This post was written by former Gradhacker author Trent M Kays

When I lived in Arkansas, my friends and I liked to get together on some Friday nights and play board and card games. Given the highly mediated and digital nature of our current culture, it was nice to sit down and interact with something that was non-digital. I would usually cook a nice meal, and we would set out some games for after dinner entertainment.

Three games we played regularly were Monopoly, Yahtzee, and UNO. Right after dinner, we would deal the UNO deck and set about playing a few rounds. In three years of our Friday night UNO rounds, I think I only won three times. One of my best friends seemed to have unusual luck with UNO as well as Yahtzee. He never cheated; he was just lucky.

These Friday night game rounds became increasingly important as I moved forward into graduate school. Working on my MA was a stressful time for me, and I valued a Friday night off surrounded by my closest and dearest friends. Graduate school is probably one of the most stressful endeavors someone can embark on, and it’s important to have a support structure of some kind. My friends and family were my support structure, though I never told them as much. Needless to say, if we missed one of our game nights, I was not happy. I looked forward to those dinners and games every week.

A colleague and friend of mine once told me that UNO is the best game for graduate students because it’s just numbers and colors. It doesn’t require ample amounts of structured thought. I think I agree with her. One reason I always favored UNO is because it reminded me of my childhood, it’s easy to figure out, and it’s a social game. The game requires interaction with other people, and I think that’s what makes it such a gem: numbers, colors, and interaction. How much simpler can you get?

Since moving to Minnesota, I haven’t played UNO with friends. I don’t know if it’ll ever be the same as when I lived in Arkansas, and I’m not sure it should, but I do miss it. Some nights, I feel the urge to call my old friends and tell them to come over for brats and UNO, though I doubt they would make the 900 mile journey just for brats and UNO.

I think graduate students should have game nights because it’s important to switch off your brain a bit and relax. I love my studies, and I love being an academic, but I also love UNO.

Do you have a game night? What games do play or love? Please share them with us in the comments!

Photo by Flickr user striatic // Creative Commons licensed: CC-BY

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15 Responses to UNO: Play It!

  1. Apples to Apples is another great game for a friendly game night. It can get very funny and laughter is still the best medicine. Fluxx is also some delightful chaos.

  2. Iva says:

    I know poker nights are organized at many departments. I don’t personally play poker, but I have joined for the hanging out and eating good food part of the evening. Some friends and I would occasionally play trivia at a nearby pub, which has been fun.

    • Trent M Kays says:

      Poker is a good game, though I never had any skill with it. That’s one reason I prefer UNO: easier to play. It might be fun to set up department card nights. I might look into that. :)

  3. Fayana Richards says:

    I love Trivia and Pictionary. Not that I need any particular excuse to make funny faces or run around the room.

  4. T says:

    We have a European board gaming group formed initially out of folks who met at grad school. Great fun. :)

    I’d suggest to you the games Qwirkle (Uno-like in its simplicity), Ticket to Ride (slightly more complex, but involves maps!), and Hanging Gardens (spatial reasoning).

  5. Eli says:

    My wife and I host a weekly board game night with a bunch of our friends in grad school. We usually play euro-style board games – they are generally a bit longer and more complex, but still let you relax, get away from the computer, and have a lot of fun social interaction while stretching a different set of brain muscles. Settler’s of Catan, Carcasonne, Ticket to Ride, Bohnanza, and Bang are just some quick examples of some great “gateway games.” There are of course the lighter and shorter “filler” games we play, such as Set, Coleretto, For Sale, and Fluxx.
    http://www.boardgamegeek.com/ and http://www.dicetower.com/ are great resources for learning about board games.

  6. Kaitlin Gallagher says:

    We used to have a weekly game night at school, and our games of choice were Wizard or Monopoly DEAL. If you love Monopoly, you NEED to play Monopoly Deal since it is a shorter (but equally competitive) game of Monopoly that takes about 10-30 minutes!

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