Cards Against Humanity is Over
June 9, 2020 2:41 AM   Subscribe

Former workers at Cards Against Humanity, the popular and controversial party game, have spoken up about the company's toxic work environment. Beginning with Theresa Stewart's story of casual racism and bullying, others added their stories of "the unethical, racist ... predominantly white, upper-middle class [writers'] room" and how "we tried to write cards calling out abusers or punching up at rape culture and we're told they would never be in the game because of the accusations against Max Temkin." Anita Sarkeesian has declared, "by publicly associating with Max, I allowed him to take cover via tacit approval from me and my nonprofit. I am not willing to do that anymore."

Max Temkin recently raised $3.4 million on Kickstarter for his new Magic Puzzle Company jigsaws, partly thanks to his reputation and standing in the games community. Temkin has been banned from at least two conferences, including XOXO since 2014.
posted by adrianhon (96 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Gods dammit.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:14 AM on June 9, 2020 [11 favorites]

To be honest, I was always kind of puzzled that Max Temkin's rape allegation wasn't more terminal, and it should have occurred to me that he was just really, really good at being manipulative and saying the right things.

For the record, Cards Against Humanity is pretty flawed as a game, and given I'd never seen or heard of anyone actually confronting taboos by making jokes out of them, the way the company said it was supposed to be played, and a lot more "people just making racist jokes" or "people steadfastly avoiding racism", I suspect that either a) it was a design failure that would have been buried had it not been enough of a sales hit to support a very large company, or b) it was regressive Apples to Apples all along until Cards Against Humanity decided to rebadge itself as 'enlightened' to obscure the fact it was regressive Apples to Apples.

Except Apples to Apples can be played more than once! Or you could play Funemployed, which also lets you make jokes but because the jokes aren't printed right on the cards, has a much longer shelf-life.
posted by Merus at 3:29 AM on June 9, 2020 [22 favorites]

I have an original deck of CAH and this doesn't hugely surprise me, given the fact that I had to remove roughly a third of the answer cards (the most overtly racist/sexist/ableist/anti-semitic ones) from my deck before I was comfortable playing the game with other humans. It also tallies that the people I know who have been most into the game have largely been the least critical about the world around them, its power structures, and their role in those power structures.
posted by terretu at 3:35 AM on June 9, 2020 [35 favorites]

This might be the least surprising thing I’ve ever been not surprised by. I’m ashamed that I ever enjoyed playing CAH - and I did, the first couple of times - because it was always What, Can’t You Take A Joke?: The Game.

Its ongoing popularity puzzled me a bit because once you take away the ‘creating a “safe space” for people to make racist and sexist jokes’ element it didn’t seem to have a lot of replay value...but now that I’ve thought that through and typed it out it makes a depressing amount of sense and is actually brilliant from a pure money-making perspective.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:47 AM on June 9, 2020 [30 favorites]

Shut Up and Sit Down's unanimous negative group review of CAH was posted on MeFi back in 2015. I was appalled at how many defenders the game got here back then. The Disqus thread at SUSD's site became a battle ground of anti-SJW shitheels vs. the very nice SUSD regulars, and seeing MeFites essentially side with nazis and other fuckwads in defense of CAH very nearly caused me to quit this site in disgust. (SUSD was already then and is especially now one of the most prominent voices in the boardgame hobby, and have been steadfast proponents of inclusivity from the start.)
posted by jklaiho at 4:06 AM on June 9, 2020 [28 favorites]

Ashamed to say I've played it once or twice, and each time, I didn't follow my gut and say "You know, this game is MEAN." and put up a fight to play something else.
Thank goodness I've never given them any MONEY.
I bet the cards would make a nice fire starter.
posted by Bill Watches Movies Podcast at 4:10 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I thankfully run in theater-geek circles who opted for Bards Dispense Profanity instead (same concept, only the answer cards are all lifted from Shakespeare plays).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 AM on June 9, 2020 [22 favorites]

I'm not at all surprised. I'd been hearing suggestions that CAH should be banned or at least heavily discouraged from play in public areas at gaming/sf conventions because of the distress and offence that reading out some of the cards could cause to bystanders.
posted by Major Clanger at 4:29 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I never understood the huge appeal of these games. They are just mildly depressing to me. At first I figured the "mildly depressing game" angle was different enough to be a bit of a laugh... a sort of anti-game. I thought it was a clever idea, and it made sense as a flash in the pan. But the long lasting appeal of these things is just head-scratching to me.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:36 AM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is not the slightest bit surprising to me.

I've played this exactly once, and yes, I'm a bit of a prude, but when my first turn came up I looked at all of the cards in my hand, put them all on the table, said "Fold", and walked away from the table. My friends were mildly hurt and I felt bad.

I have always been amazed that MeFi-at-large seemed to love a game that came with cards saying "Black People", "The Gays", and "The Jews". Cards that are supposed to be literal PUNCHLINES for JOKES.

