Cards Against Humanity: An Offensive Interview
Any constant reader of Dice Hate Me will soon realize that we’re a big fan of Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website sensation that has allowed many independent game developers – such as the fine folks that made Alien Frontiers – the opportunity to publish games that might otherwise not have seen the light of day. So far, Kickstarter has retained a fairly solid talent pool where gaming hobbyists could find a diamond in the rough and get in on the ground floor of something really cool. Today, Dice Hate Me takes a closer look at one of those projects that seems pretty cool – even if it might make some tame gamers run screaming from the room.
Cards Against Humanity is described, by the makers, as a “party game for horrible people.” The game plays like a very adult, very twisted, but also much more hilariously awkward Apples to Apples. In a round, the “Card Czar” selects a Black Card and reads it aloud. Each player must then submit the White Card from their hand that will make the funniest – and, sometimes, the most offensive – answer. The Card Czar reads all the answers aloud and then selects the card they feel best answers the question from their Black Card. The winning player keeps that Black Card as an Awesome Point, and the role of Card Czar passes to the next player. Pretty simple and familiar concept – but it’s in the brilliantly-crafted Black and White Card mix where the real magic in the game comes about.
Although Cards Against Humanity has reached the initial funding goal on Kickstarter, the makers have issued a challenge – raise a total of $15,000 and they will add 50 more cards to the print run. At the published time of this article, the creators of Cards Against Humanity have only two days left to reach that goal – and they need your help! Be fair warned, however – Cards Against Humanity is not for the faint of heart, nor the easily offended.
In order to know more about the creative minds behind Cards Against Humanity, Dice Hate Me issued its own challenge – an interview with one of the core creative team members, Ben Hantoot.
In regards to the history of your game, you mention that the concept came from a New Year’s party where you wanted to bring together a group of awkward and unknown friends. How did the game evolve from that concept? Did you do much playtesting under that same situation?
BEN: The lot of us have been friends since middle school, and since then we’ve had yearly New Year’s parties. With each year, more and more people would show up, and we started to need to come up with structured activities so that we could avoid engaging in normal socialization and/or black-out drunkenness. One year, we had the idea to create our own game rather than try something established. We called it “Hyper-theticals,” and it involved each person in the group writing an answer to an absurd question (e.g. “If you could append a vagina to your body, where would you put it?”). A “judge” would then read all the answers, pick his favorite, and try to match it to the person who wrote it.
This game was fun, but in practice it was just too difficult to play. It involved too much writing and didn’t really work with strangers, since the answers all had to be directed very specifically at whoever was the current judge. The next year, we came up with Cards Against Humanity, which takes the same concept but pre-writes all the questions and answers. We played it with a very large group the first time we played, and it was a great success. Subsequent playtesting has placed the ideal number of players for Cards Against Humanity at 5 to 10, though really it stays fun up to about 20 or so… and is basically limitless if you’re drinking!
Perhaps the most important thing we learned from our first few plays was that, despite what we initially thought, it’s actually okay if every card is crazy and hilarious. We thought we’d need filler to keep the funny cards funny. But really, the funnier the cards, the better the game!
How many people have been involved in the development of Cards Against Humanity? Who are the key developers?
There are 8 of us who are the core “writer-creators” — Max, Josh, Eli, two Davids, Daniel, Eliot, and me (Ben). There are 5 or 6 additional “part time” developers who have been around for a significant chunk of our brainstorms, and beyond that dozens of friends and acquaintances who have played the game with us many times. Every time we play with a new group, we learn something new about what kinds of cards work with what kinds of people, and we’ve tried to keep the game varied enough to work with any group (as long as they’re not easily offended, of course).
Now that you have support above your initial Kickstarter fund goal, what can we gamers look forward to in the future in regards to Cards Against Humanity, as well as other projects you may have in the wings?
Our original plan for “a professional print” of Cards Against Humanity basically was to print it on business cards. But we’ve raised enough money that we may actually be able to print it on coated playing cards with real, printed boxes and have hundreds of leftover copies after we fulfill our Kickstarter orders, which is really exciting. That means we’ll have enough inventory to try and get it in game stores and to continue selling it on our site. We also have plans for themed 50-card expansions, like a Harry Potter set, or a college life set. Areas where we could really nerd out, or categories that, while not funny for everyone, would absolutely kill a specific demographic.
Within the next year, look for another major release, as well as a number of possible “alternate platforms” for play. We’ve got some pretty cool plans. And if Cards Against Humanity is successful enough, we may try to bring some of our other “inside games” to market.
Did any playtesters drop out of playtesting after they realized how offensive or sensitive some of the card mix results can be?
Several times, people have left the room crying. But we’re okay with that. That means the game works!
We’ve gotten reports from some players that, in order to combat this problem, they simply remove certain cards from the deck before they start playing. We think that’s a solid solution.
If you had to pick one black and one white card as your favorites, what would those be?
My favorite white card is hard to pick, but it’s probably “Emotions.” It doesn’t sound like much, but it has an amazing subtlety. Let’s match it up with some random black cards: “Why am I sticky?”; “I drink to forget _____.”; “Alternative medicine is now embracing the curative powers of _____.” “The class field trip was completely ruined by _____.” It tells a whole, sad story every time.
My favorite black card is “Make a Haiku (Pick 3).” This card really brings out the magic of Cards Against Humanity — it gives people free license to use their cards to tell a story, and it often results in truly unexpected little scenes. Syllable count doesn’t matter. A few examples:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A sea of troubles
Stephen Hawking talking dirty
What are some of your favorite games? What games do you think influenced the team in creating Cards Against Humanity?
As a group, we’ve always been heavily into creative, social board and card-type games. There’s a game called Dictionary Dabble (also known, commercially, as Balderdash) we play all the time with our own ruleset. The game comes with cards full of really obscure words and their meanings. Each round, one word is read aloud by one player, and every player writes down a convincing, fake definition. The real definition is mixed into the bunch, the definitions are read aloud, and everyone individually votes for which answer he or she thinks is the real definition. You get 1 point every time someone guesses your definition and 2 points for getting the definition right. We also play a lot of Exquisite Corpse, which you can read more about on Wikipedia (and can also be found in The Games Bible!), as well as a related game called Pictionary Telephone (also known as Eat Poop, You Cat) in which one player writes a phrase, the next player draws it, the next player writes what he thinks that drawing represents, the next player draws what the previous player wrote, and so forth. We also play a lot of Mafia (the Werewolf variant, specifically).
On the more traditional side, we play a lot of Puerto Rico and Agricola, and many of us were into Magic: The Gathering when we were younger.
That said, the most direct influence on Cards Against Humanity is probably Mad-Libs. Completing phrases and answering questions in unexpected ways just, for some reason, leads to hilarity!
Cards Against Humanity is a game for 4 to 20 free thinkers who are, hopefully, thick-skinned, meme-savvy, and comfortable pushing boundaries. To learn more about Cards Against Humanity, visit their website, or take a look at their Kickstarter page and donate soon to pre-order the first run.