Cards Against Humanity: From Kickstarter to Kick-ass
Dubbed as a “party game for horrible people,” Cards Against Humanity has become perhaps one of the best-known party games among teenagers and adults alike. Known for it’s hilarious and often uncomfortable subject matter, the popular card game has become a staple for parties and get-togethers in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
The game itself features black cards with questionable statements, that are to be completed by white cards with equally ridiculous responses. Each player takes turns choosing a black card, to which every other player responds with their most comical white card. The final submissions are then read aloud by the original player, after which the most outrageous response wins.
Estimated by the Chicago-Sun Times as having earned at least $12 million in profit since the game’s release in May 2011, the company started off with humble beginnings. Created by Max Temkin, Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof, and Eliot Weinstein, the idea was originally a part of a Kickstarter campaign. At the time, the campaign was set to run from November 30, 2010 until January 29, 2011 with an initial goal of $4,000. Within just over two weeks, Cards Against Humanity surpassed their goal and went on to raise $15,570, 389% of their initial goal.
Cards Against Humanity sets themselves apart from other brands with their abrasive marketing style, an integral part of their brand since their Kickstarter campaign in 2010. Their website features multiple one-liners, such as “Your dumb questions” for their FAQ and “Submit bad idea” for their Suggestion Box. The comedic nature of the company is also reflected in the cards themselves, which are filled with crass and often salacious statements.
Cards Against Humanity does not only enjoy the comedic aspects of their marketing strategy, but also the absurd stunts and pranks they pull on their customers. For Black Friday 2014, the company removed their game from their website and instead sold boxes of bull feces for $6. The following year, the company once again removed their products from their online store and instead supplied a payment form where customers could pay $5 and receive nothing – essentially a donation to the founders. All profits went directly to the company, a humorous move away from their typically charitable actions. A complete list of what the owners ended up doing with all the money can be found here.
Despite their crude marketing strategy, Cards Against Humanity is heavily involved in charity work, donating to organizations such as Worldbuilders, the Sunlight Foundation, the EFF, DonorsChoose.org, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Chicago Design Museum. Cards Against Humanity has also created a $500,000 full-ride scholarship for women pursuing science degrees.
The growing success of Cards Against Humanity has allowed the creators to not only expand the game extensively – such as expansion packs including the Sci-Fi Pack, the Weed Pack, and the Period Pack – but also to involve themselves in their political interests. The Sunlight Foundation, for example, is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization advocating for an open government. The company also purchased an island in St. George Lake near Liberty, Maine – which they renamed Hawaii 2 – as a way to preserve the land and avoid development.
In 2017, Cards Against Humanity notably made national news when they purchased a piece of vacant land on the US-Mexico border in order to make it more difficult and time-consuming for President Donald Trump to build his promised wall. The purchase was funded by a campaign the company ran where 150,000 people donated $15 dollars each for the cause.
Since it’s modest beginnings on Kickstarter in 2010, Cards Against Humanity has since grown into an extremely well-known company. The incredible success of the game has allowed the founders to use their momentum to reach farther than just the gaming industry, impacting those around them and leaving behind their mark, creating a force to be reckoned with.