My family sometimes plays Apples to Apples with a modified deck that includes names of local religious leaders and politicians. Now that's good clean fun.
posted by mmoncur at 4:37 AM on June 9, 2020 [11 favorites]

I've played a few times — one of which was a memorable experience with my future mother-in-law, who needed explanations for various terms she didn't know. The experience for me was always more about the incongruity of filthy talk coming out of seemingly decent people's mouths, and less about saying insulting things in a safe space. That said, there weren't any nonwhite or LGBTQ folks in the groups I played with, so of course we were all safe.

I did give CAH money a few times, supporting their annual holiday shenanigans that have often been mentioned here on the blue. I came to really enjoy one of the products of those shenanigans, the Good News podcast, which used to be part of my daily commuting routine, back when I had a daily commute.
posted by emelenjr at 4:53 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Seconding the "I had to remove a heck of a lot of the cards before playing" ... you could punch up in the game if you got lucky with your cards, and I'll admit having some real fun with some friends with that game.

But only after removing a heck of a lot of the cards before playing.
posted by allthinky at 4:55 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thanks so much for this post.
posted by allthinky at 4:58 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I have always been amazed that MeFi-at-large seemed to love a game...

I love MeFi, but you don't have to spend long here to notice the mental contortions if not outright doublethink that many MeFites indulge in to excuse their liking for problematic material or individuals.
posted by Major Clanger at 5:17 AM on June 9, 2020 [31 favorites]

People are starting to demand refunds for the Magic Puzzles Kickstarter. I doubt they'll get much traction unless Kickstarter steps in, though.
posted by dobbs at 5:18 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I will not try to claim any cred for my lifelong ban of CAH, for the same reason I am not special for never eating Chik Fil A. Cultural thing that blew right past me, never really noticed it was here, when brought to my attention (from MF) was all like "hmm, that sounds shitty" and never gave much more thought to it.

So the bigger question - why are all these shitty things so popular? WTF?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:22 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

The company has “Against Humanity” in its name, so I guess that was a tell all along. None of this strikes me as surprising, but it is completely terrible.
posted by hijinx at 5:31 AM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Long after Cards Against Humanity, otherfoot will remain.
posted by sugar and confetti at 5:35 AM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have a good friend who was in college the same time as Tempkin (with that college being very small). I remember when the game was getting big she told me about how the creators gave her the creeps; I don't remember her talking specifically about a rape allegation, but when the news broke more widely a couple of years later, it fit with what she said.
posted by damayanti at 5:38 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Whilst acknowledging the general shittiness of CAH and the long-standing rape allegation against Max Temkin, what’s different here are the number and timing of people coming out against the company now, very much at their own professional and personal risk.

People might not realise that Temkin sits close to the centre of a nerd/tech/gaming nexus. He’s undoubtedly a multi-millionaire with plenty of spare cash (and cashflow) to fund worthy causes and buy and commission fun stuff. That’s probably it took this long for someone like Anita Sarkeesian to shun him.

A few years ago, I went to a small party that included Anita and Temkin. We’d all just been at a bigger mini-conference run by Kickstarter (who themselves probably look fondly on Temkin, as a source of funds and inspiration for other creators) and everyone knew he was the guy who was printing money with CAH – a lot of people wanted to be friends and learn from him.

At the time I didn’t know about the rape allegations but in the short time I was there, he struck me as the sort of asshole who would make a game like CAH – always fucking with the party music, being a boor, etc. I didn’t really get why these other cool people, including reasonably well-known game designers, technologists, artists, were evidently friends with him.

Not all of them will have known about his bad behaviour, but some of them did, and they’re the ones who keep him in polite society, keep supporting and promoting his games and providing testimonials for them, keep him getting paid, and keep him being able to continue his bad behaviour.
posted by adrianhon at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2020 [20 favorites]

Hardcore Card Against Humanity fans in my life and hardcore South Park fans form a roughly circular Venn diagram.
posted by JohnFromGR at 6:06 AM on June 9, 2020 [44 favorites]

I host gamenight at my house regularly, and we played CAH probably 3-4 times over the last 5 years. I'd like to say we stopped because it was too mean, but the truth is it just got old. We also removed some of the worst cards before playing, but you know what? It doesn't fucking matter - the whole game is mean. And I'm someone who deeply values kindness. Ugh, I'm embarrassed and ashamed and if we still have a copy of the game I'm fucking burning it.

I am so ashamed of this now that I didn't even want to post this comment and have it associated with my username. But I think that admitting our mistakes in public helps normalize growth and learning from mistakes, which is something that I think is sorely needed right now, when everyone is so polarized and the margin of giving others the benefit of the doubt is shrinking fast.

This is one of my top five favorite quotes, and I'm holding fast to it right now:

“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” - Alexander Pope
posted by widdershins at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2020 [67 favorites]

There are certain things that have been useful to me without ever being admirable. To this day I miss the way Ron Paul allowed people to signal to me that I should never take their opinions seriously about anything ever again, for example.

