Newhouse alumnus raises $45K on Kickstarter for hot new political card game 'The Contender'

Emily Kulkus

August 10, 2015

About 12 hours after last week’s first debate among Republican presidential hopefuls, Newhouse alumnus Justin Robert Young (top left) had nine new quote cards for his hot new political game.

The 2005 newspaper graduate launched “The Contender: The Game of Political Debate” on Kickstarter in late July. He achieved his fundraising goal of $15,000 in just 14 hours.

With nearly three weeks left to fundraise, Young has raised more than $45,000 from more than 1,000 backers to start printing and distribution.

Young and partner John Teasdale came up with the idea for The Contender about seven months ago. They teamed up with designer friends Faun Chapin and Meg Paradise, a 2006 Syracuse University advertising design graduate. Chapin and Paradise work at Guts & Glory, an Oakland-based design studio. Young, who works independently producing podcasts and new media, says the designers brought great ideas about how the game should be played and marketed.

“They are very creative and outside-the-box thinkers and they loved the idea for the game in which you (are having) a political debate,” Young says. “They said that’s really fun, however, we have some ideas on how to make it more fun. Then they told us their ideas and we said these ideas are soooo much better than what we have.

“It’s been a great collaborative process.” 

The Contender takes a few cues from the wildly popular Cards Against Humanity card game, with each card featuring a real or interpreted quote from a politician. Players layer the quotes to form a convincing and entertaining argument. According to the website: “To win, you must use facts, attacks and distracts to convince the Moderator that you are fit to lead the free world.”

Supporting the Kickstarter campaign allows users to download and print playing cards. That same approach birthed the rapid growth of Cards Against Humanity, which is still only available for purchase online.

“There really is a renaissance in tabletop card games right now,” Young says. “Really smart, talented people are doing great stuff.”

Young, a former editor-in-chief of The Daily Orange, says he and his partners love Cards Against Humanity but recognize that it sometimes takes 90 minutes to play through. The Contender can take as little as 15 minutes, he says.

The Contender’s pop culture timing could not be better, which is of course, not a coincidence. With the 2016 presidential race already heating up, there is no lack of juicy material for new Contender cards. Last week’s first debate was proof of that.

“The Republican debate was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had,” Young says. “It’s all because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump is going to make us all rich.”

Emily Kulkus '02 is the web content manager for the Newhouse School. Reach her at eakulkus@syr.edu.