Critical Play

Game: Among Us
Developer: Innersloth studio
Platform: MacOS/Windows/Linux/iOS/Android (literally all of them at this point)

I think Among Us is a good example of a social game that can bring everyone together despite their gaming backgrounds. In part, I believe Among Us accomplishes that by being designed with as wide of an audience in mind as possible as it comes with very minimal requirements: both technical (e.g., you need this type of computer/game console to run it) as well as “mechanics” wise (rules and objective).

The game revolves around a spaceship environment where a player is either an imposter who is trying to get rid of everyone else or a crewmate who is trying to get rid of the imposter or finish all their tasks before they die. In terms of player count, from personal experience I think the ideal minimum is 5 people (although I believe you can play with just 4).

I think what differentiates Among Us from other (non video-) games in its genre (e.g., Werewolf, Mafia) is that it masquerades itself as a simple and easy game at a glance but is so much more once you dive deep into it. For example, as the rounds of the game go by, you’re tasked with collecting clues about a specific person’s story in order to determine your next move while also having to paint a cohesive picture of your own story, the specific tasks that you were doing as well as the locations that you have been to and the players that you came across. All that while trying to navigate decision making in a group setting. In addition, the difficulty of the game I would argue lies in coming up with the right strategy which consists of what tasks to do, determine the relationship between those tasks and the locations they’re at and equally as importantly the time for when to do those tasks (or pretend to do them).

In terms of entertainment value, I would say the game was pretty fun especially when played with friends (you can play with strangers or with friends) because of the underlying social structures and the knowledge that comes with knowing your friends and their personalities outside of the game. That said, I think the game can get a bit tiresome and mentally taxing as you play with more people and end up playing a lot more rounds.

While not an avid gamer, I still think adding more nuanced mechanics later on in the game would make it more appealing to people who play the game more seasonly. An idea might be to add different types of cool down times based on how the imposter would kill a person or introduce consequences to whomever calls for an emergency meeting that ends in either not voting or voting on someone who turns out to be a passenger. Another mechanic that I think can benefit from some refinement is dying: after you die, you become a ghost and you’re able to traverse the map. I found myself frequently losing interest or attention in what happens in the game after I die. So I believe adding some sort of way for ghosts to be able to affect the gameplay of alive players would help remedy that and make sure that all parties are still engaged with what’s going on in the game.

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