I am legitimately going to miss the way someone saying "let's play Cards Against Humanity" would let me know the evening was over and it was time to go home. As a rule it never steered me wrong.

Of course in the current time of pandemic there aren't enough social gatherings for that to be of much use to me, so I'll just sit happily and watch the whole thing collapse.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 6:32 AM on June 9, 2020 [13 favorites]

I'm angry for the people that were hurt. They didn't deserve it, and I hope all of them are happy and successful wherever they are. And I'm angry that I fell for it. I wrote a lot here, but really, the opening sentence I had really summed it all up:

I'm so tired of being let down by people I admire.
posted by gc at 6:34 AM on June 9, 2020

I never liked CAH and the toxic culture of the company is no surprise. It always seemed hateful.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:43 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

People might not realise that Temkin sits close to the centre of a nerd/tech/gaming nexus. He’s undoubtedly a multi-millionaire with plenty of spare cash (and cashflow) to fund worthy causes

In other words, a philanthropist, a word which more often than not means a bad man who buys silence, a man who buys friends in high places and greases his way into power and wealth.
posted by acb at 6:50 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

For fans of Mefi's own Merlin Mann and the Do By Friday podcast, Max is taking a leave from the show and the money from the show's Patreon is being split between him and Alex now.

I'm not abandoning the show or the Patreon yet, but I'm keeping an eye out for what happens next on the show to see if it's addressed.
posted by SansPoint at 6:51 AM on June 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

As someone who can admit, with shame, to having enjoyed a few sessions of CAH with friends and family, I would like to acknowledge the extreme privilege necessary for that to even be possible. I like to think I've grown since the last time I played it years ago, but this post is a good reminder to confront my own unconscious biases and unearned privilege and work at tearing them down.

Thank you for posting this. Progress is a path, not a checkpoint.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:55 AM on June 9, 2020 [16 favorites]

Superfight is a similar type of game without the "terrible people" aspect of it. It's also much more fun, IMHO.
posted by suetanvil at 6:55 AM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

I played the game once, at a party with a bunch of people I didn't know very well, and I enjoyed not one bit of the evening. I never understood the point to a "game" that seemed explicitly designed to bring out and focus on the worst in people.
posted by PhineasGage at 6:57 AM on June 9, 2020

The last link is dead. Anyone have a mirror?
posted by ®@ at 7:04 AM on June 9, 2020

Not shocked by any of this. I enjoyed playing the game EXACTLY once when it was first released, found it hilarious, but every time after that it seemed the initial "Holy shit" surprise and shock appeal wore off immediately.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:14 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Looking back at some of those previous MeFi threads, I notice that I commented in one of them that I'd bought a deck but never opened it, which, while true, comes off as "I didn't inhale." I have played once since then, at a party, and while I don't remember anyone playing any egregiously offensive cards, no one's suggested a repeat since.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:16 AM on June 9, 2020

I've played CAH once, at a Mefi meetup in fact, and I guess I got it out my system.

I signed up for that Kickstarter, just because the puzzles sounded cool, without even knowing who Max Temkin. I just checked my email and I got this update a couple of days ago:

"We’ve collected your pledge for Magic Puzzles, and the funds are making their way over to Max Temkin."


I guess I'll send a matching donation to a rape crisis center.
posted by bondcliff at 7:17 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I guess I'll send a matching donation to a rape crisis center.

The comment page on the Kickstarter is packed full of "I want a refund. This guy's an asshole." sort of comments. Please add your voice to the list.
posted by Etrigan at 7:23 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I don't know if Kickstarter will issue refunds for Magic Puzzles, but a lot of people are requesting them in the project comments. If you backed the project and would like a refund, it wouldn't hurt to add your voice.
posted by adrianhon at 7:24 AM on June 9, 2020

CAH is a shit game that is so full of itself. I played once or twice with friends after it came out and was just... disappointed? Underwhelmed? There was an opportunity to make something interesting and fun, but it was just low brow shock humor for white males.
posted by stripesandplaid at 7:28 AM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Please add your voice to the list.

posted by bondcliff at 7:29 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I got the appeal of CAH exactly once. After the laughter subsides and the night ends, playing the game a second time or more seemed like one of the most pointless ventures.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:36 AM on June 9, 2020

I played CAH when it first came out. The crowd I played with was made up of drunken boisterous theater-and-renfest types, so there was plenty of riffing on the cards and taking the jokes to astronomical levels of inappropriateness. It was actually really fun, but the next few times I played with other folks it felt cringey...I guess the shine wore off.

