Tonight we are playing among us, a popular mobile game created by Inner Sloth LLC that rose in prominence during the stay at home orders of the pandemic. The formal elements of the game enable it to be a fun game to play with strangers or right next to friends.
The first element to notice is your avatar. A movable, personified being that runs around a digital ship. Then you realize that your avatar has a role, and it is either a ‘crew mate’ or an ‘impostor’. If you are a crewmate, early on you are kept busy with the mildly entertaining side plot of solving little mishaps around the ship and completing little objectives. But you soon discover, and this is what makes the entire game fun and worth the bits of inaction, that murder and sabotage are taking place. As the impostor you realize being near someone on the ship you are given a possible action button to murder that crewmate. Yet what makes the murder element to this game exciting is that after each discovered murder there is a judging round, where the crewmates (and impostors) vote to try to determine who did the deed. This addition of judging, to what is otherwise just a run around and kill people game, makes murder as the impostor far more nuanced as you only want to kill someone when they’re alone. Suddenly, as a crewmate you always want to be together, but if you always stay together you can’t possibly manage to fix all the little objectives to keep the ship running. So the group is forced to split, in what is always a fun and anxiety-inducing game of ‘are you just following me, or waiting for the right time to strike’. This is what makes the game so fun. That there is a small plot of action and objectives, and tied together with the constant fear of being prey, or the complicated nature of being a smart predator. For the impostor it is the balance of constraining your power to the exact degree, and as a crewmate it is about being cunning enough to survive and wise enough to trust no one and suspect others early.
I do not always enjoy Among Us and have determined that I just don’t always find the small objectives or actions engaging enough to keep me always having fun. They’re a decent element to keep me engaged long enough for the real plot to unravel, but it’s part of a game I often don’t enjoy and believe it could be improved with more imaginative or dramatic activities for surviving crewmates.