Critical Play: Your first critical play!

For this critical play, I played the game Among Us, a mobile game created by indie game studio Inner Sloth.

The target audience for Among Us seems to be groups of ~4-12 friends in a younger demographic- though it can also be played between strangers and/or adults. The ubiquity of social media platforms like TikTok, where Among Us-related UGC is especially prevalent, among young people supports the game’s popularity.

The game is a modified version of the popular party game Mafia, where a subset of the group are imposters hiding amongst the rest and wreaking havoc by killing crew members as they complete tasks. This makes Among Us a Team v Team style game with Multiplayer Co-op on each side as teammates work to outwit one another by evading capture (as imposters) or successfully voting out the antagonists (as cremates). These different goals make gameplay very different depending on your identity, creating a new and stimulating experience every time.

While Among Us is similar to its (alleged) game of inspiration, Mafia, it has some noticeable differences. For example, the tasks and sabotages create more opportunities and actions for players to engage with throughout gameplay. The fact that the game is digital instead of physical also creates a powerful magic circle that allows players a chance to immerse themselves in the world in a different and potentially more powerful way. Despite these differences, Among Us still maintains the most important mechanic of a social deception game: an informed minority amongst an uninformed majority. 

At the end of the day, Among Us is an incredibly successful game because of how fun it is! The majority of this fun comes from the social interaction: developing a strategy and communicating with others to try to figure out who the imposter is. The more expressive your playmates, the better. 

To improve the game, I would suggest adding roles to make the game slightly more similar to Mafia (ie detective/angel/etc). While the tasks provide some different experiences, they are somewhat purposeless and these different experiences could be enhanced by also offering different roles. The learning curve is also steep at first- with some of the buttons/controls feeling overwhelming for a beginner and making it difficult to focus on the social strategy aspects of the game.

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