One time I played cards that said I had a Holy Shrine to Sad Keanu hidden in the back of my closet, and for some reason it struck me as hilarious. I laughed so hard I actually peed my pants. Alcohol may have been involved.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:52 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

I played it on a family vacation once, and despite the game's acknowledged flaws, I'll always be thankful for the experience it gave me of watching one of my sisters-in-law explaining the concept of a glory hole to my elderly mother-in-law. (Her verdict: "Oh my gosh, isn't that something?" She spent a lot of her life in Minnesota.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2020 [27 favorites]

Max announced on the Do By Friday podcast discord that he was taking 'a leave' from the show and will be giving his share of the patreon money to the other two co-hosts, Merlin and Alex. No clue of the show will continue on with just them or not. Alex was pretty directly called out by Anita in her medium pos as being one of the employees who put on a happy face to the outside world, but that might not be enough to get them cancelled since they are pretty well-liked.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:36 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've played some genuinely hilarious games of CAH, none of which happened because of the "edge lord" cards, but from the crowd-curated content of random internet memes / trends in strange combination with each other. I love that aspect of it. The edge lord shit does get depressing, though. There's always that one guy or gal at the table who thinks racist / sexist jokes are super funny in an ironic way-- IMO these have been either neckbeards of some sort OR very very progressive folks who feel like their politics earn them an "ironic racist joke" pass. I'm not surprised to hear those same sorts of people work at the company.
posted by a_curious_koala at 8:38 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

I never got the point of CAH: it was clearly something that would be very uncomfortable to play with people you didn't know well (are they laughing at that racist joke ironically or because they think it's true?). And if you got together a group of people that did know each other well, and trusted each other, and really got each other's sense of humour... WTF would they need this game for? They'd be able to come up with their own edgy jokes while playing a more fun game with more interesting mechanics.

It struck me as something that would appeal to the kinds of people who act like raging assholes in tabletop RPGs because they think that the framework of the game gives them permission to say literally anything.
posted by confluency at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have played CAH exactly once, and then I asked of my family that if we played it again, could the child abuse jokes be removed? THEY ACTUALLY ACTED AS IF I WAS BEING UNREASONABLE. About jokes about CHILD ABUSE. So I think CAH is not something I will ever play ever again, and good damn riddance.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 8:44 AM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

We play Slash instead. Same wacky-combos fun, with very little of the same garbage!

Just that I can't say "none" unless I've gone through them all, is all.
posted by XtinaS at 8:56 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

The thing is, Max can be affable and self-deprecating in person. Combined with the very public philanthropy he did, I can see why folks associated with him. I didn't know him well - at this point it's been so long he probably couldn't pick me out of a lineup - but we ran in the same circle back in the early CAH years. After a while people started removing themselves from his orbit and I didn't know why. But others in the circle were still friends with him, so I thought it was more along the lines of personality conflicts and not about toxicity or abuse; the last time I saw him was at a party at his house less than five years ago. This is the problem with a whisper network (and more importantly the problem with the systems of oppression and power that make it hard for people to speak truths at anything above a whisper): if you aren't in the network, you end up aiding and abetting abuse by your association.

I kind of hated the game itself - played it exactly twice - but unlike many here I can't claim any kind of moral superiority as I didn't do any of the internal work to figure out WHY I didn't like it. That's on me and my privilege for not having to do so and just letting the cards sit in the back of a closet instead of examining what felt off about the game.

It really seems like Max doesn't get that "doing the work" and atoning for your privilege and wealth doesn't just mean donating other peoples' money to progressive causes, but doing the much harder interpersonal work and self reflection and change. Especially when that wealth is built at least partially on the support of racists/sexists/homo- and trans-phobes/edgelords liking your product for its tacit approval of saying shitty things they actually believe.

I still have a hard time squaring the interactions I had with him with the accusations (that, to be clear, I 100% believe) because he always was so likable to me, but that's how these things work. You don't always see the ugly side of your friends/acquaintances, but you have to believe people when that veil is lifted.
posted by misskaz at 8:59 AM on June 9, 2020 [13 favorites]

I once played an amazing, life affirming game of CAH with a group that was mostly queer POC who are Presbyterian ministers and several of whom do anti-racism work for a living.

The last game of CAH I played ended several close friendships after my spouse got angry about an anti-Semitic joke and a bunch of people insisted it was okay because they are not anti-Semites.

Fuck CAH.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:01 AM on June 9, 2020 [7 favorites]

The problem and gross thing is that CAH assumes an even power dynamic among all groups. It's like that guy at work that says "I'm an equal opportunity racist, I hate everyone". There's a hell of a difference between punching down and punching up.

Punching down just isn't fun when you have empathy. Even if you're operating under the proviso that for the purposes of the game all power dynamics are equal. Because they're not.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:09 AM on June 9, 2020 [8 favorites]

Glad to see it gone.
posted by egypturnash at 9:19 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh no. I just backed the puzzle kickstarter. D: Going to join the calls for a refund, but lesson learned that I should have googled "(kickstarter lead) + rape allegations" before backing anything.

