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Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Cards Against Humanity gave me part of a private island

Cards Against Humanity's weird holiday promotion resulted in the death of Santa Claus, an apocalyptic lizard uprising and the carving up of a private island in Maine.

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The holidays got a whole lot weirder thanks to Cards Against Humanity. Amanda Kooser/CNET

It started on a whim and ended with me being part-owner of a private island in the middle of a lake in Maine. I was one of around 250,000 people who signed up for Cards Against Humanity's Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa holiday promotion. In exchange for $15, Cards sent me 10 separate mystery gifts, which slowly trickled in over the course of several weeks. They were out of order. One is still missing. Delivery was slow. And it was totally worth it.

In case you're not familiar with it, Cards Against Humanity is a card-based party game that encourages players to answer questions written on black cards with the worst/funniest/most offensive answers they can muster from a personal stash of white cards. It came to life on Kickstarter in 2011 and has been steadily growing in popularity and weirdness ever since.

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CNET test cat Archer sports a Cards Against Humanity sticker. Amanda Kooser/CNET

I don't own Cards Against Humanity. You can buy the cards from the company or download them for free, since the game is licensed under creative commons. I've only ever even played it once, over at my neighbor's house (thanks, Dave!) during a party. As a game, it's naughty, rude and hilarious. As with many things in my cyber-life, a mention on Reddit led me to the sign-up page for the holiday gift promotion. So I signed up.

I received my Day 4 package first, a gift filled with comics created by independent artists. The envelope sported an illustration of Santa Claus in a glass coffin with a procession of elves, a snowman and a sobbing Yeti. When putting all the various envelopes together in order, it tells the tale of the death of Santa Claus and an uprising of deadly lizards destroying the Earth. This sure isn't "The Night Before Christmas."

My gifts included customized cards and a set of reusable stickers filled with curse words and phrases like "Warning Not For Human Consumption." One of the cooler items was a taste-hacking kit containing "Miracle Berries," little tablets that make sour foods taste sweet. I'm saving these for a test to see if I can actually drink an IPA without making a horrible face. I'm still missing my mini version of Slap .45, a Kickstarter-funded game from Cards co-creator Max Temkin. If it doesn't arrive in the next few days, I'll drop a line to Cards about getting a replacement.

All the gifts were cool little surprises wrapped up in envelopes, but the ultimate gift was saved for last. One particularly large envelope arrived, and inside it held a map of an island in the middle of St. George Lake in Liberty, Maine. It also came with a certificate giving me ownership of one square foot of the island, along with a detailed plot location and permission to use the whole island for recreational purposes. Yes, Cards Against Humanity actually went out and bought a 6-acre private island and named it "Hawaii 2."

This is the second year Cards has done a holiday special. As with last year, it was much more than a series of weird packages. The whole thing was also a massive puzzle involving clues hidden in the gift envelopes, ciphers, a drawing of Blinky from Pac-Man, a crossword, a Great Lizard Uprising and a treasure map. It took the efforts of a dedicated group of clever puzzle-solvers on Reddit to eventually work out the solution, culminating in the code to a safe located on Hawaii 2.

Spoilers: The safe contained a bottle of scotch and 250,000 special cards with a close-up of a sloth on each one. Participants are still sorting out how to distribute the massive number of cards. Some have already been sent out through eBay. Others have gone home with intrepid Hawaii 2 explorers who have visited the island. I would love to get one of my own, but the logistics are difficult.

I do hope to visit my tiny plot of land on Hawaii 2 some day. It's not a lot of space to work with, but I could certainly build upward. I'm thinking a Lego structure of some sort would be nice, or perhaps a pole with a bird feeder on it. I'm open to suggestions. What do you think I should do with my piece of Hawaii 2? Tell me in the comments.

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Hawaii 2 consists of six acres of forested island in Maine. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET