Critical Play: AmongUs

I chose to play AmongUs. This game was created by the Washington-based game studio Innersloth in 2018. It can be played on mobile and desktop; I played on my phone.

The target audience for AmongUs is a younger demographic. It is cartoonish and fairly simple to play. The chat feature quickly reveals to you that the app is flooded with young players. AmongUs exploded during the pandemic via YouTube and TikTok, which also contributed to its young base of players.

The game requires at least four players, with a maximum of fifteen. In each game, 1-3 players (depending on the settings you have chosen) are assigned to the role of “imposter” while the remaining players form the “crew.” It takes place on a ship and crew members spend their time running around the ship completing necessary tasks while the imposters try to kill off crew members. This makes AmongUs a unilateral competition game.

Whenever a dead body is found (or via an emergency button) a meeting is called where players vote to try to vote off the imposter(s). The imposter’s task is to kill off all crew members before being found out. Each of these meetings is the end of a “round” in the game. Much of the game is centered around communication between players during these meetings as they share information to try to determine who the imposter is. This makes player relationships very important — who do you trust? How does trust get built or deteriorate between rounds? In terms of resources, the crew wants to maintain the number of living crew mates and the health of their ship. Their objective is to stay alive by voting the imposters out, while the imposters want to kill off the crew.

AmongUs is similar to games like Mafia/Werewolf but distinct in its implementation. It uses a lot of cute graphics and an online messaging interface in contrast to similar games that are mostly played in real life, through words and cards. I like AmongUs less than these in-person games because I find using an online chat interface more cumbersome than real life talking. However, it is helpful in situations where you cannot be in person with other players.

AmongUs was very fun to play. It was nerve-wracking, especially as the imposter, which made me engaged. I succeeded in voting out some imposters early on, which felt great. I would improve the ease of messaging to make the game better — maybe switching to audio.

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