I was struck by Anita's point about how she felt something off about Max, but pushed it aside because no one else seemed bothered, and only later realized that they all felt off too, but were looking at her and seeing that she wasn't bothered.
posted by Emily's Fist at 9:29 AM on June 9, 2020 [13 favorites]

> The problem and gross thing is that CAH assumes an even power dynamic among all groups

That's an astute observation, and the bit that ties together the shitty conditions for POC at CAH with the game itself. CAH is, at its core, a game by and for white people. Straight cis able-bodied (etc) white people, specifically. The game only "works" when everyone in the room is at the very top of the social power structure (and is comfortable punching down at the marginalized people outside the room).

The game is a pretty pitch-perfect demonstration of how white supremacy functions. Like some others here I've run in similar circles to Max, so I've run into him a bit. He's a creep and a jerk, but like a lot of white men he thinks of himself as not-racist and well-intentioned. I feel pretty comfortable saying that he didn't set out with the goal of create White Supremacy: The Card Game -- but that's exactly what he and his writers made.
posted by jacobian at 9:31 AM on June 9, 2020 [21 favorites]

I'll admit, I've had a much better experience with CAH than it seems like a lot of you have. We did burn (literally) some of the worst cards from our set, but the Jew and Queer jokes mostly landed fine because we were the Jews and Queers making them.

I used to defend it because it was just honest about what it was: dirty/adult Apples to Apples. And you could already be an awful person with A2A if you were so inclined, so maybe it's just a player problem, not a game problem?

But if it only lands well when you're playing with close friends who are good at respecting boundaries, and too few people are respecting boundaries, well...maybe it's just not a good game.

The appeal was that making fun of everyone, but ourselves as much if not more is a very Jewish thing, and Max Temkin is Jewish. But if he's mostly laughing at others, and laughing to the bank at the expense of others...fuck him.
posted by explosion at 9:42 AM on June 9, 2020 [8 favorites]

Someone gave me a CAH set as a gift (wtf), and after tossing the very worst cards, I made a house rule that any player could freely discard any card that they found too offensive to play and draw another. After looking through this discard pile at the end of one game, I realized this would make it unplayable.

But even Apples to Apples can end friendships. There was a game several years ago in which the adjective was "Annoying," and the noun that was chosen only applied to one person in the gathered group. The group hasn't quite been the same after that.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 10:01 AM on June 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

I still have a hard time squaring the interactions I had with him with the accusations (that, to be clear, I 100% believe) because he always was so likable to me, but that's how these things work. You don't always see the ugly side of your friends/acquaintances, but you have to believe people when that veil is lifted.

I forget who said it, but the fact that “Abusers groom allies just as much as they groom victims” has served me well ever since I heard it.
posted by Etrigan at 10:11 AM on June 9, 2020 [50 favorites]

Yeah -- I wish I could say I knew CAH was trash from the beginning, but when I was younger my diverse friend group "enjoyed" it a lot and I probably would have claimed that it was fine with a suitably thoughtful crowd, etc. Thinking back now, I wonder who was biting their tongue in silent hurt and just pretending to laugh so as not to seem uncool. jacobin's point about it demonstrating how white supremacy functions is spot-on. No game should enable those kinds of scenarios.
posted by Emily's Fist at 10:12 AM on June 9, 2020 [7 favorites]

Refunds are being issued for the Magic Puzzles Kickstarter.
posted by Etrigan at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2020 [6 favorites]

... you could already be an awful person with A2A if you were so inclined ...

I think there's a really distinct difference, though, between A2A and CAH.

In A2A, any humor (absurdist, subversive, offensive) comes from a player looking at the green card, making a connection to an otherwise innocuous red card, and inviting others to see that connection. That means that there's room for people to decide how edgy they really want to be. It also means that sometimes, if you are trying to win you have to identify who to play for humor towards, and who to play for more interesting "ahh, actually those are related" kinds of connections.

In CAH meanwhile, the humor (???) is just: here's a really offensive thing you can make someone say out loud.

I would be willing to bet if you showed people a group of white cards that had been submitted by players in CAH and then gave them 3 black cards and asked them which the players were providing a response to, it would be a complete guessing game. Most of the time, the white card played is whatever is most nuclear offensive at this moment, even if it makes no sense in the context of what the black card has on it.
posted by tocts at 10:39 AM on June 9, 2020 [4 favorites]

Refunds are being issued for the Magic Puzzles Kickstarter.

I just got my refund. That was quick.
posted by bondcliff at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I was never interested in CAH, but I was amused by some of the company's publicity stunts (particularly the big, pointless hole in the ground). But they totally lost me with their condescending response to people who thought Secret Hitler was offensive:
Perhaps you want to pretend that historical figure Adolf Hitler didn't exist. Simply cover him up with the included Secret Santa stickers to change the game to a delightful holiday treat for all ages ... those of you who have loudly complained that that game is not exactly to your liking can now cover it in stickers to your heart's content.
posted by jomato at 11:12 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

This seems as good an opportunity as any to encourage people to play Quiplash, which is much superior, not only because it's not full of edgelord nonsense, but also because you have to write your own jokes instead of putting together joke Legos that make you feel witty despite not having actually done anything.
posted by zeusianfog at 11:29 AM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

In hindsight, this shouldn't be a surprise. CAH certainly was of its time, but in the past several years it became a very obvious indicator of certain things when people were still into it. When "Secret Hitler" came out, I definitely told people at work that maybe that's not a great choice and I refused to play. I should have put 2 and 2 together. I'm going to cancel my kickstarter pledge for those puzzles. But my family had really enjoyed the CAH "family edition" that was released just as lockdown was started. I was VERY judicious in culling cards from the printed deck before we played, and it brought us a lot of joy, but I think we still prefer Apples to Apples.

