For the first critical play, I played Among Us. Among us is a social deduction game created by a game studio called InnerSloth LLC which was co-founded by Marcus Bromander and Forest Willard. It is a multiplayer online game offered on multiple platforms such as mobile and desktop. The platform I played the game on was the mobile iOS version.
The target audience of Among Us seems to be young adults interested in entertaining themselves with games of social deduction that involve collaboration and manipulation. The game is space-themed and there is eerie music playing in the background, appealing to sci-fi and horror fans. Some animations also depict blood and violence, suggesting this game was not initially intended for younger children. However, the characters are colorful, cute, and rounded in shape, so the design could also appeal to younger children. From research (https://levvvel.com/among-us-statistics-and-facts/) on the game, it appears that most players of the game are between the ages of 14-30, with most players being 20-30. This seems to support that the target audience is young adults.
Among Us is a team competition type game (the teams being the crewmates and the imposters). The game allows for 4-15 players at a time. The players can have different roles, with the default role being a cremate (this is comparable to the villager role in Werewolf). There can be 1-3 imposters, which is another role in the game, comparable to the werewolf role in Werewolf. There are also other special roles, such as the scientist, which add more nuance to the game but do not affect the core game mechanics. The objective of the crewmates is to eliminate all of the imposters, while the objective of the imposters is to outnumber the crewmates. Overall, the objective for both teams is to outwit the other team. The game has two outcomes – either the crewmates win or the imposters win. To give an overview of the rules and procedures of the game, the game starts by assigning each player a role. Crewmates do not know the identity of the other crewmates, but imposters know the identity of other imposters. Once all players are ready, the players can all move around a map using joystick-like controls. The crewmates can complete mini-games called “tasks” around the map which fills up a progress bar in the upper left corner. Imposters can move around the map and kill crewmates, leaving behind the dead body of the cremate being killed. Imposters can also perform “sabotage” to make it difficult for crewmates to complete tasks. Players can report dead bodies, which sends the game into a voting stage, where players have the opportunity to use a chat feature to discuss which player to eliminate. Then, a player is eliminated by a majority vote, or no player is eliminated if there is a tie. The game ends when the imposters win by outnumbering the crewmates, the imposters win by some types of “sabotage” tasks, when the crewmates win by eliminating all of the imposters, or when the crewmates win by completing all tasks. There is also an interesting use of the resource of time since there is a limited time for players to discuss and vote. Crewmates can also be limited by time when imposters perform some types of “sabotage” tasks. There is conflict between the two teams, which presents challenges. There are also other obstacles such as the mini-games and the distance and barriers on the map which also add to the challenge. There are also boundaries in the game such as the map the players are allowed to move in, the speed the players can move at, and the information that players know about other players. These formal elements come together to create an engaging game.
Comparison to Other Games
Among Us shares many similarities to other social deduction games such as Werewolf and Mafia. These games are each team competition games involving a larger uninformed team (crewmates, villagers, etc.) and a smaller team with more information (imposters, werewolves, etc.) The objective of each of the teams is to outwit the other. Some mechanics are similar, for example, the larger uninformed team wins if they eliminate all of the players on the other team, and the smaller informed team wins if they outnumber all of the players on the other team. There is also a voting phase for these different games where players vote to eliminate someone.
However, Among Us also differentiates itself from these social deduction games. The premise is different, with Among Us featuring a space theme. A major difference is that Among Us involves players being able to move across a map and perform mini-games and tasks. This adds another layer to the game and introduces more types of strategies for the players. In this way Among Us can be seen as a combination between social deduction games and games with characters that move through joystick controls.
Among Us was fun to play, and it incorporated different types of fun. The ability to collaborate with players on a team demonstrates fellowship as a type of fun. Players can work together, with the game as a social framework. There is also discovery as a type of fun involved. Players can move around a map and discover different areas, so the game allows the exploration of uncharted territory. The game also incorporates challenge as a type of fun. The many mini-games involved present challenges and obstacles for the players. Fantasy is another type of fun present in the game, with players being able to immerse themselves in a sci-fi space theme environment. These different types of fun allowed me to feel engaged with the game, and I felt that I wanted to play multiple times.
Successes and Failures
There were many successes for Among Us. I thought that the game has a great amount of depth. There were so many different tasks to do and there were different parts of the map to explore, so the idea of wanting to see what the game could offer kept me hooked. I played the game several times for this assignment, but I felt that I just scratched the surface. I also enjoyed the artwork and customization that the game offered. This allowed for a more personal feel while playing the game. Furthermore, I thought that the social deduction aspect of the game was very fun, especially playing with other people. This allowed for an element of surprise since I feel that playing against other people can offer more variability than just playing against a game. After hearing about a lot of hype surrounding Among Us, I see why it has become a successful game.
However, there are some failures for Among Us as well. For example, when started my first game without reading the instructions, I was very confused about what to do. I didn’t fully understand the roles or what players could do. I also had trouble moving across the map because I wasn’t used to the joystick-like controls. Given how complex the game is, I felt some frustration when first beginning to play. There were also parts of the game, such as imposters being able to perform “sabotages” which threw me off. I also became confused after the game shifted to the voting phase and it wasn’t clear what was happening. After reading the instructions, I had somewhat of a better idea of the game mechanics. However, the instructions were hidden in the menu and featured very small text and not many pictures.
I would make changes to address some of the “failures” I identified above. The main issue I had with the game was learning how to play it. To address this, I would create a more interactive tutorial to introduce the player to the game. For example, the tutorial could involve a mock game with the player moving through all of the different rounds with guided text and tasks that the player could complete to understand the game. Something else I thought could be improved was the assignment of roles. After playing a few rounds, I kept on being assigned to the crewmate role, but I wanted to see what it was like in different roles. Perhaps there could be a way to increase the chance of getting a certain role or to have a mode of the game to practice being a certain role. With these changes, I believe that other new players would have an easier time learning how to play the game compared to my experience.