Uno Momento Por Favor

I played a lot of videogames this weekend, but spent much of that time exclusively with the Live Arcade greats, Uno and Geometry Wars. It's those damn Achievements, I tell you. And in the latter game's case, it's the Friends Leaderboard. I'm only 6th on my list of 8 friends who play that game and a couple of guys are within striking distance -- if only I didn't suck at that game so badly! Arggh!

Then there's Uno. Everybody loves Uno. You can't not like it. It's un-American. The only Achievement I haven't yet earned was the one awarded for winning 40 matches. I'm up to 34 now and I hope to get the other 6 wins today or tomorrow, but it doesn't matter. It's a great game to play late at night when the house is quiet and you've only got the energy to half pay attention. Kristin made a comment about how she couldn't believe "with all the time I spend playing Uno, I haven't won 40 matches yet." Fair enough, but if she thinks I play a lot, then get a load of these stats taken straight from the game's Leaderboards.

Ranked Match
Standard rules & deck, matches to 250, draw 1 and play, random opponents.

Me: Rank 16,423 with a record of 15-50.

The #1 ranked player has a win-loss record of 2,284-5,162.
There are three ranked players with more than 2,000 wins.

There are 202,808 people on the Leaderboards for Ranked Play.

Player Match
Customizable rules & deck, can play with friends.

Me: Rank 80,824 with a record of 18-48.

The #1 ranked player has a win-loss record of 20,850-7,988.
There are three players with more than 15,000 wins.
There are eleven players with more than 10,000 wins.

There are 342,367 people on the Leaderboards for Player Match.


Let that sink in for a second. Even if each match only took a scant 3 minutes of time (which is very short for a match of Uno unless playing with obscenely low point requirements) including time spent in the lobby and on results screens then the #1 ranked player in Player Match has spent a grand total of 1,442 hours playing Uno. This is not including any time he (and let's face it, it's likely a guy... a very lonely one at that) spent with the Ranked Match or Single Player portions of the game. The fact that the game hasn't even been out for a year yet and that this person has spent 60 days playing it is frightening.

But I'm not one to begrudge anybody a good time. In fact, I do really enjoy playing the game. However, I'm starting to wonder about my fellow gamers a bit more now thanks to the ability to have the Xbox Vision camera employed during gameplay. The Xbox Vision camera is basically a video-chat device that displays whatever is in front of the camera to your opponents when playing Uno (and select other games). I don't have the camera so my opponents only see my Gamertag and avatar. But for those who do have the camera, I can see them.

From what I can tell this weekend, 90% of the Vision users are guys in their 20's and 30's just chilling out on the couch, drinking beer, and playing Uno in a dimly lit room. Just like me, although I've cut back on the beer lately. But the other 10% has me worried.
  • In one game, the player was on the floor of his dorm room and he had two or three friends watching him play Uno. They would high-five one another when he won a hand and grimmace and point and laugh when he got hit with a bad card. I found this very puzzling. If you're in a room with 3 to 4 people (all who are obviously interested in the game of Uno) why not actually, you know, buy a deck of cards for $4 and play for real? Why sit and watch one person play against strangers on a tv when you can play amongst yourselves?

  • In another game, the lady lay stretched out on her bed in a barren room with a collection of black shiny pillows. My instincts tell me a dozen cats patrolled the floor just out of view of the camera. She wore loose-fitting sweatpants and sweatshirt, her hair was a mess, and she oozed loneliness. It was actually quite depressing seeing somebody like this. I almost disabled my "video acceptance" because she was such a buzz kill.

  • There were at least two instances in which I had to call Kristin into the room for a game of "Man or Woman?"

  • The last person I saw last night was sitting with the camera zoomed tightly in on his face. He was on the cellphone the entire time. Uno is a fast-paced game. Nobody likes it when a player takes too long to throw a card. And by too long, I mean more than 2 seconds. It's bad enough when people without the cameras are playing slow, but we can at least imagine they're caught in a sneezing fit or they are wrestling open a bag of chips, but when we can actually see the person yapping away and simply ignoring the game, it's downright annoying.

Now, I am fully aware that if I did have the Vision camera, my opponents would see just another guy sitting on the couch playing his X360. You'd occasionally see one of my dogs, or my coffee mug, or perhaps my beautiful wife leaning in to kiss me goodnight. But that'd be rare, as she's usually asleep before I turn it on. Regardless, I'm nothing special to look at, I know this. But I didn't get the camera because I also respect my privacy. I bare a lot on this blog, including photos and personal situations and anecdotes. I see no reason to show strangers what me and my living room look like. Now before the Vision fans start calling me a curmudgeon, understand that I do enjoy the premise behind the Vision camera. Yes, it would be great for video chat or for playing games with real-life friends. I would buy it this afternoon if my friends back in NJ had it.

But for playing with strangers? A game in which nobody (on Ranked Matches at least) ever talks during? On Vision, we all look the same in our silentness. We're just a bunch of folks sitting alone on a couch or a bed staring at the television. In the best instances, we all look pretty average, some may be a little more put together than others, but we all look more or less the same. But in the worst case, especially at night, it can be depressing. What we wear, eat, drink and look like while playing videogames is a private thing. We're in our private space; we're relaxing; we're not ready for prime-time and certainly not for our close-up. Having Vision enabled during a game in which you're playing with strangers and don't plan on chatting is simply a waste of bandwith. It adds nothing to the experience but a sad distraction and reminder of just how silly we all look staring a television. Frankly, I don't need the reminder.

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