I still think the best, and funniest, game of CAH I ever played was using the CAH question cards and the Apples to Apples For Kids edition answer cards. I think I'll give Quiplash a go with the kids!
posted by sleeping bear at 11:42 AM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

My CAH story is that when I got it as a gift, I threw a bunch of the cards in the bin (the most egregiously offensive stuff). The last time I played it, we had a random player, ie we threw a random card into each round and they could score points in the same way. The random player won, showing there's very little "game" to this game. It's just a random joke generator.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:46 AM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

One thing I've seen comedy people remark about CAH (as a concept) is that it's kind of a simulacrum of comedy writing. Like, CAH is to joke writing what Rock Band is to actually playing a guitar. In the abstract, it seems like it would be at the very least a bit cringey and/or embarassing but maybe just harmless fun (not unlike Rock Band itself). However, when you then think about how it would actually play out, you realize it's going to be a lot more like going to an open-mic standup show where all the comics are your extended family members after Thanksgiving dinner. And unless you're from a showbiz family, who in their right mind would agree to that? And, this is not even factoring in the specific South Park-esque edgelord-ism of CAH.

Meanwhile, I always found something a bit off about their charity campaigns. Like, they always seemed to support the "right" things but something about the conspicuousness or ostentatiousness of them didn't quite sit right with me, especially contrasted with their self-consciously edgelord-y cards. Then, I finally realized what it reminded me of: when troublesome fraternities make a big show of their charity drives. It's like a kind of medieval church indulgence that'll wipe away all their sins.
posted by mhum at 11:52 AM on June 9, 2020 [8 favorites]

I never cared for the game for the typical reasons and the SU&SD review was something for me to point to and say "This" pretty easily. The one time I did play it, however, was at the trans support group back in Charlotte SC, where a couple of the guys and IIRC one woman were... very enthusiastic about it and the rest of us participated out of group pressure. We played with an edited copy that had the really unpleasant stuff taken out, and I myself tend toward extremely dark and borderline nihilistic comedy, but it was still difficult to find ways to make jokes that weren't just saying naughty words.

The one bit I remember from that game was a card that said "Daddy, why is Mommy crying?" I played "Testicular torsion" and won. One of the enthusiasts protested, "Hold on, that doesn't make any sense. Why would Mommy be having testicular torsion?" The rest of us raised our eyebrows and waited. "Oh, fuck," he said, rolling his eyes and burying his face in his arms. "I'll turn in my trans card."

But yeah. A bad game that results in bad play environments. For all the amusing stuntiness of their charity drives, they can take a bow and exit anytime they like, in my opinion.
posted by Scattercat at 12:08 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Another game that has similar mechanics but not the toxicity is The Metagame.
posted by Lexica at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

2nding Quiplash, it's so much fun
posted by STFUDonnie at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

Cards Against Humanity is a hack open mic in a box, a shock jock simulator, what a heinous creation. I had to play a few hands before the scope of its loathsomeness fully breached my own cisheterosexual white maleness, but it did once the childish shock value wore off and the same shameful disgust I had come to feel for South Park and Seth McFarlane cartoons set in. My last couple games, I fell into a strategy of trying to get through it by just playing the scatological cards and discarding the bigoted ones. Award winning fun!

I am legitimately going to miss the way someone saying "let's play Cards Against Humanity" would let me know the evening was over and it was time to go home. As a rule it never steered me wrong.

Going forward, I operated by this rule as well, treating CAH as the "this party is over now" game par excellénce. This worked for me well enough until I had a roommate who loooved it, who never got tired of giggling at what to her were just naughty words. It became the "time to go to bed game" after that, but the walls were pretty thin. I've been waiting on this cultural reckoning for some time, and wish it could have happened years ago on the basis of its cruelty alone. That's a hell of a thing, that the success of this cruel product gave Temkin and his enablers a place to carry out their own cruelties on people who trusted them. Sounds like they were just as nightmarish a company to work for as one would assume.

