“One more game” I say, realizing that my friends and I have now been playing Among Us for three hours on a Wednesday night. After hearing about the internet’s latest obsession, we spontaneously downloaded it and instantly became addicted. Among Us has a simple, approachable concept that can be played again and again. Similar to the party games Mafia or Werewolf, players must discover who is secretly the killer (the Impostor) and vote them out of the group before everyone on the spaceship is killed. Players who are not the Impostors (Crewmates) must complete tasks around the ship and avoid being killed while attempting to discover the Impostor and avoid being sabotaged.
Among Us was released in 2018 but has rapidly risen to popularity in the past few months. The game has amassed a following of fans (and memes) taking over the internet, and has attracted the attention of top YouTubers, streamers, and even celebrities and politicians. For example, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ilhan Omar played the game on Twitch with famous streamers in an effort to encourage people to vote before the election. AOC’s stream garnered over 400,000 concurrent viewers at its peak, making it one of the most viewed Twitch streams of all time. The game’s newfound success leaves me wondering, why is Among Us so popular, and why right now?
Among Us immediately stands out because both the game itself and the gameplay are very accessible. The game can be downloaded for free from the App Store, and the desktop version is only five dollars. After learning the basic premise of the game, players can easily catch on. While it takes some time to learn how to navigate the map and do the different minigame-like tasks as a normal Crewmate, it is very easy to play. Despite this surface level simplicity, Among Us contains numerous details and strategies that one can learn to take advantage of, as well as three different maps in which you can play. Once you get into it, the game is incredibly addictive, especially considering that each game is fairly short.
A large part of the game is discussing with the other players who to vote out after a dead body has been reported. This requires the Impostor to lie and come up with a convincing alibi to trick the Crewmates. This is surprisingly difficult and requires a certain amount of skill to be persuasive. While discussions often result in yelling and debate with people declaring others to be “sus” (suspicious), it’s always entertaining and lighthearted.
These discussions can be done through the in-game text messaging feature or over voice chat separately on Discord or even Zoom. The fact that the game can be played over Zoom makes it especially perfect for our current pandemic era. You can play online with other players or create a private game with your friends, making it an easy way to socialize during quarantine. For me, the game has become a spontaneous way to hang out with friends located at Cornell and across the country. Among Us has helped me bring together various different friends as well as meet new people. While this is true of video games in general, the accessibility of Among Us along with its addictive and casual nature make it easy for all people to play, regardless of overall interest or background in gaming.
Stylistically, the game has a simplicity that contributes to its approachability while also being intricately designed. The maps themselves contain many details that add to the storyline of being stuck on a spaceship, making gameplay more nuanced. Players run around as little astronauts with two legs and no arms, each playing picking a color, name and hat. This cartoonish, whimsical style reflects the casual nature of Among Us compared to, for example, first-person shooter games or other more realistic violent games.
Another compelling aspect of Among Us is that you have the ability to adjust the game settings, resulting in many creative ways to play. Game settings can be finely tuned to increase players’ running speeds, change how quickly the Impostors can kill and alter how many tasks must be completed by the Crewmates, just to name a few. Some people have created a “hide and seek” variant by decreasing the Impostor’s vision radius so that they cannot see the Crewmates unless they are right next to them. Then, the Impostor announces themselves to the other players and everyone stays unmuted as they run away and complete their tasks before the Impostor finds them. This is just one example of the creative ways that people have adapted the game by changing the settings, often to hilarious results.
Considering the addictive quality and immersive fun of Among Us, it is evident that this game’s popularity may be a reflection of everyone’s need to destress and forget about the world for a few hours. I suspect that the current chaotic state of the world has contributed to Among Us’ success, as we could all probably use the opportunity to run around in a virtual spaceship and debate with friends about something meaningless. So have fun, and beware of the Impostor!
Emma Leynse is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.