(Photo Courtesy of InnerSloth)
“Among Us” is the best advertisement for John Carpenter’s 1982 film “The Thing” to date. First released on June 15, 2018 to Android and iOS, “Among Us” has seen a rapid resurgence in popularity in late 2020. “Among Us” is an online roleplaying game meant for anywhere from four to 10 players where they must band together to root out imposters that are, as one would expect, among them.
The exact mechanics are relatively simple. Each game has two teams, crewmates and imposters. Right away the crewmates are left in the dark about everyone else’s identity while imposters know who their friends are. Crewmates can win the game by completing minigames across a map, which have physical distance from each other, so traveling to these areas leaves crewmates vulnerable to imposters. Imposters are fewer in number, but they can win by murdering the crewmates until the size of each team is equal. Everybody’s actions can be interrupted by someone reporting a crewmate’s body, leading to a decision on who the collective teams vote to be killed off.
Crewmates and imposters have a gameplay dichotomy, both in the in-game mechanics and the in-person discourse. All crewmates need to complete their minigames, but they can also win by eliminating all of the imposters. Crewmates need to work together, but they must be constantly ready to lynch someone they suspect of being an imposter. The very existence of this unseen enemy and the social deduction it entails is the core gameplay of the crewmates, and it gets better with the social interaction that comes with it. “Where were you last? Why were you not here? Why were you chums with the last guy who was voted off?” The voting segment of “Among Us” heavily favors the crewmates, as they have the voting majority, but demands an individual player to act and speak on their own.
The imposters, meanwhile, hold all the power on the game map. The map itself is large enough to force the crewmates to split up, while the imposters can teleport and block passageways to corner their prey. However, they cannot run around murdering everyone with abandon, as they have cooldowns on their abilities and become vulnerable the moment someone reports a body. It is therefore the imposter’s core gameplay to blend in and single out crewmates to either kill on the map or vote out in the voting section. When voting, the imposters already know who everyone’s identity is – rather than act as an individual, it is therefore an imposter’s best interest to interfere in any discourse and either pin the blame on a crewmate or deflect blame away from themselves.
“Among Us” is not the first game to practice this concept of information disparity. One of the oldest examples of this is Dimitriy Davidoff’s “Mafia,” a party roleplaying game with a suspiciously similar concept of a malicious minority being among an unknowing majority. Indeed, the same idea of these imposters interacting across a map was also done in “Trouble in Terrorist Town,” a game mode of the sandbox game “Garry’s Mod.” What “Among Us” does to differentiate itself, however, is the game’s use of both the dichotomy of the voting segment and the map mode, two parts of a game that the crewmates and imposters each respectively excel in. That, and the fact “Among Us” is simply better at marketing, has led to its success. It has a low development cost which then allows the game to be played for a low cost among multiple platforms.
Overall, “Among Us” is a readily accessible game that can offer fun discourse, with a very good replayability value thanks to it ultimately being a social game about talking to others. A typical round of “Among Us” lasts under an hour.
Overall Rating: A+