Quiplash, however? Magnificent, I'll 3rd that - it's the opposite of CAH, a party resurrector. Set's a lot of fun too - you're matching colors, numbers, shapes, and textures instead of hate speech and human beings, so a much better time matching cards and laughing with your friends all around.
posted by EatTheWeek at 2:35 PM on June 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Hmm, this comes as not a huge surprise, in retrospect. For a while (as an outsider) I’ve felt like I enjoyed everything CAH-the-company has done (like the publicity stunts and DBF) but hate hate hate the game itself (if only for just not being funny by virtue of trying way too hard — A2A works because each card is half of a whole, and the serendipitous juxtapositions created are what cause the comedy, while CAH cards each try to be a punchline, which gets real old real fast)

Anyway I really enjoyed Merlin and Alex having a heart-to-heart conversation on DBF last week so I’m not super opposed to Max taking a leave of absence
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:06 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Anyway I really enjoyed Merlin and Alex having a heart-to-heart conversation on DBF last week so I’m not super opposed to Max taking a leave of absence
I liked that a lot too. I hope that they spin up another podcast altogether and start with a clean slate.
posted by device55 at 3:18 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

But they totally lost me with their condescending response to people who thought Secret Hitler was offensive

Gotta admit, I was 100% with them on that one. Back in 2016, there were a TON of concern trolls saying how offensive "Secret Hitler" was as a concept, and a LOT of them were from the right. Trump wasn't yet elected, but fascism was absolutely on the rise in the world.

As a Jew, people telling another Jew that his game shouldn't evoke Hitler because it's offensive and inappropriate felt like gaslighting to me.

Throughout the Trump administration, there's been deflection constantly of how it's "disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust" to compare Trump to Hitler, or the US to Nazi Germany. And it's always white right-wingers telling that to Jews.

And well, look at the US in 2020 and tell me that the analogy was inappropriate.

For all I know, maybe someone was actually, genuinely offended. But when your critics are a sea of people who are playing offended to deflect criticism of their own actions, it's enough to provoke a response of righteous anger. I can't fault him for that.

I'll never defend the man for his racism or sexism, or other bullshit he's done. But it does get old watching people try to tar a Jewish person for using the gallows humor of our culture.
posted by explosion at 3:48 PM on June 9, 2020 [7 favorites]

I've hated CAH since before hating CAH was cool...

Good riddance to bad rubbish.
posted by Windopaene at 4:37 PM on June 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Someone did a reskin of Secret Hitler called Secret Hamilton where the players are Federalists and Democratic-Republicans trying to promote or prevent the formation of the National Bank.

Also, Funemployment is very much my "if you want to play CaH, play this instead" recommendation.
posted by absalom at 4:55 PM on June 9, 2020 [3 favorites]

also Quiplash has that aggressively unfunny third round to serve as a chaser (“a tall glass of plain water, extra plain”) which I think is responsible of them because otherwise we the players might get carried away by the laffs
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:47 PM on June 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'll take the opportunity to link a great article about abusers in a community.
posted by Jacen at 8:29 PM on June 9, 2020

Oh dear, possibly I've confused Quiplash with Quiddler
posted by EatTheWeek at 9:21 PM on June 9, 2020

Hearing "Let's play CAH!" is to me the laminated, packaged and mass-marketed feeling of one's stomach dropping with dread. It's getting on voice with new friends and immediately learning they're insanely racist. It's putting a shoe on your foot only to discover something wet and squishy is inside. But the guy donated to good causes, so any time I would criticize this shitty, mean-spirited game, I would get pushback, and think maybe I was being too sensitive. I've really got to learn to trust my instincts... :/
posted by the liquid oxygen at 6:20 AM on June 10, 2020 [10 favorites]

The reasons many people hate CAH are why it can be so valuable. CAH allowed conversations about difficult subjects to happen. It showed the cruelty and disdain of racism and bigotry in my community to the privileged people who weren’t looking at it. It showed how jokes aren’t jokes and how racism infuses every aspect of our culture.

CAH helped some of my friends become better people and remain my friends. I will always be grateful for both its existence and the fact that I don’t have to play it anymore.
posted by Revvy at 8:00 AM on June 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are several excellent variants here, but nobody's mentioned my favorite: Charty Party!
posted by MengerSponge at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2020

I guess I'm not as nice and virtuous a person as most of you, because my friends and I -- a reasonably diverse group -- certainly played and enjoyed CAH quite a lot when it was The New Thing. (It was also a staple on the JoCo Cruise for years.)

Whatever else is right or wrong with it, though it's got a definite expiration date in terms of hours played, though, and we hit it years ago. That alone makes it a not-very-great game, but it also was cheap, so whatever.

We had a good time. There's a place for transgressive or even offensive humor, as long as you're not making a point of punching down, and as long as you know you're with other people with a similar bent. If you play with an unknown table and some edgelord insists on the most offensive possible combo every time, yeah, I can see that getting tedious. We tended to laugh way more a bout dirty-but-absurd combinations; just being offensive isn't really funny on its own.

