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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This is Why I Don't Play Cards Against Humanity with You.

Posted by Bobby Roberts on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM

Cards_Against_Humanity.jpg

Sorry, but I don't want to play Cards Against Humanity with you.

It's not that I'm grumpy. Or humorless. Or that I dislike the concept of "enjoying myself." It's that I like my games to be games, and to me, Cards Against Humanity is less a game, and more a shapeless exercise in hackwork comedy using "edgy" Laffy Taffy wrappers. It's Family Guy writers' room bullshit at best.

I know this is unfair, and I know exactly why this is unfair. It's the same reason musicians came off like grumpy-gus party-poopers when Guitar Hero ruled the world. Cards is to being funny what Guitar Hero is to being musically inclined. And nothing made a musician sound more like a humorless bag of dicks than when they'd complain about how pointless Guitar Hero was, just like nothing makes me sound more like a pisspants comedy snob than telling you why I don't like the game you laugh your ass off playing.

Some musicians derided the that game's audience as clueless wanna-bes, fooling themselves with their plastic controller into thinking they were making music. If you thought Guitar Hero was a means to create, a substitute to learning how music works, then yeah, I see how "pointless" is a charge you'd level.

But that's not what the majority of people playing the game were doing, any more than people lining up for the umpteenth iteration of Madden every year think they could be defensive backs. They were under no illusion that they were becoming musicians by five-starring Knights of Cydonia. They were just having fun with the game, as a game. And I know the large majority of Cards Against Humanity players are under no illusions as to their comedic abilities as they build zingers out of pre-fabricated set-ups and punchlines. Nobody's going to kill a game of Cards and immediately elbow their way to the local comedy club and try a five-minute set at open mic.

Guitar Hero didn't damage musicianship, and Cards isn't hurting comedy.

Plus, it's really hard to argue that there isn't fun to be had. The popularity of the game speaks to that, (Just as Guitar Hero had its band-focused spinoffs, there's now an independently published, Doctor Who specific Cards game) as well as the sounds of laughter pouring out of my living room every time the game has been played when friends are over.

But I can't play it with you. I'm sorry. For a game whose entire purpose is to elicit laughter, it doesn't make me laugh very much at all, which is a problem. I can't get down with the arbitrary nature of the scoring, either. Comedy is subjective as hell, and even if I know you really well, I can't always predict what's going to crack you up. I like that. But in Cards Against Humanity, that's a negative. You lose for that. It's a "game" that makes me second-guess my sense of humor, and asks me to judge my friends for having their own. It's weird. It kind of makes the game pointless.

I know this puts me closer to the grumpy burnout complaining about those darn lazy kids with their plastic guitars, and far away from the laughing-'til-you're-crying friend who built a child molestation joke out of a card with Cookie Monster's name on it.

That's no fun for me, or for you. I don't want to judge you for the things you think are funny, and for me, it feels like the game is specifically asking me to do that. "Here. Spend an hour being Ant from Last Comic Standing." Even if "winning" Cards actually meant anything (and it doesn't), judging my friends based on what makes them laugh doesn't sound like a fun way to kill an hour. That's all that's left of the "game" when the stack of Laffy Taffy wrappers you're playing with is less-than-efficient comedy fuel. Part of what makes comedy worthwhile is the sense of spontaneity, of imagination, innovation, cleverness, surprise. Cards, by its pre-fabricated, jokes-as-Lego-bricks nature, subtracts all but the cleverness, and cleverness by itself turns cloying really fast.

I know this makes me the bad guy, and trust me, I feel it. But look - while you guys are playing, I'll gather up the plates and glasses, run em through the dishwasher. Refresh some drinks. Maybe make a plate of little Triscuit pizzas or something. While I'm in the kitchen, scrubbing over the sink, maybe I'll laugh at the card combinations that do manage to work, without the pointless "game" aspect getting in the way. I'm more than happy to be the waiter at the impromptu comedy-club facsimile happening in the living room.

Just don't ask me to play. It won't turn out well for either of us.

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