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Make the weirdest pop-culture relationship you can think of, and come up with a story for it.
Can you ship Cinderella with Bishop from Aliens? What about Draco Malfoy with Patrick Swayze?
If you think you’re up to the task, slash fans, fic writers, and shippers, dive in: Your ultimate card game has arrived. A new Kickstarter game called slash: romance without boundaries is taking Cards Against Humanity to the next level, offering fans the chance to create the ultimate OTP (One True Pairing).
Like Cards Against Humanity, the game lets you pair two improbable subjects. But in slash, you’re pairing people, not ideas. To win, you have to ship the cards y the game’s Kickstarter page. In a week, it’s already at 75 percent of its $10,000 goal.
The game’s designer, Glenn Given, quit his job of 10 years to make this game, which came from the goal to challenge and entertain his roommates at last year’s PAX East gaming convention. Given, who used to weave fanfic crossovers into his high school RPG adventures, tells the Daily Dot that he and his two partners banged out card descriptions for 560 characters for the con, where it was a huge hit.
The game’s website snarks that “fic is the… sometimes upsetting… best-worst thing ever to appear on the internets,” a statement that Given handwaved:
Sometimes stuff like slash fiction can get very extreme, but at least for me it’s always very entertaining. Saying something is the best-worst for you, it’s kind of in the way that donuts are the best-worst food for you, but I really want to eat it all the time… it’s a guilty pleasure.
Although the vast majority of fanfiction is written by women, Given was surprised that women seemed to have the most interest in supporting the game. “It’s been a voyage of discovery,” he said. Given and his company, Games by Play Date, finally joined Tumblr, the mecca of fans writing fanfiction, after someone suggested it to them on Reddit.
Slash is a fandom term for specifically male/male pairings, but the downloadable PDF sample of the game reveals both male and female characters, as well as a few creatures and inanimate objects. The backer video says that Given’s original idea involved a “kind of silly love.” Slash itself is anything but silly: it’s a complex, subversive act that inevitably involves queer identity, critiques lack of queer media representation, and quite frequently involves fans having their hearts broken via a phenomenon called “queerbaiting.” But the game is lighthearted and the potential shipping combinations are hilarious.
Conflating slash with “oddball pairings” may not do much to aid the cause of slash fans who want their ships to be taken seriously by their shows’ creators. Why choose this slight misnomer over the more accurate “shipping?” The creators explain their name choice on Kickstarter as a testament to “the breadth and variety of relationships possible with the game and an open mind.”
Given elaborated to the Daily Dot that he wanted to encourage getting people to step outside their comfort zone with pairings. “I have an agenda to present something progressive and to present something inclusive,” he said. “When we were creating the game, it was to create something inclusive, and that did not demonize relationships that [weren’t] heteronormative.“ He also noted that from the sample version online, the creators were considering adding the gender-nebulous Commander Shepard from Mass Effect and the transgender Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
On another level, the game’s attention to the language and dynamics of fandom may inadvertently boost the legitimacy of fanfiction as a cultural enterprise.
After all, it’s hard to protest that fanfic created and shared for fun is copyright infringement when it’s only spoken aloud instead of written down. And really, who can really object to the idea of shipping Santa Claus/Teddy Roosevelt or Supernatural Dean Winchester/Tinkerbell (a ship that is technically possible on the show)?
Let’s face it: slash is just telling you what fanfic writers already knew: everything is fandom—whether you take fandom seriously or not.
Photo via slash/Kickstarter
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.