For my critical play task, I played Among Us with my friends today. Not only is this game a great brain teaser, with my mind racing to survive while also accomplishing tasks, but it offered a joint experience to bring my busy friends and I together in a funny activity.
The name of this game is Among Us, a multiplayer social game developed by Innersloth [source] that is heavily influenced by the popular party game Mafia. [source] Its popularity can also be attributed to its flexibility: users can play Among Us on almost all platforms, from mobile phones to PCs. For this critical play, we all played the game on our computers.
Among Us safeguards itself from being touted as a violent or inappropriate game through the use of cartoon representations of all characteristics: all players are animated astronauts. According to ESRB, the game has been deemed appropriate for anyone over the age of 10, since there are only mild instances of blood or violence. [source]
In addition to this rating, the game’s monitoring of chats, which can sometimes get chaotic, rarely involve epithets and when someone tries to enter one, the game automatically changes the word. Personally, this makes me feel better about the appropriateness of this game for children. Despite the grade from the ESRB, 10 year olds are not racing to play this game as much as other age ranges, since Innersloth reported that Among Us surprisingly sees its largest audience comes from the age range of 14-30 year olds. [source]
Notable Elements of the Game:
Among Us can be played with as few as 4 players and as many as 15 players. Players are subsequently divided into groups with roles: crew-mates and impostors. There can be between 1 to 3 impostors in the game, with the rest being crew-mates. Crew-mates’ role is to complete the tasks the game presents before the impostor(s) kill all the crew-mates. The imposters’ role is to kill all the crew-members or sabotage the ship consistently without being recognized as an imposter, because an imposter does not want the crew ship to succeed in its mission.
When a crew-member discovers a dead body, they call a meeting with all the players. Then all the players must debate on who the impostor is. This often includes finger pointing and heated discussion. In terms of rounds, there aren’t explicit rounds; however, each time a crew-mate dies or every time a player calls an “emergency meeting,” the game pauses for discussion and then the game resumes. So, there are two phases: a play phase and a voting phase.
In terms of outcomes, this is a zero sum game, wherein if the imposters are discovered, the crew-mates win entirely. If the imposter kills all the crew-mates, the imposter wins the game. With regards to rules and procedures, imposters have to wait 10 seconds in between killing targets, so they cannot go on a killing spree. Furthermore, each player can only vote for one person per meeting. The workings of the crew-mate role versus the imposter role indicate this game is a unilateral competition game.
In terms of objectives, this game clearly highlights the aspect of how the imposter must outwit the crew mates, basically “gas-lighting” crew members into thinking the imposter is a member of the team, not a foe. If the imposter can gain the trust of other crew-mates, the imposter could vote off an innocent user. I was the imposter in one of the times we played Among Us and got ejected after turning my friends against two other players.
Comparison to other games:
Among Us is similar to the game Mafia and even the game werewolf. However, I think having the crew mates achieve objectives in Among Us is unique to the game and offers more play time for everybody. In Mafia and Werewolf, the users do really do much but deliberate, accuse, and eject. Interestingly, although Mafia has a narrator which offers a storyline element, it is not a missed aspect in Among Us; the game without a moderator is not necessary. In Werewolf, having the doctor and seer are helpful for this type of game, but when we played Werewolf in class without the doctor, the game went along fine as well. This indicates that maybe adding roles as exponential confusion that could be unnecessary in various instances of the game, for example: if there is a small number of players. In Among Us, whether there are 4 or 15 users, the number of roles does not increase accordingly, but the number of imposters will.
I think Among Us is better than Werewolf and Mafia in terms of simplicity to learn quickly; both of the latter games include more roles and therefore more obstacles to understanding the game quickly.
This game is definitely fun because it is challenging without being easy to figure out; since there’s the human component of each player deciding on an imposter, you must work to convince others to believe you. Furthermore, if your the imposter, you cannot predict where other players are going to travel within the ship as if they are CPUs; since these astronauts are powered by other real people, there is a variable of randomness and risk when a imposter prepares to kill someone or sabotage the ship.
A moment of particular success is the countdown for killing other users; if the imposter could kill other players without a loading period, then the game would be over faster, I presume, as the imposter could quickly kill everyone before a crew mate can report a dead body.
A moment of epic fails comes in terms of directions; I am not sure if I missed the session where the game presents the directions to the player, but when I played, we went immediately into the game. During the session, I went into the vent as the imposter, and at that moment, the other players knew immediately that I was an imposter. If I had known that hiding in vents is an action only offered to imposters, I definitely would not have done it.
In general, the main things I would change would be adding explicit directions and possibly the # of players; I am not sure why the number of players is limited to 15, but I assume with 20 or even 30 players in an even bigger arena, the game could last longer and be more exciting.