New Game: Node Vice
Paying attention to attention
I went on a walk to the pharmacy right after reading Thomas J Bevan’s article "On Silence and the Inner Voice" where he describes:
leaning against the wall what I observed was passer-by after passer by enveloped in their own tech mediated dreamworld. Now, this was a fairly busy stretch of road I was on but every person under the age of forty-five (by my approximation) who walked by- in both direction- was either talking into a phone or looking at a phone while also wearing cordless earbuds. Every. Last. One.
I decided to take a look.
I live in a family-oriented neighborhood, relative to the New York City norm where children are rare. So that changed up the dynamics quite a bit. There were families out, sometimes partners, lots of dog walkers. From a stretch of about four street blocks and one avenue block, I did manage to see a couple-three single walking young people without devices in front of their eyes or ears — to a point, which I’ll get to below.
I took another walk later with my wife and we gamified it. For about a fifteen minute walk we counted four people we could find under the age of 45 (at our best guess) who walked alone and without devices.
Then on Monday I took the Q101 into Manhattan and was people watching from the windows, and I finalized the rules of this game.
Here they are.
While taking a walk or on a commute, if you see a person who is:
without an animal
under the age of 45
not using a device
or headphones of any type
You get 1 point.
Before I continue, some notes on the above:
WALKING: people driving a car, skating, riding a bike, or so on tend to have their attention filled with operating the vehicle. One could even claim the vehicle is a device. That is not to say that people operating vehicles don’t often also have their noses in cellphones and ears plugged in, sadly.
You’re welcome to consider use of public transit such as busses or trains as ‘walking’ if you’d like. Makes the game more challenging because sitting down is usually when the devices come out in strength.
ALONE: my observation was the device usage plummets when friends, partners, peers and so forth walk together, for the obvious reason that they are attending to each other. Doesn’t mean they aren’t always device free! See below.
WITHOUT AN ANIMAL OR CHILDREN: could be wrapped up in ‘alone’ but what you’ll find is that people with dogs and children who walk independently tend to be device free, whereas people with children (… or dogs, sadly, sometimes) in carriages tend to be some of the most deviced-up people on the street. See below.
UNDER THE AGE OF 45: this is really a generational thing, so as time goes on this number will just go higher. You can choose to adjust the age to make the game easier or harder. The older the cohort, the more device free they tend to be.
NOT USING A DEVICE: here’s where it gets interesting: some people may be carrying a cellphone in their hand but not looking at it when you see them. Do they count? If they count as using a device, your score will likely halve or more.
Here’s the thing. What I noticed on my game testing is most people holding a device in their hand will be looking at it fairly shortly after. I don’t personally count holding in hand as device free.
HEADPHONES: may require closer looking than comfort! You don’t want to stare! But let me tell you, you can usually tell even if you can’t see the little ear buds based off of the way they’re looking and crossing streets. Far less alert than the device free people. You’ll get an eye for this quicker than you think.
Okay cool. So the basic game is above and is a perfect starting point. You don’t necessarily need to go any deeper than that — Node Vice, you’ll find, is challenging enough.
But if you want to be super hardcore, here’s expert mode:
NODE VICE EXPERT MODE:
If you see:
People walking together, take 1 point off for each person in that group using a device.
A person walking a dog, take 1 point off for headphones, 1 point off for carrying a device in hand, and 5 points off for staring at a device.
A person walking a baby carriage, take 1 point off for carrying a device but 2 points off for staring at one.
That last rule will probably obliterate your score, every time.
NODE VICE CO-OPERATE MODE:
You know what would be super cool? If Node Vice took off like some sort of meme analogue version of Pokemon Go and then people caught each other counting each other as points.
SO, let’s encourage that:
If you see someone else playing Node Vice alone, you get 10 points.
If you see a group playing Node Vice together, you get 5 points per person in the group.
If you say hi and make a new friend, you get 100 points. And a new friend!
Node Vice can be played alone or with friends. You can walk together and compete on who sees someone device free first, or be on separate routes of roughly the same length and compete on who saw more people.
You can play against yourself using your previous best score.
It’s actually pretty smart to play Node Vice along the same route routinely because you’ll start to get a feel and familiarity with the people you find along that route. It’s a way of gaining a closer understanding of your own environment.
THE FINAL RULE:
This one will be obvious in retrospect but it must still be stated:
If you use a device or headphones at any point while playing Node Vice, you lose all your points and retain only your negative points.
Do I need to justify this rule?
Node Vice is really about you.
We all claim that the world uses too many devices, share that meme animation about how evil awful cellphones are, even A Perfect Circle kicked in with its contribution to the anti-device zeitgeist, but nevertheless devices are now a fully integrated part of our landscape and we’re all learning how to deal with that without causing car accidents.
I’m not here to judge device users. I grab my phone to look up Google Maps routes, check the QR code at bus stops for schedule information, tell my wife that I’m on my way to meet her, and take an exorbitant number of pictures of buildings.
The issue as I see it is the reflex to use it and the lack of attentiveness to the world around you. If you don’t stop to look around every now and then, you’re brain will always live in device world and you’ll not see many of the amazing things and people that populate the intricate world around you.
However, it’s difficult to start looking if you’re so plugged in that you’re not used to just letting your eyes and brain wander naturally. SO, Node Vice is a method to give you something to look for and keep your mind active outside of a device itself.
The result, you’ll find, is that you’ll lose count and be engaged in conversation with your inner self in no time.
If you find yourself there, then you won Node Vice for the day.
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I just adore your mind! I suck at remembering rules so was about to jot these down in my Notes app on my phone and laughed at the absurdity of that so going to write down in a pocket sized notebook for future reference. Curious how context not just generation would affect this game - context of town/city size I mean. . . are more densely populated areas more prone to devices or have they infected the whole world. . .
They make these little score counter strings of beads that move up and down for keeping track of strokes on a golf hole. High handicap golfers often use them to count their strokes when they otherwise might lose track. They hook to the golf bag for convenience. I can envision something similar hooked to belt loops of Node Vice Players for analog point tracking. It would be less cumbersome than pencil and notebook.