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Let me tell you about a board game I like called Apples To Apples. Ever heard of it? Here’s how it works. Each player has seven red cards with random words and phrases on them, such as “Albatross” or “The Queen of England.” I have no idea if those are actual cards, but the examples work. Each round, one player pulls a separate, green card with an adjective on it and places it in the middle of the table. Then, all the other players anonymously put down cards that they think match the adjective in a true, clever, or funny way. To win the round, the player who pulled the adjective card must select your card as the winner. This is tough, because you have to know your audience. Is the card picker someone who admires accuracy or randomness? Do you have a card that will make them laugh or reference an inside joke? These are all thoughts that go into playing your card.
Doesn’t that game sound fun? Believe me, it is. The challenge of matching a basic word or phrase with a basic adjective in an entertaining way is like solving a puzzle to make your friend laugh. The enjoyment comes from the fact that the cards are inherently un-funny. You, my dear player, have to be the one to pair it with the right adjective that makes it a great joke.
But isn’t that the same exact premise of Cards Against Humanity, you ask? Why yes, yes it is. It’s almost like they created the exact same game, twelve years later. Almost like copying, some could say. Surely they must have changed the game somehow, you say, incredulously. It’s not like you can just steal an existing game, repackage it in edgy, black branding and sell it again, right? You’re right. They did make one change. A huge one, in fact. They removed everything that makes it funny.
Instead of innocent words and phrases like “The Midwest,” and “Going to Church,” Cards Against Humanity decided to go with horrific, disgusting, and admittedly hilarious cards of their own. They have cards that say “Bukkake,” “A windmill full of corpses,” and my personal favorite, “Bees?” The phrases are sometimes gross, sometimes sexual, and always funny. And therein lies the problem. You’d think that adding funnier cards would for a funnier game, but you’d be wrong.
The funny part of Apples to Apples is that it’s challenging. You have to make the joke, out of nothing except for bland words. You have to find the right circumstance that turned an inoffensive phrase into a crude sentence. If the card already holds the joke, however, what is there for you to do? Nothing.
Card Against Humanity seems like it would be fun until you realize that people don’t care about how well the played card matches up with the group card. It doesn’t matter that “I drink to forget ________” matched up with “Firing a rifle into the air while balls deep in a squealing hog” makes no sense. Sure, the second card is funny, but it’s funny on its own. You, the player, have added no humor to the situation. You’re merely riding the coattails of the writer whose sick mind thought that card up.
Now, I get it. Being funny is hard. I mean, not for me, because I’m naturally hilarious, but for others. Many people aren’t inherently funny. They may have a good sense of humor, or they may confuse being loud with being witty, but truly funny people are not a dime a dozen. So I get it. I understand why you’d want a game that can make people laugh at (what you perceive to be) your joke. But it’s not yours, is it? It was never yours. It’s a pre-made joke that you merely delivered. It’s the board game version of quoting Anchorman or sending gifs. These are all crutches for unfunny people, and it’s time to admit that to ourselves.
So next time you’re at your friend’s apartment for Board Game Night and someone suggests Cards Against Humanity, be the voice of reason. You don’t have to sit around and listen to each other read other people’s jokes all night. You can get out there and make your own. I believe in you. Go dust off Apples to Apples. .