If you ever played Uno on Xbox 360, you'll remember two things: the social atmosphere, and all the exposed genitalia thanks to the Xbox Vision Camera. Uno was basically Chatroulette before Chatroulette, in that you never knew what kind of weird stuff you'd see. I remember seeing obese people having sex, hard drug use, and people dressed in Nazi uniforms.
But I have a confession to make: I used to jerk off on Uno. A lot. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't one of those guys who would just go into a room with my dong out for the world to see. No. I followed a carefully developed and unspoken meta at the time, as many guys did.
The 'rules' were simple: host a room and point the camera at your clothed groin (be it gym shorts or underwear), and perhaps lay your hand on your thigh. People would then join the room and would either realize it was a groin, or get bored waiting for the game to start, though it never did. Eventually, other guys would join with the same camera shot, or the few that showed face first would adjust their camera down to their groin. And then we would jerk off. Most people didn't say much, though a few guys I spoke with said they were straight or curious.
At the time I wasn't sure about my sexuality and had never ever done anything with a guy, but partaking in these Xbox Live TOS-breaking circle jerks helped me conclude I was pretty sure I liked dudes. I do admit there was probably better ways to go about this. But for many people, experimentation just isn't a possibility where they live, be it due to religious parents or small towns with less-than-progressive views. I grew up in a very small town.
Gay men fooling around or experimenting in somewhat public settings isn't new. There have always been 'cruising spots,' or public places to hook up with guys. In 1962, one such place was an underground bathroom in a park where cops set up hidden cameras to bust men for sodomy. Thankfully, I don't think what I and the other guys did was quite as illegal or frowned upon, though I'm sure Microsoft wouldn't have been happy about it. I don't recall anyone ever getting in trouble for joining in these jerk sessions, though I didn't exactly keep up with many people, and have since lost touch with everyone from that time.
I have to admit that sometimes I miss just jerking off with three strangers in the lobby of a video game, but not enough to drag my Xbox 360 out of storage. As far as I know, there isn't anything quite like it these days. Sure, you could go to a bathhouse or meet a group of strangers off Craigslist or Grindr, but that just isn't as safe and requires a lot more effort. But I'm not going back to the days of cumming with strangers on Uno. I'm happily partnered to a smoking hot guy, and porn has gotten far far better and more interactive.
I stopped jerking off on Uno, not because it lost its appeal, but because I just felt like I didn't need it anymore. I knew I liked guys, so I finally started to date them and turns out my gut and my penis were right. I slept around a bit after coming out, but I'm very happy living a life of (mostly) monogamy now.
But It's important to talk about these things to show people the length we, as gay people, sometimes have to go to just to be ourselves or experiment to find out who we are. It's something straight people generally don't even have to think about. Thankfully, these days, things are a lot better for LGBTQIA people, and people are more accepting of our culture, but things still aren't perfect. I just hope people unsure of themselves find some kind of outlet like I found in Uno.
Editor's note: The author of this piece chose a pseudonym because he wanted to remain anonymous.