December 27, 2015

For times of satire and political incorrectness: a #1 box of inhumanity and publicity.

I just noticed that the #1 item in the Toys & Games category at Amazon is a card game called Cards Against Humanity. One customer reviewer describes an actual round of the game:
1. The Judge plays a Black Card that says: "Life for the Native Americans was forever changed after the white man introduced them to ____________."
2. All players (exc. the Judge) choose a White Card.
3. After everyone has chosen their White Card, the Judge reviews the responses: "Smallpox Blankets", "Drinking Alone", "A Can of Whoop-Ass", and "Take-Backsies"
(Before you read these and think I'm an awful person, these are actual White Cards that I have seen played on the aforementioned Black Card)
4. The Judge chooses "Drinking Alone" and the player who picked this White Card wins the round.
Masses of people seem to be finding this kind of overt anti-humanitarianism hilarious. Take note. Take note political commentators — you who think the general public will gasp at "schlonged."

Now, Cards Against Humanity is made in China and the company seems to be managing its PR by doing some conspicuously nice things for its workers. The Guardian reports on its "eight sensible gifts for Hanukah" program that funded a paid week off for all of its factory workers. 150,000 customers bought what was a series of unknown items the first 3 of which turned out to be socks, which are indeed sensible. (Socks is the answer Meade gives if you ask him what he wants for Christmas.) You'd think at least one paid week of vacation would already be part of the labor deal, but this company wins smiles and publicity for doing this.

Cards Against Humanity also leveraged favorable publicity from a program called "Give Cards Against Humanity $5," which raised in $71,145 in donations that were distributed to the U.S. employees, whose obligation to say how they spent it made it possible for The Guardian to end its article with cutesy details:
Maria... spent $732 on three bottles of scotch whisky, $800 on a TV, saved $1500 and donated $1153 to the pet charity PAWS. Tom spent $1500 on a custom suit of armour, $589 on a sword, and $125 on swordplay lessons, before donating $1971 to the International Wolf Center in Minnesota. Karlee donated $1027 to Planned Parenthood, and spent $3410 on lubricant, cleaning spray and a 24-karat gold vibrator.
The serious journal Foreign Policy published "Cards Against Humanity Is All For Chinese Workers/The irreverent card game maker claims to have sent Chinese factory workers on a paid vacation." Foreign Policy makes its story about what it properly calls a "publicity campaign." It describes the companies PR mailer, which included "thank-you notes from workers and photos from the vacations that they took." FP put the word "claims" in the headline but not the word "purported" before "thank-you notes."
"This vacation I took my son to the river bank to catch fish, and we also climbed a 600-meter-tall mountain,” wrote one worker, adding that Cards Against Humanity is a “very interesting a card game, but I do not know how to play!” 
On first read, I saw that as an implicit criticism of Americans. We sit inside playing a boxed game and the Chinese worker knows the importance of taking his son on a vigorous, nature-loving trek. On second read, I see it that way too, but with the worker a fictional character in a deliberate satire.
[A] U.S. company that goes out of its way to treat Chinese workers well can also make for effective publicity, despite consumer skittishness towards products made in China. Many are attuned to working conditions in China.... “This doesn’t undo the ways that all of us profit from unfair working conditions around the world,” read an enclosed note in the mailing campaign from Cards Against Humanity, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”


Oso Negro said...

Althouse is WAY behind the times on this. My uber-liberal sister and brother-in-law have been playing this WITH their kids for years.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Yes, socks for Christmas. Socks I have been buying for the last four years (same brand, design, and color; from Wal-Mart) used to last over a year before wearing out at the heel. Lately they've been wearing through in three months.

The usual bait and switch trick from China, I'm thinking. After getting some customers snared, drop the quality of your feed materials.

damikesc said...

It's been out for several years and is exceptionally rude fun. I personally love it. And they have the best Black Friday sales (such as the "$5 for nothing" sale this year or last year's "$5 for a box of poop").

Xmas said...

For cards against humanity, that was a mild example.

rehajm said...

You will have to find a way to ecplain 'bukakke' to your mother in law.

Fernandinande said...

"Life for the Native Americans was forever changed after the white man introduced them to ____________."
- Horses
- Sheep
- Pickup trucks
- Bud Light

"Over 13 duodecillion possible rounds (10^40) with 6 players"

They lie! duodecillion = 10^39.

richlb said...

I had to explain "bukkake" to a 35 year old cousin. In front of my mother in law.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse is WAY behind the times on this."

I could see that the reviews went back to at least 2012. I was surprised that it was #1 in the large category of all toys and games!

Other than that, I don't normally keep track of toys and games unless there's a controversy. I think it's strange that I've never notice any controversy about this deliberately offensive game... especially with the company seeming to be trying to stir up publicity. The name of the game, etc. etc., is begging for controversy.

I've seen some toy controversies over the years, mostly about girls' toys being pink and Barbie not being fat enough.

Ann Althouse said...

"I had to explain..."

The articles I'm seeing this morning seem to say that everyone plays with an iPhone or some other device to use to check the meaning of words. Requiring other players to speak the explanations... I guess that could be fun. Could be awful.

Gahrie said...

Cards Against Humanity makes perfect sense if you understand the gaming community. It is their response to political correctness. There has been attempts to attack the game, but they never go anywhere.

Freeman Hunt said...

"(Socks is the answer Meade gives if you ask him what he wants for Christmas.)"

My father-in-law gives the same answer.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Very important to note: The contents of this game must have passed Chinese government censorship.

Maybe it wasn't examined too much because it 1) circulates exclusively outside of China 2) is supposed to be a children's game 3) probably says nothing about China - and 4) the answers are not intended to be taken seriously.

Sammy Finkelman said...

The usual bait and switch trick from China, I'm thinking. After getting some customers snared, drop the quality of your feed materials.

This is not just cheapness. And it is not for the benefit of the individual factory, which could gain from making quality materials. This must be dictated form on top. The idea has to be to gain foreign exchange. The quality alqays has to be good enough to withstand the shipping and initial use for 2 to 6 weeks. There may be actuaklly fewer separate manufacturers than you think, and in any case banl loans can control thjem to make sure the quality is reduced.

Bay Area Guy said...

Liberal white guilt spawns a lot of odd behavior.

Myself, I'll take a good game of Scrabble over this any day

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

I've played the game a few times at parties, and it's retarded. It's for morons who think they're edgy and clever because they randomly drew a card that says something shocking and/or scatological that they can use as a "HILARIOUS" non sequitur response to an equally "outrageous" question card.

Quaestor said...

If Tom spent $1500 on a custom suit of armor he either "had something" on the smith, or he's satisfied with shit.

Bill Peschel said...

They are a cool, cool company. I don't play the game, but I love the idea.

Like this: It came out that, for years, there's a hidden card sealed in the lid of the box of a certain edition. They didn't tell anyone, until a customer found it.

Warning: The card is very rude to everyone except Laslo.

Popville said...

The latest in this particular card game trend is Exploding Kittens. Google it if interested.

Sammy Finkelman said...

If the secret card said June 4, 1989, or perhaps May 35, 1989, it might make sense to have a secret card.

Rusty said...

I didn't know it existed until I got it for a Christmas gift. It' fun and suits my sense of humor.