Life

How Uno Became 2017’s Favorite, Highly Meme-able Card Game

Mattel

Have you played Uno recently? Like… more recently than when you were six? If so, you might just be ahead of the curve on a cultural phenomenon taking (back) over the country. That sounds insane, obviously, but it might not be — because Uno, the card game invented in 1971 and found in the junk drawer at every Grandma’s house, seems to be having a moment. People are playing and talking about the game more than ever. It’s kinda crazy.

The reasons for this resurgence offer a fascinating roadmap — not just for keeping card games fresh, but also for keeping companies relevant in the age of information. Here are the four secrets to Uno’s surge:

HOUSE RULES

In 2016, things get stale quickly. When played traditionally, Uno is low stakes and mostly luck based — sure to bore adults. But the game is thriving thanks to endlessly permutable house rules. The Atlanta Hawks basketball team likes to incorporate the “power cards” (+2, +4, Wild, Skip, Reverse) from a second deck into their game. Their big money Uno battles on the team plane were detailed on the front page of the New York Times sports section. The article told stories of bitter trash talk, huge wagers, and a hand when Kent Bazemore had to “draw 50.” Seems fun, right?

(Bazemore seems low key obsessed with Uno. It’s all over his Instagram and he put on a charity tournament over the summer.)


Uno isn’t curmudgeonly about people changing the rules. In fact, they embrace it. The current deck comes with four blank wild cards, so that people can write in penalties or add new elements as they please (there is surely a “sex Uno” out there somewhere). This is open source gaming, analog style.

On January 2nd, with the news cycle at a dead standstill and the country on holiday, Uno shared the image above on their Facebook page. The house rule on the card reads, “Everyone must discard all their wild cards, except the holder of this card.” The post was shared 14,758 times.

For anyone who know’s Facebook and its algorithms, that’s an insane reach, bringing us to…

SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY

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