None of this, of course, changes the fact that Max is an asshole, and may finally be reaping what he's deserved for a long time. That part I can get behind.
posted by uberchet at 1:13 PM on June 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

New stories: Regardless of whether you enjoy CAH or despise it, I hope we can all bear in mind it comes from a poisoned tree, and think accordingly when supporting their future work.
posted by adrianhon at 3:47 AM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

On a somewhat related note, the Origins Online virtual convention was cancelled last night after a mass exodus of panelists and high-profile attendees in response to the organizers' inexplicable failure to release a strong statement supporting BLM.
posted by Gelatin at 5:02 AM on June 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The reasons many people hate CAH are why it can be so valuable. CAH allowed conversations about difficult subjects to happen. It showed the cruelty and disdain of racism and bigotry in my community to the privileged people who weren’t looking at it. It showed how jokes aren’t jokes and how racism infuses every aspect of our culture.

This is literally the first time I've heard of this actually happening for an actual person. I'm glad this worked for you, but I don't think this is a common experience.
posted by Merus at 6:52 AM on June 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

Whatever else we see on this thread, it's going to be hard to top the revelation (at least to me) that there is a real person named "Amy Dracula."
posted by uberchet at 7:40 AM on June 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

"When "Secret Hitler" came out, I definitely told people at work that maybe that's not a great choice and I refused to play."

I was lucky to play this game with just good people, where being Hitler was obviously a bad thing. I never bought a copy, but the game is simple enough I was really tempted to recreate it from memory. I was stuck on "vacation" with some family, us kids mostly good, but some of the adults the kind of garbage to complain about NFL kneeling despite never really caring about sports or football.

Anyway, my point is, it was really fucking fun to describe to them a game where it's Liberals versus Nazis and Liberals are uneveuivacably the good guys there, even for someone who bends over backwards to "own the libs." While I had my fun teasing a few ignorant family members, reading these posts makes it all too clear how some shitty folks would be all to eager to embrace the fascism side of things.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:53 AM on June 11, 2020

I don't get it, is there a "game" aspect to this or it's just cards with offensive shit printed on them that you have to say out loud and that's it?
posted by Tom-B at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2020

There's a game, it's kinda basic. One person puts a card down, other people put down "response" cards and then the person who puts down the original card gets to pick which one "matches" best and the the person who put down that card get a point. In short. So as a basic example:

You put down: DOG

Other people put down: FOOD, HOUSE, CAT, SNOOPY

You can choose one that is the best match.

But you can imagine if the card you put down is SECRET HITLER and someone else is holding the BAD TOUCH card or something. It can get awkward (at best) fast, and the "edgy" nature to a lot of the cards (which have racist and ageist/ableist/sexist implications) encourages a sort of dark humor approach to things which is definitely not everyone's wheelhouse. It's certainly not in mine.
posted by jessamyn at 1:30 PM on June 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

This seems as good an opportunity as any to encourage people to play Quiplash [...] because you have to write your own jokes instead of putting together joke Legos that make you feel witty despite not having actually done anything.

Ok this is separate from the CAH thing but I see this sentiment alot, and you know, some of us are not that creative. Give me some random words and I can make them funny, but I have no ability to think of the random words myself. All those blank cards that come with CAH and A2A where you can put your own answers? All blank with my versions because I am not creative enough to come up with something funny. We aren't all comedians and some of us need some joke Legos to help out.
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:22 AM on June 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

Nico Carter has written an incredible, insightful piece about his time at CAH.
posted by misskaz at 4:32 AM on June 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Wow that's a good piece on so many things.
posted by PMdixon at 5:41 AM on June 26, 2020

On guys calling guys out here is John Scalzi addressing his friendship with Max Temkin and Sam Sykes and Myke Cole, and Warren Ellis* concluding where he eventually gets to noting that
Women have a right to be safe and secure, and to have full participation in the cultures and communities that they create and work in.
Which is a much better take than his previous go at something like this during RaceFail'09**. Scalzi calls these 'fuck ups', which is making that term carry a whole lot of bad history.

*uh if you have a list maybe thats a problem
**bad racism that was largely written off as 'livejournal drama'
posted by zenon at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2020

*uh if you have a list maybe thats a problem

I actually think this is pretty interesting because it points to the general idea that if you have, let's say, 100 friends and you didn't specifically pick them to be aligned with your values along a particular axis, there's a really good chance a not-small percentage of them may turn out, in fact, to be creeps or racists or other not-okay things that are maybe invisible if you've got a certain amount of privilege and are not looking for them. And one of the things I think is, slowly, coming out of this, is that more people are, now, looking for them. Which I hope, will make more people see them, and fewer people have to feel victimized by fuck-ups that somehow no one else saw at the time.

I think more people are proactively looking for dudes (especially dudes in fandoms or other nerd communities) to be creepy, the more they're likely to see and expunge creeps earlier, at least I hope so.
posted by jessamyn at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Nico Carter has written an incredible, insightful piece about his time at CAH.

Was just coming to add that, glad it's already here. It's got some wallop.
posted by cortex at 3:58 PM on June 26, 2020

Oh, sorry, I missed that!
posted by Omnomnom at 4:44 AM on June 30, 2020

CAH employees are unionizing in response to the dumpster fire that is CAH management.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:26 AM on July 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

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