Critical Play: Among Us

Developer: Innersloth studio

Supported Platforms: Android, iOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One – Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4-5

While the game was initially released in 2018, it rose to fame during the pandemic, thus it cannot be said that it was the challenges of physical distancing and isolation that inspired the development of this social deduction game. The game’s premise revolves around a failing spaceship, space station or base, that has been sabotaged by a member or multiple members of its crew who are in fact shapeshifting aliens who have taken the place of the legitimate crew members. It is the objective of the real crew to repair the failing installation before it explode while at the mercy of the “impostors” who can abuse heightened movement mechanics to more easily traverse the map, sabotage equipment and murder surviving crew members. It is the interesting and balanced mix of Co-Op, PvP and PvE elements within a multilateral game what I believe made it stand out from other online social games at the time and keep the game fresh after multiple play throughs. Once a dead body has been spotted by crew members, all of the players can be subjected to a vote to decide who they believe may be the impostors and eliminate them. Victory can be achieved if all impostors are identified and eliminated before the time runs out and the majority of the human crew is murdered.

The game allows for up to 10 players and does not limit the types of interactions that may occur between crew-members and impostors thanks to voice over IP and the chat communication system. However each time is limited with regards to exactions they may have with their environment and other crew members. The game’s art-style also seems like an ode to the game’s humble beginnings as a very small indie title, as it does not feature lavish environments, character designs or 3D renders and opts for a utilitarian yet fun 2D artsyle which easily conveys to the player the importance and roles of different elements, from the colorful player “models” that help easily identify specific crew members to the intractable environment set pieces.

Thus I don’t believe that this game was designed with a specific age demographic in mind, but to be as accessible and appealing as possible for everyone old enough to understand the complexities of social deduction games. From research it appears that most players are between the ages 14-30. I’m my opinion the game is very fun to play with friends and classmates when active communication is easier and deceptions and betrayals are both harder to pull off and carry more emotional weight and reward. I thought it was particularly fun to observe how people’s demeanor might change depending on their role. With the added difficulty of not being able to read your playmates’ body language, the game becomes more challenging and immersive, as one must spend more time playing and paying attention to other player’s whereabouts rather than their spoken or written reactions, and once you’re eliminated there’s no way to reveal any information to your team members. I would love to test a game mode of among us where at least one human player has the ability to fight back against the aliens and see how that would change the dynamic of the game.

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