Recently my friend Mark Rivera made a bold statement: “Cards Against Humanity is Bad for the Hobby”. Then he ducked. Then some people supported his claim and some of us didn’t.
For those of you who don’t know, Cards Against Humanity is a rather silly card game that went for crowd funding to Kickstarter just over 18 months ago and, for good reasons, succeeded. It succeeded not because is a good game, but because it was a good project. And it is a hilarious game.
The game is for a lot of players. I’ve played with 12 people and it plays well. Of course, “play” is a bit of a statement. What you do is read a sentence or question from a black card. That sentence or question has blanks and the rest of the players have to choose from the cards in their hand the reply they think it’ll be funniest. Sometimes – most of the times – it will also be the rudest. And there is plenty of potential for rudeness in this game.
Although I think this game is more a social activity than a game itself, as the guys at Flip the Table podcast mentioned, it does have mechanics and it does have a winning goal, so let’s assume it’s a game for now. Regardless of what it is, this game has been designed to be cheeky and offensive at times. Let’s face it, any way in which you can ask “What is heaven full of?” and have a reply like “Children with ass cancer” is, unarguably, offensive.
However does that mean is bad for the hobby? I say no.
I say “no” for several reasons. Firstly, it’s doing well and putting gaming on the map. Regardless of whether it is offensive or not, that is good news. I will add some back up logic and reasoning to this. A while ago I wrote a post in which I claimed that Games Workshop is not a good company. That got some attention (result!) and the widest argument against my claim is that “GW makes money, that’s what a company is meant to do, so is a good company” and “it brings people to the hobby and then those people go to play other things”.
So a company that receives so much criticism; that sends a message that, to be into the hobby you have to spend lots of money and that has some very questionable practises is good for the hobby. OK, we’re comparing games and not companies, but I think there is a parallel here: Both companies and their games are bringing people into the game. Both companies have questionable issues, one its game’s philosophy (Cards Against Humanity) and the other their business practices (Games Workshop).
Secondly because of the reasons that have been given to say it’s bad for the hobby: It’s vulgar and offensive.
I shan’t argue with either, but I will argue that a) you don’t need a game to be vulgar to put people off the hobby and b) vulgarity and offence are very subjective matters.
A) I tried to introduce some friends to gaming. They love Lovecraft and have read many of their books. Enter Arkham Horror. Then exit Arkham Horror. It didn’t work out and my friends have no-so-politely declined to play any more boardgames because they are too hard and complicated. Nothing wrong with Arkham Horror, but it wasn’t the right game for my friends.
More recently, I brought Cards Against Humanity to work and played with some colleagues after work at a party. Three of those colleagues have asked me when we’re playing again and if I have more games (I know, pretty stupid question).
Should we argue that Arkham Horror is bad for the hobby too?
B) There is a game out there in which you hunt and kill terrorists. Or alleged terrorists since they haven’t been caught, tried and found guilty. We are talking about real people here. I find that game offensive. In fact I find that game totally disgusting and anyone who claims that Card Against Humanity is bad for the hobby because is offensive, but find that game agreeable and “good for the hobby” is a hypocrite. How can a game that condones murder be good for anything? If that disgusting excuse for a game had been the first game ever presented to me, I would have been put off. I would have been put off the person who offered the game too.
Another example, one with a bit more shades of grey in terms of offence and subjectivity. I hate hunting. I think killing for pleasure makes you less of a human being and I wouldn’t hesitate to call anyone who kills animals for pleasure a coward. Also I would say that if you think hunting makes you more of a man/woman, you need to revisit the definition of what makes a man a man, and what makes a woman a woman. I can give plenty of reasons why I believe that, but the fact is that I can’t say that hunting is *wrong*, but it is certainly wrong to me. Would a game about hunting be bad for the hobby because it would put people off gaming? Probably not because it would attract a lot of cowa… sorry, hunters, to the hobby.
Gaming is a personal experience and so is our perception of them. Like any personal experience, we add our own slant to it. We look at them by our set of morals, ethics and beliefs and when that happens and we don’t like the product, we label it as “bad”. To justify that position and that argument, we extend it to everyone else, because we’d like everyone else to believe as we do (after all we’re right for ourselves, aren’t we?). Well, that is not good for the hobby.
If the existence of an offensive game were bad for a whole industry, the videogames industry would have fallen flat on its face a long time ago. Heck, we wouldn’t be playing Dungeons & Dragons at all since some nutters out there still believe it is a gateway for mental health issues.
However, if we took off the shelves anything and everything we consider to be offensive, the hobby as a whole would suffer a great deal more.
You don’t have to like everything. You don’t have to play everything (in fact, no one can… not enough time!). But no-one can’t say that something one personally dislikes for personal reasons is bad for a whole industry either.
No one can.