Cardboard Children: Cards Against Humanity

By Robert Florence on July 15th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Content warning: references to sexual violence.

Hello youse.

In this silly old board and card gaming world, heavy, serious shit doesn’t happen much. When heavy, serious shit does happen, I think it’s really weird to ignore it. At the moment, certain people are talking about a boycott of the card game Cards Against Humanity.

Max Temkin, co-creator of the game, has been accused of rape. Temkin has addressed the accusation and asserted his innocence. It’s all really heavy and serious and it concerns one of the most successful card games ever released. I mean, that game is massive. So it’s weird not to talk about it, right? Why is no-one talking about it? Follow on.

CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY

First off, let’s talk about the game itself. This game, if you can even call it a game, sees players dealt a hand of white cards with stuff written on them. The game goes around the table, with people drawing black cards and reading out “questions”. Everyone then chooses the white card that will answer the question in the most “funny” way. Then all the stuff is read out and everybody laughs, if they’re drunk.

The key selling point of Cards Against Humanity is that it’s offensive. The questions are offensive and the answers are offensive, and even the cards that aren’t offensive can be made super-offensive by playing them to the right question. The UK edition of the game has cards about Maddie McCann and Hillsborough, and you can use these cards to make funny jokes about the deaths of kids and football fans. Now, I think it’s pretty much fair game to make jokes about anything at all. I don’t want you to think that I am in any way offended by the game, or that I think the cards should be removed. The game is what it is – a sick joke construction kit. And hey, that’s fine by me. I’ve had periods of my career where that’s been my job.

But Cards Against Humanity is a terrible game. Let’s be clear here. It’s an awful game. It’s not even a game at all. It’s a pastime. And a weird one. It’s a good laugh, sure, when you’re playing it with good people. But then, everything is a good laugh when you’re playing with good people. I dislike Cards Against Humanity because it’s completely mindless. When you look at your hand of cards, all you’re really doing is reading a string of jokes and choosing the funniest one. If your idea of a good time is sitting in a room with friends and reading through sickipedia.org until you see a joke you like, then Cards Against Humanity might be the game for you.

Say Anything is a better game. In that game you can construct your own funny stuff by making the funny stuff up inside your head. Rob Delaney’s War of Words board game is better too – it’s similar to CAH but lets you use that thing called “creativity” to make yourself the funniest person in the room.

But anyway, that’s Cards Against Humanity. It’s a massive success, it’s everywhere, and good luck to all involved.

MAX TEMKIN

I’ve owned Cards Against Humanity for a good long while, but the first time I heard Max Temkin’s name was when I read that he’d been accused of rape by an old college girlfriend. In fact, the first thing I saw was someone on Twitter saying that they wouldn’t have Cards Against Humanity in their house. I wondered which card had turned the person off. The Auschwitz one? The date rape drug one? On digging further in I found out that it was not about the game at all, but about the creator.

Hm.

Why are no gaming sites covering any of it? You can argue that it isn’t news, I suppose. A man who made a game is accused of raping someone ten years ago. He claims he is innocent. You can argue that it isn’t news, for sure. Many will argue that. But when one of the biggest games in the world right now is facing a boycott, no matter how small that boycott group might be, that is news, right? I mean, how is that not news?

The real reason why no-one is talking about this story is how the fuck do we talk about this story? How do all the male men dudes in one of the most male and menny areas of the male dudeiverse talk about a thing like this? We should all just stick to talking about good Netrunner deck builds, right? Leave the statistics about how wildly uncommon false accusations of rape are to someone else. A blogger or something. Let’s talk about Assassin’s Creed again.

But no, all of this is public. Let me link you to Max Temkin’s own response to the accusations.

It was after reading that response that I realised I had to write something about this whole thing in this column – a column that is, do not forget, primarily about recommending fun and lovely board games to fun and lovely people.

First, let me be totally clear. I do not know if these accusations are true. I’m a firm believer in the old “innocent until proven guilty” thing. But I also don’t agree with Temkin when he says that “There is no evidence for this story.” Witness testimony is, in fact, evidence. Sure, his word is evidence too – but the existence of his word doesn’t negate her word as evidence. That’s not how it works.

What really concerned me about Temkin’s response was this section:

“Part of rape culture that hurts everyone is that it makes it difficult to talk about what is and is not consent, and makes it incredibly scary for people to speak up when their boundaries are crossed. It is entirely possible she read something completely different than I did into an awkward college hookup.”

I’d like to point Temkin to a part of rape culture that actually hurts everyone – this constant bullshit that there is any grey area around consent. This notion is entirely alien to me, and instantly causes a narrowing of the eyes and a rise of an eyebrow. The idea that a guy can cross a boundary and not realise it astounds me. That kind of language shifts all of the responsibility onto the other party. It was maybe too scary for the person to speak up when that boundary was crossed. I mean – seriously. We might never know for sure what is or isn’t true in this case, but irresponsible language still needs to be called out when we see it.

Look, as a guy, it’s terrifying to think that you might someday be falsely accused of rape. But, to me, it’s like being afraid of dying in a plane crash. It’s so wildly unlikely that you’d be crazy to dwell on it. Where I get peace of mind is in the knowledge that I have never ever been unclear on what is or isn’t consent. It’s as simple as asking, for fuck’s sake. And I mean both parties asking. We need to lose this men as sexual gatekeeper bullshit too. And I mean continuing to ask. Consent is not a binary yes/no thing. It is a constantly shifting state. And all of this, all of this, all of this is why many rapes happen.

Rape is never a misunderstanding.

Temkin says in his post that he’ll “continue to be a feminist”, just after perpetuating some ridiculous rape culture myths. Yeah, maybe you should print that on a card, bro. It’s pretty funny.

And, y’know, some people might ask why I even bothered going into all of this. I know for a fact that there are survivors of sexual assault in the gaming community (and among creators), so it’s all relevant. I’m a straight, white guy – I have all the upside. The least I can do is write a few words about some heavy and serious shit when it’s happening within my area of interest.

I have no idea if the allegations are true. I know nothing about it, and neither do you. I have my assumptions, that’s all. Choose a card from your hand. They’re all as horrible as each other.

NEXT WEEK

Lovely wee pirates racing around an island collecting treasure.

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