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A new card game throws together the highs and lows of culture, from Wagner’s Ring Cycle to the video game Doom, asking players to debate essential questions like, “Which is a sign of the Apocalypse?” or “Which expresses the inexpressible?” The Metagame was released at the end of last month by the collective Local No. 12 and designed by the team of Eric Zimmerman, Colleen Macklin, and John Sharp.
It’s a deck fueled by opinions and connections between the ridiculous extremes of culture. The set features 200 “culture cards” and 100 “opinion cards,” and includes suggestions for six games that range from three to thousands of players. In one of those, players construct a “metaquilt,” aligning cards in the style of dominoes to get all the sides to match up in a vaguely sensical way, such as placing Waiting for Godot alongside opinion cards for “What has the most subversive potential?” and “Would make the strangest fetish ever?” Another game suggestion is “Debate Club,” in which a group argues for the best match between a culture card and an opinion. “If the critics don’t like what you say, you are knocked out and become a critic, too,” the rules explain.
The fun of The Metagame comes from the absurdities of, say, fighting over whether Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus or bed bugs is the best fit for “Which is whispered in awe by the hipsters in Brooklyn?” But the New York–based designers are serious about using gaming to encourage cultural discussion. The current iteration of Metagame dates back to 2011, when they introduced a video game–only version at the Game Developers Conference. The response was so enthusiastic that they launched a Kickstarter and then in 2012 collaborated with Esopus magazine on a broader culture-focused version. That’s the one from which the current Metagame, helped along by another Kickstarter campaign, evolved.
With its subjective matching of cards, the game shares some DNA with Apples to Apples, but it might most remind card aficionados of the popular Cards Against Humanity, which is more gleefully profane with its cultural call-and-response cards. Cards Against Humanity was actually inspired by an early prototype of Metagame, and as the creators of the latter note on their site, “we in turn have been inspired by them.” When you deal the Metagame deck, there are some wonderfully esoteric conundrums to be debated with the right mix of people and probably drinks. Which feels more like first love: an Eames lounge chair or John Cage’s 4’33”?