Cards Against Humanity is a hit game for all sorts of reasons. Above all its crude, mad-libs style humor offers people a way to laugh at the more cynical sides of their personality. But what happens when you aim that same, dark sensibility at brands?
The jokes seem a lot less funny—and for good reason.
Brands Against Humanity is a card game developed by the creative team Ellie & Elisa. Its white and black graphic design is a spitting image for Cards Against Humanity, but it’s free to download and print, as the project was developed wholly independently from the original game.
Instead of setting up pop culture and poop jokes, each white card in Brands Against Humanity lists an exceptionally egregious and unethical decision that a famous company has made in the past. “You can totally play it,” creators Elisa Czerwenka and Ellie Daghlian assure me over email. “We just can’t say how good the vibes will be if you make jokes about Johnson and Johnson’s asbestos baby powder. Probably depends on the crowd.”
You start each round just like the original, by laying down a generalized black card that lists setups such as “Why is daddy rich?” or “Now that’s innovation!” Then you respond with a white card, which lists a specific corporate atrocity. These call-outs really are more than dumb brand gaffs; they are relics of deranged corporate culture. They include moments such as Coca-Cola’s H2NO campaign to dissuade people from drinking tap water from restaurants, DuPont poisoning the water for 70,000 people by dumping a Teflon chemical into the water supply, and Amazon pressuring warehouse workers to such high productivity goals that they had to skip bathroom breaks and pee in water bottles.
Since debuting the project in late 2020, Czerwenka and Daghlian say that they’ve frequently heard players describe their game as “brave” and even had publications decline writing about it, claiming it would upset their advertisers. But they push against both of these reactions to their work.
“Brands Against Humanity shouldn’t be controversial. There’s nothing in there that isn’t already in the public domain. Most of it is common knowledge,” they write. “We’re not saying anything new. We’re not saying anything that anyone doesn’t already know. All we’ve done is put it on some cards. And if that is genuinely too bold for the advertising industry, then we’re all in trouble. “