits of conventional acceptability. It allows us to expand the social discourse and poke at ideas that we might otherwise be afraid to approach. However, CAH is not comedy. It’s an opportunity simply to debase ourselves and our standards of humour. We hide behind the illusion that the game is our natural right, without realising the immense amount of privilege required to spew hateful things, deem them acceptable, and then laugh them off.

I’ve been led to side-splitting laughter by this game as much as the next person. And I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t play it. However, I think it’s time we became more consciously aware of why we really like it and recognise that it is perfectly acceptable to be offended by the really shitty things the game induces. CAH is a chance for us to be creative, but it shouldn’t require us to embrace a George Brandis–style ‘right to be bigots’ just to get a cheap laugh.