Twitter has been abuzz about Cards Against Humanity lately, primarily (though not entirely) spurred by the Shut Up & Sit Down review that hit yesterday. It’s actually something worth reading- a thought out and well written take down of controversial game. There is definitely discussion to be had regarding celebrating free speech vs using that speech to punch down at underrepresented and marginalized groups. I have never been easily offended (having lived a life where the worst I would get called is “nerd”), so it’s valuable to hear about things I have never had to experience. It makes me a more well-rounded person, and forces me to consider lives outside my scope of experience. That’s part of the reason for this blog- to expose readers to a life that has taken a different turn than their own.
I’m not going to talk about that, though. I’m going to talk about the hop-ons derailing an interesting discussion to put on their “I’m So Smart” cap and sneer down at the unfunny masses.
Soon after that article hit, I saw a lot of tweets like this:
If I'm being honest the "problematic" stuff in CAH doesn't bother me as much as the concept of assembling shitty hacky prewritten jokes
— Zac Bertschy (@ANNZac) May 7, 2015
And that’s not to dump on Bertschy, a guy who I don’t always agree with but usually find pretty well-reasoned and interesting to read. This is just an example of the same sentiment I’ve been seeing lately- Cards Against Humanity is bad because it makes unfunny people think they’re funny. The problem isn’t bad mechanics, or its exclusion of marginalized groups, or its overshadowing of the rest of the gaming hobby- it’s that people are laughing at the wrong things. Let’s break that down a bit.
First, and most obviously, humor is subjective. This doesn’t require a lot of elaboration, because most sensible people accept that. Comedians smartly don’t aim to please 100% of the people- they find people with like-minded senses of humor and aim their jokes accordingly. Hot Fuzz is probably my favorite comedy of all time, but I can’t pretend everyone will love its straight-faced manner of satire (especially after it flips the script and leans heavy on the cliches in pursuit of humor). On the flip side, I don’t enjoy Big Bang Theory, but its viewership (including much of my family) clearly begs to differ.
And before you ask, no, it’s not because it’s “blackface for nerds”. How out of whack must your priorities be to equate the systematic oppression of a people over centuries with the plight of Star Trek fans getting teased? I’m just not much one for four-camera sitcoms.
Second, even if somehow objectively unfunny people became convinced they are funny, who is this hurting? I don’t spend much of my free time with people that don’t gel with my sense of humor, and at work, it’s easy to keep some professional distance if needed. Even in cases where that wasn’t always possible, such as my years in food service and retail, the personalities of people I didn’t like were just a minor annoyance that left my life as soon as I stepped out of work. Maybe Cards Against Humanity is birthing a whole new class of unfunny people going out into the world, making unfunny jokes and being convinced they are actually hilarious. Most likely, they’re either hanging out with people who agree, or those jokes will fade out once they get no reaction. I’m not convinced that a few nights of giggling at juvenile jokes are going to change a person’s personality. If that person is annoying after the game, they were probably annoying before the game. At worst, they manifest it in a slightly different way.
But ultimately, this boils down to one fact for me: it’s none of my business how others have fun. If someone has fun with a fairly stupid game among their group of friends then more power to them. I have fun with plenty of stupid, juvenile things- we all do. I enjoy TV shows and comics aimed at kids half my age. Some of my friends dedicate huge time and effort to becoming better ping pong players. My coworkers will stay up well into the wee hours of the morning to get their hands on an Apple Watch or new pair of tennis shoes, and my wife has dedicated a significant portion of her last year to free-to-play mobile games. None of affects my respect for these people in the slightest- why should I be bothered if someone else has a few drinks and makes nonsensical, plug and play jokes?
If you want to talk about the moral issues of an offensive game, there’s a meaningful discussion to be had there. The idea that a game like this might contribute to a culture numb to the everyday pains of specific groups is heavy, and it definitely deserves to be excavated. It’s silly to try to punctuate such a heavy subject with a tacked on “besides, the jokes aren’t even funny!”