McGinnis: New party game wildly successful for young creatorsWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The concept is simple. Each player has 10 cards labeled with a word or phrase. “Active listening.” “Erectile dysfunction.” “A disappointing birthday party.” “Puberty.” “Lockjaw.” “Peeing a little bit.” “Finger Painting.”
Another card is played on the table, asking a question or presenting a fill-in-the-blank. Your goal is to give the funniest answer possible from your hand — no matter how tasteless it may be. In fact, the more tasteless, the better. “‘BLANK’: Good to the last drop.” Hmm. “Peeing a little bit” would probably work well there. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of BLANK.” “Puberty” is probably your best bet.
The results encourage more hilariously wrong laughter than a player would imagine possible. This is the goal of the wildly successful game Cards Against Humanity, which comes billed as “A Party Game for Horrible People.”
Like most brilliant ideas, you wonder why someone else didn’t think of it first. In this case, it was developed by a group of eight friends in high school — Highland Park in Illinois, to be exact.
“As far back as I can remember, we’ve always been making games together. We love playing board games, we love playing party games, parlor games, things like that. We did improv theater, too, in high school,” Max Temkin, one of Cards’ co-creators, said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star.
Temkin said that games like the classic Balderdash were definite influences on them.”We loved that idea of how much that game let you get inside your friends’ heads, and sort of guess, like, what would Max or what would Josh write for a definition? So we sorta took that concept and made a couple [games] based on that.”
The one that stuck was the game that players now know the world over — a fanbase that the creators never dreamed they would one day have after they separated post-high school. “We all just made a copy for ourselves and then just took it to college. And when I played with my friends in college, they, like, loved it. They were like, ‘Where can I get this?’ And, at the time, they couldn’t get it.”
The idea of posting the game online as a downloadable PDF began to take shape — though not under the name fans now know it by. “Originally, it was just, like, ‘The Card Game.’ It didn’t have a name, it was just something that we played together. And then, when we decided to put it on the Internet, as just, like, a free PDF, Josh came up with the name ‘Cardenfreud,’ which I really liked. Ultimately, we thought that people wouldn’t know what Schadenfreud was.”
Eventually, a group effort led to the new name, and it was posted online, along with an optional e-mail address for information if they made more cards. The resulting mailing list was so popular that a new idea began to form — what if they manufactured and sold copies of the game themselves?
“So, based on that, I had the idea to take it to a website called Kickstarter, which is like a crowd-funding platform. So we did a Kickstarter campaign, and we asked for $4,000 to make the game. And we wound up getting $15,000,” Temkin said.
The resulting box version of their little party game has been remarkably successful — its base set, when it is available on Amazon.com, usually sells out very quickly. It currently ranks as the top-selling board game on the site.
What is remarkable, though, is that while the retail version is such a runaway success, the PDF version of game is still available for download, free, on the CardsAgainstHumanity.com website.
“There was this hilarious op-ed a while ago, where someone — I can’t remember but it was someone at a record company or a movie studio — was complaining about torrents and Netflix and all that stuff. And he said, ‘How are we supposed to compete with free?’ ” Temkin said. “And I read this great reply where someone said, ‘People get torrents and do other things not because they’re free, they do it because they’re easy.’ And it just sucks to buy things now.
“And I think we just have a business model where easy is more powerful than free. So even though we have the PDF on our website, it’s actually easier for people for $25 and free shipping on Amazon.”
In the end, even Temkin is at a loss to explain the game’s amazing success. “I honestly have no answer for you. Our game isn’t even that good,” he said, with a laugh. “We just had a very simple idea — it’s such a stupid idea, but it was just a way to play, to be funny and to laugh. And people enjoyed that, I guess.”