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DICK Card Game

An irreverent retelling of the whale of American literary classics

by Natasha Tauber
on 06 August 2015

DICK is at once a provocative party game and a retelling of Herman Melville's classic novel "Moby-Dick" or, "The Whale." In a mash-up of literature and lowbrow humor, the game positions direct quotations from Melville's often-suggestive text against a backdrop of contemporary culture.  Players are invited to “gather a half-dozen of their bosom friends and jointly plunge their harpoons into the ecstatic flank of delight… metaphorically.”

DICK grew out of an undergraduate literature seminar in which SMU English professor Tim Cassedy juxtaposed Melville’s 1851 novel with HBO's 2014 "True Detective"—two stories about obsessive and self-destructive quests to confront evil. "Moby-Dick" is about “knowing that the truth is unknowable, but looking for it anyway,” says Cassedy of his favorite novel—which he calls “our national epic.” Two of his students (now graduates), Chelsea Grogan and Jenna Peck, collaborated with their professor to craft a game that illustrates how the novel is “more subversive and irreverent” than its place in the literary canon suggests.

In a format familiar to players of Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, players take turns being the judge who reads aloud one of the game’s 100 green fill-in-the-blank cards. The other players use white cards containing direct quotations from Moby-Dick to propose solutions for the blanks. Whoever submits the “best” response wins the round. For example, one card asks players to complete “The latest Westboro Baptist Church sign: GOD HATES _______.”  Whether the winning answer is “infernal orgies,” “sellin’ human heads,” “coffee and hot rolls,” “Quakers with a vengeance,” or “the butterfly cheeks of young girls” depends on the judge. The creators also sell optional ways to “enhance your DICK” with additional prompts.

Playing with words and meanings is central to both the novel and the game. Both raise political, philosophical and religious issues in ways that are sophisticated, contradictory—and lewd. As Cassedy, a tenure-track professor of American literature, suggests, “'Moby-Dick' is full of gleeful, irreverent humor. There’s a dick joke in the title of the book.” The trio notes that Moby-Dick contains an entire chapter about making a whale’s foreskin into an apron. Peck says, “It’s beautiful to realize that the way we connect with the world and how we relate to it in our culture is not so different from the 1850s… DICK connects us with the past in a very personal way.” And Grogan asks: "What is life without humor?"

DICK is available online for $20, and expansion sets (mostly geared toward Academics and New Yorkers) cost $1 each.

Images courtesy of DICK, the game.

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