Critical Play – Among Us

Background

Funny enough, I remember seeing memes and videos about Among Us when it was all the rage. During the pandemic especially, I heard that a lot of icebreaker activities were made up of playing Among Us. It’s finally time to tame my curiosity and get into what this game is all about. Among Us was released in 2018 by the game studio Innersloth as a mobile unilateral multiplayer game. The underlying mechanics of the game resemble the well-known party game Mafia and the premise was most likely derived from the science fiction horror film ‘The Thing’. Marcus Bromander, a cofounder of Innersloth, is known for initiating the concept as he has been a big fan of Mafia ever since he was little. It seems that a lot of younger folk are obsessed with this Mafia-like game too. Based on the huge presence of Among Us on YouTube and on social media, I infer that this game caters more to the middle-school and high-school ages.

Players & Procedures

Players are really lucky because, at least in the mobile app, it’s really easy to find public game rooms from all over the world. Only two taps and you’re in a room with at-most 15 strangers ready to play.

 

 

You can customize your character to differentiate yourself, which is always fun. Interestingly, it seems that some players have more elaborate costumes not available to the public. Players who host the rooms seem to have a lot of customizable options as they can control the speed of the players, the discussion time, the voting time, the number of tasks, and more. I think this flexibility makes the games more dynamic and unique as you play in different settings with different people.

 

Before the gameplay begins, the screen flashes your role as either crewmate or imposter and the number of imposters in the room. There are special crewmates like the scientist who can view the health of all the crewmates and the engineer who can move through vents. The engineer is tricky though because imposters can also move through vents. So, someone can accuse you of being the imposter! These roles are quite different from Mafia considering that there isn’t a way to resurrect a player or investigate whether a crewmate is an imposter. Finding imposters is only based on what you see, what you know, and what accusations are made by other players. I think this makes it harder to trust other players and figure out the imposter unless someone has really strong evidence.

 

 

During Gameplay

I found the crewmate minigames to be fun, easy, yet time-consuming enough to be considered good tasks. I feel like novice players could spend a lot of time in the beginning just learning all of the possible tasks in the ship before learning to strategize. Another deviation from Mafia is that the imposter can kill any number of crewmates or infinitely sabotage the ship before a crewmate stops the round with the emergency button. More skillful imposters can kill more crewmates in a short amount of time without being caught. The crewmates control how long the rounds go but they are usually supposed to stop the round when a dead body is found. All in all, the absence of a narrator gives a lot more agency to the players and more advanced players not only have strategy but skill.

 

 

The Best & the Worst

The best part of the game is when you are able to convince everyone in the room to vote out an actual imposter and they unanimously agree with you. So satisfying! When you catch an imposter right in the act or have strong evidence for someone being an imposter, you know you are in a position of power to sway the game in your favor. The art is really well-done, vivid, colorful, and smooth. The sounds are also a good indication of what’s going on during gameplay and what needs to be done to win.

 

 

The worst is when random people vote you out for no reason at all and everyone just goes along. Sometimes strategy is not always at play. As a novice player, I didn’t figure out the map as quickly as I wanted to so I had to play many rounds. I would add more arrows to indicate where the tasks are on the ship. The communication is a bit tedious because there are pre-written phrases to choose from and I found it hard to navigate.¬† Lastly, when you die, you still float around the game and can choose to shield a player for a certain amount of time. It’s not quite the same as resurrecting a player and I feel like you need to get very lucky to shield a player who is about to be killed. I would be interested to see how the gameplay would be affected if crewmates were able to resurrect other crewmates. Maintaining checks and balances between two groups is difficult!

The good news is I had a fun time! There are so many possibilities on how the games can be run and I really like how customizable the games are. The setup is super easy and I was able to catch on to the rules after a reasonable amount of rounds. I can tell why Among Us was such a hit back then.

About the author

she/her/hers | Computer Science + Human-Computer Interaction Track | Class of '23 | hello friends :) I'm looking forward to playing games with y'all!

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