Objects & Their Properties

A classic among young adults and those who enjoy dark humor, Cards Against Humanity is a game that is popular for a number of reasons. In addition to the hilarity of the card combinations, it can be played for hours, there are an immense amount of possibly card combinations, and it can accommodate a handful or a large group of players. These are impressive features, given the simplicity of the objects needed to play and their properties. Here is a table of the objects in CAH and their properties:

ObjectProperties
White CardsColor (white), phrase or word (used to fill in blanks or respond to prompts on black cards)
Black CardsColor (black), statement with one or more blank spaces or a prompt

How do these simple aspects translate to what was described at the beginning of this post? Based on what is known about game objects and properties this would seem to be a difficult task. Often it is only objects with more complex properties that result in unpredictable and intricate relationships (Fullerton 130), which commonly makes for a more interesting game. Based on this logic, CAH’s limited objects with rudimentary properties should result in game that quickly becomes tedious. However, as I described at the start of this piece and as anyone who has played CAH will tell you, this is far from the case. How CAH achieves this is by using quantity and quality. There are 500 white cards and 100 black cards in the base CAH set, and there are numerous expansion packs that can be bought to add to this. Although there are some cards in the base CAH set that are comedic icons of the series (e.g. “David Bowie riding a tiger made of lightning”, “Firing a rifle into the air while balls deep in a squealing hog”) many of them are rather mundane when not pared with a black card (e.g. “Men”, “Soup that is too hot” “A tiny horse”). While most of the prompts from the black cards are funny, not all of them are obviously hilarious (e.g. “ _ + _ = _”). Because there are so many cards, it is uncommon for players to have cards with related subjects at the same time and even more rare for them to be able to use them to coherently respond to a black card (a rare example being the time my friend had the cards “bisexual” and “the only gay person in a hundred miles”, which she then used to fill in the blanks of “I didn’t realize I was _ until I was_”). As a result of this, even the more boring white cards become funny because they are used alongside subjects that have nothing to do with them. Also, by having so many cards CAH can be played for long sessions and with many people.

While studying game design, I sometimes feel like to create a game that is advanced and dynamic each aspect of that game must be intricate and complex. However, as CAH shows, games do not need to be complicated on all levels to be interesting. By getting creative with a game’s resources, including its objects, game designers can create unique and entertaining experiences.

This post is based on Exercise 5.1: Objects and Properties (“Choose a board game you have at home in which you are able to clearly identify the objects and their properties. […] Make a list of all of the objects and their properties in the game you have chosen.”) from Chapter 5 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 131).

Sources

Dillon, Josh et al. Cards Against Humanity. Chicago, IL: Cards Against Humanity LLC, 2011. Card Game.

Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 5: Working with System Dynamics” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.

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