Friday, January 16, 2015

A Party Game for Horrible People

Image from amazon.com

Cards Against Humanity promises to be "as despicable and awkward as you and your friends". I'm like, how did they know about me and my friends?

Actually I think everyone wants to imagine that their friends are the coolest, craziest, most interesting people around - and by extension, so are they. People go around saying "my friends are so weird!" or "yeah, they're insane" in tones of pride and wonderment. Don't get me wrong, I like my friends too, but I'm under no illusions that any of us are true originals. Surely somewhere in the world a Mormon, a Muslim and a gay man are walking into a bar together, accompanied by a semi-employed bum, a severe commitment-phobe and a neurotic depressive. Then they sit around feeling like they're so special, chuckling at obscure in-jokes and endlessly repeated anecdotes from their teenage years.

Proving my point, Cards Against Humanity is immensely popular, so popular that it's spawned Canadian, British and Australian editions, five expansion packs and a flurry of holiday packs and other merchandise, including the infamous box of bovine excrement they sold in honour of Black Friday. So there are a lot of self-proclaimed despicable and awkward people out there.

It's played with a minimum of four people, and presumably a maximum of alcohol. Everyone draws up to 10 white answer cards, and the players take it in turns to draw a black question card - "What ruined the orgy?" You each submit a chosen answer card - "a robust mongoloid" or "the Pope" - and the question-drawer reads them all out, and chooses the funniest one.

There isn't much of a point to the game. You basically play until you get bored or hungry or it's time to go home, because you have work in the morning. But it doesn't matter because you laugh so hard your stomach hurts, and it dissipates the awkwardness in the air that comes from not having seen each other in the flesh for close to four years. It's a shitload of fun, the kind of game everyone wants to keep playing late into the night. (As opposed to the other game we used to play, which was fun but confusing for the non-nerds who just couldn't understand the difference between race and class - "Goddammit, a dwarf is a race, a cleric is a class! It's so simple!")

The downside is that you can really only play Cards Against Humanity with people who you know for sure spend a lot of time on the Internet looking at porn, digesting pop culture and pirating Judd Apatow movies. It's not a game for the faint-hearted, the easily offended, or those who fear the surreal and dark. If you don't find chainsaws and vaginal folds funny, don't waste your money or time on this.

I know there are people who play it with mere acquaintances, or even online, but to me half the fun comes from choosing exactly the right answer that will crack the question-drawer up. This requires years of exposure to their sense of humour, their understanding of the world around them, knowledge of their boundaries (or lack of). To really enjoy it, you have to be old friends, or at least friends who are super open. People will know that you know what golden showers or queefing are.

Because we've all known each other since 1997 - our first year at a shitty neighbourhood secondary school - it's not that hard to guess what my friends will find funny: usually jokes about genitals or gruesome death. I like to think that my sense of humour is more complex and dry, but I find myself laughing just as hard as the others at combos like "My plans for world domination begin with... a bleached asshole". It's a humbling experience.

The set the American so kindly left with me comes with blank cards, so I'm spending this evening in anticipation of our last game tomorrow writing custom Singaporean answers (let's just say there are a few choice Hokkien phrases involved). After he goes home, we won't be getting together so often, not until the next overseas member of our group arrives. Maybe I should bring the set to my grandfather's house for Chinese New Year? I'll probably be the only one laughing.

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