Friday, May 8, 2015

Why Shut Up & Sit Down's review of Card's Against Humanity was not just wrong, but frightening.

So SU&SD recently released a rather scathing review of Cards Against Humanity.  You've probably seen it, and if you haven't, I urge you to read it.  Because I'm about to vehemently disagree with it, and it's probably best you read it for yourself first before I do, so you can make up your own mind.

Firstly, I do have to concede, most of their criticisms of the actual game are fair.  The mechanics of the game are certainly not why people play it.  And it's not always funny.  And it's frequently just random.

But then SU&SD decided to wheel out their soap box and sneak into their review why CAH isn't just a terrible game, but makes you a more terrible person for playing it as well.  To quote Paul

But we all know the direction the game wants people to go in because it subtitles itself “A party game for horrible people.” It openly, plainly, even joyfully acknowledges its content, with things like “The profoundly handicapped,” “Black people,” “Auschwitz,” “Homeless people,” and “Surprise sex” which, if you’re not versed in the term, is a euphemism for rape.

These are just a small sample of the subjects which Cards Against Humanity suggests as punchlines. You don’t need to use them, it implies; whatever you come up with was your choice. You’re the one who put those pieces together. But Cards Against Humanity still gives you the tools with which you can construct these calls and responses. It still frames and controls what happens. There’s a word for this, and that word is “enabling.”

And later on Matt Lees

Listen, I appreciate that reality is a systematically crushing gauntlet of rules designed to make your life awful. Modern life is a litany of things you aren’t allowed; a monolithic spreadsheet of sober responsibilities that’s barely cross-referenced to the things we want or need. Escapism and rebellion are natural desires that none of us should ever feel ashamed to embrace, but we’re responsible for the outlets we choose.

Ta-da! The taboos remain intact, it was all just a ruse. “Horrible” grants Cards Against Humanity more bravado than it deserves - beneath the brash and explicit surface is a system that enables behaviour that I personally find to be tepid and weak.

So their take isn't just that CAH is a horrible game, but that it "enables" terrible thoughts.  What is most depressing is that Matt acknowledges that CAH provides a much needed escape from the suffocating political correctness that surrounds us.  He then decided CAH is a worse game for allowing that.  That, frankly, frightens me.  It speaks to a desire for an intellectual prison which honestly astounds me.

CAH has always felt like an open mic night to me.  It's a "safe space", much as I loathe the term, where you can experiment with politically incorrect ideas you wouldn't ordinarily feel safe with.  Sometimes a thought hits something true, sometimes it misses the mark entirely.  Sometimes you get incredibly close to a dark unpleasant reality, but the magic of the game allows everyone to laugh it off while carrying it with them.  Like a fantastic comedian, the laughter of the game disarms us, and allows us to confront horrible taboo ideas that we've silently wrestled with.  It just also has the potential to be the terrible comedian that bombs and ends up with his reputation ruined on youtube the next day.

SU&SD has taken on the role of the humorless activist, taking a punchline out of context, endlessly droning on about how "That's not funny!  It's not ok to joke about that!  Stop laughing!"

I leave you with the fantastic words of the late Patrice O'Neal.

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