Critical Play: your first critical play!

I played Among Us, developed by InnerSloth LLC, on mobile. I played about ten games with anywhere between 7 and 10 residents of my dorm.

I would say the game’s target audience is anybody 6 years or older. This is the age when kids enter first grade and start becoming socialized. Among Us could serve as a useful tool in this process because it forces people to cooperate in a simulated stressful situation. It also teaches kids not to trust freely so they don’t get taken advantage of. Some argue that the cartoon violence means the target audience is older but kids are exposed to far more violent cartoons and movies, especially now that they have access to the internet through their parents’ devices.

Among Us is very flexible with its player count but I think it’s best played with anywhere from 5 to 12 players. I think a ratio of five crewmates to one impostor makes for a balanced match, depending on what rules you play with. The players run around performing meaningless tasks; the point of these is to get them to split up from each other so the impostor can kill players who are alone. Rounds end when a dead body is found. Then, players can vote somebody off the ship if they suspect them of being the impostor. Crewmates win if they successfully guess who the impostor is or if they finish all their tasks (however, this never seems to occur). The essential gameplay seems to revolve around moving around the map and getting seen far away from the location of the murder.

One Night Werewolf has a similar gameplay loop to Among Us. However, where Werewolf is played in real life with no equipment, Among Us is played virtually, opening it up to gameplay possibilities unavailable to Werewolf. It allows players to express themselves through the outfits of their virtual characters, engaging them in a more visceral level of fantasy than Werewolf. Since it can be played online, it exploded during the pandemic when everyone was stuck inside. The most meaningful difference is the use of space and the map in Among Us. Since Among Us takes place in a virtual space, with boundaries and corridors and nooks and crannies, the locations where a given player was spotted plays a significant role in how much they are trusted during the voting phase; was the player where they said they were and does it seem like they were completing tasks?

The game was very fun. Killing and getting killed feels so satisfying and dramatic and watching how different people strategize their way through a game and attempt to hide their intentions is fascinating. The fun of the game comes from the people you play with though; yelling and screaming at each other is where the real fun comes from. The game allows for a new level of social interaction where we can cooperate and backstab each other freely, creating drama with no consequence.

The first time I played, without understanding the rules, I got impostor and asked what venting is for. Then I got voted off. We had one player who played impostor three times and won every time. Staying quiet and positioning carefully seem to be the best strategies for success, but is that really the most fun way to play?

I would add roles to the game, similar to Werewolf. It’s always a little disappointing when you get crewmate for the 7th time in a row and you just have to wait to get murdered by the psycho who has played Impostor every round since you started. By adding roles like doctor or sage or detective, being a crewmate can be more satisfying.

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