map in Among Us

Critical Play: Among Us (Anna Chang)

Among Us is an online (mobile and computer) game created by a game studio called Innersloth. The target audience appears to be children since the game’s graphics and messaging are not particularly violent and the gameplay is quite simple. However, it ended up becoming especially popular among young adults (20-30 years old) when it went viral in 2020. 

Among Us can be played with 4-15 players. Each player is assigned to be either a crewmate or an imposter. Each crewmate must complete a list of tasks, report dead bodies, and initiate emergency meetings when they notice suspicious activity. The imposter(s) must sabotage the crewmate team by making it more difficult for them to finish their tasks (eg. by locking doors, breaking reactors, etc.) and killing crewmates. The crewmates win by either completing all of their tasks or killing all of the imposters. The imposter(s) win when there are an equal number of crewmates and imposters, or the crew fails to resolve an act of catastrophic sabotage. The gameplay is quick (~10-15 minutes), and after either the crewmate or imposter team wins (a zero-sum outcome), players have the option to “play again” (play another round with the same group). 

Among Us is either a unilateral competition game when there is one imposter or a team vs. team game when there are multiple imposters. I found that there were some elements of racing objectives, since the crewmate team is trying to complete tasks as quickly as possible, and solution objectives as well, which we see through the tasks (mini-games/puzzles).

Something special about Among Us compared to similar games like Mafia is that it is super easy to just jump in and play. For games like Mafia, you need to gather a whole group of friends together at a physical table and designate someone to narrate the game and keep track of who is who. With Among Us, you eliminate all of those inconveniences. You can simply log on and create a private room with your friends, and the game assigns the roles and does the narrating for you so everyone can play. Even if you do not have friends to play with, you can join a public game at any point. I think this is a great way to make fun more accessible and an overall upgrade from traditional versions. 

This was my first time playing Among Us and I was a bit sad to find that it was not as fun as I was expecting, however. I thought that it was quite difficult to play on mobile (having to navigate through the spaceship with the map open was a bit challenging) and the tasks got repetitive, especially since they are all very simple.

In terms of the specific types of fun involved, I wish we were provided a stronger narrative – a bit more context about why we are all in this spaceship together, just to better immerse ourselves in our roles. One thing I would really like to change to make the game better would be to allow players to interact verbally. I found that the chat was a bit limiting and an element of traditional Mafia that I really enjoy is the engaging discussion between rounds to identify the bad guy. In games, I usually enjoy this fellowship type of fun the most (as well as expression – which we have a bit of in Among Us through the options to customize our character). 

a variety of customized Among Us characters

One moment of particular success was when I set off a catastrophic disaster as the imposter and no one on the crewmate team was able to fix it. I ended up winning really quickly!

"victory" message after winning a game of Among Us

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