Critical Play 1

For my first critical play, I played Among Us by Innersloth, which is available for both mobile devices and computers. The game is generally intended to be played by older children to young adults, but is suitable for most ages as a party/social game (there’s cartoon violence, but nothing egregious). 

Notable Elements:

  • The number of players ranges from 4 to 15, but generally, a game size of around 8 – 12 players is ideal.
  • The game is based on team-vs-team competition and social deduction. There are two teams – a crewmate/civilian team, and an impostor/murderer team. The objective of the crewmates is to identify all of the impostors or complete all of their tasks, while the goal of the impostors is to kill all the crewmates. This is thus a zero-sum game – one team must win, and one team must lose.
  • The tasks are an important element of the game, as they provide time pressure on the impostors to kill off crewmates, potentially leading to mistakes.
  • An example of a task
  • Impostors also have ways to control the movement of crewmates by activating sabotage accidents, such as a nuclear meltdown or disabling the lights. This allows them to force crewmates to move to a certain area to fix the problem, and thus isolate certain crewmates to kill them.
  • The communal voting system creates a social dynamic, between the accused, the accuser, and the voters. The often-heated arguments over innocence, as well as the immediate feedback (“x person was/was not an impostor”) often lead to an immediate change of trust for the accuser, either positive (if the person voted was an impostor) or negative (if they were innocent).

A similar game to Among Us is Mafia – in fact, the core mechanics of innocent/murderer teams, social deduction/voting to eliminate players, and the zero-sum outcomes are exactly the same. However, Among Us differs from Mafia by adding a greater element of skill/direct interaction for all players. While the early rounds of Mafia are often boring, as the mafia can essentially pick players at random to vote off, Among Us requires the impostors to select isolated people to kill, and avoid being detected on scanners, cameras, etc. This ensures that all rounds of the game are worthwhile and based on skill, rather than being solely determined by random chance.

I thought the game was fun to play – there’s a decent amount of skill expression/decision-making as an impostor, and crewmates can also strategize to play spoiler (e.g. checking cameras, moving away from a pair of players and then returning to see if one of them was killed, etc.). The heated battles after each body was found/emergency meeting also led to a lot of social fun.

Cameras give crewmates opportunities to witness murders from afar

Some moments of success as a crewmate are when you know for a fact that someone is an impostor, such as seeing a murder on cameras, seeing someone pop out of a vent, or deducting that everyone besides one person must be innocent. As an impostor, particularly fun moments are double-kills (when you and another impostor kill two people at the same time, countering the pairing-up strategy) and making a clean murder such that no one suspects you when the body is found. 

An impending double-kill

To improve Among Us, I think it would be fun to add more ways for the crewmates to win besides simply achieving tasks, which can get quite menial. This might include reducing the number of tasks required, adding a timer on each round, or maybe even adding more sabotages. These would incentivize impostors to kill more often and add additional time pressure, forcing them to potentially make mistakes and sloppy kills. It might also be good to make it so that dead players no longer have to finish their tasks, as the tasks alone are boring without any pressure of avoiding being murdered.

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