Among Us has become a cultural staple in the realities of the Pandemic, and it’s not obvious why. A game that is several years old, and can be purchased for a pittance compared to most modern games (The Steam version is a mere $5), gained prominance in 2020 as we all were locked down in our homes and forced to take a two week* break from life. The game itself is actually quite simple, and the graphics are reminiscent of an old SNES game, 2D and using a set of controls so simple you could play with a NES controller. Yes, I realize I’m showing my age here.
For those that aren’t familiar with the game, it plays thusly: you and up to nine other players, tatertots in spacesuits called “crewmates”, are dropped onto a ship, and must complete a set of tasks. The number of tasks are set by the room owner, but the tasks themselves are random. In order for the crewmates to win, they have to complete all tasks before the Imposter(s) kill too many crewmates. Oh and if you die? Your work isn’t done; your ghost must complete the tasks.
Speaking of Imposters, between one and three players, depending on how the room was set up, are not what they seem. They aren’t crewmates, and they don’t complete tasks. Instead, they run around, commit sabotage, and attempt to murder the crewmates before they can complete their tasks. When a player runs across a body, which my group has dubbed “butt-ham” because of how it looks, they report it, and everyone gets to guess who the Imposter is, voting to kick off the ship the person they think is guilty. They can also skip. The Imposter has to try and lie their way into not being the one ejecteed.
Game ends when either all Imposters have been kicked off, the crew finishes all tasks, or the Imposter kills the whole crew, minus one (it’s assumed they sabotage the ship or otherwise would be able to kill the remaining member). When a player is thrown off, it’s in a suitably final manner: for the space ship, your fellow players toss you out an airlock; for the weather station, you’re dropped off the platform; and for the terrestrial HQ, they drop you into a lava pool.
So what is so fun about this game, which you’d think would be more likely a way to cause anxiety than have fun? If I had to guess it’s that you get the benefit of the adrenaline rush, along with getting to spend time with your friends. In this age of social distancing, finding a way to socialize is especially difficult. Among Us is, in a lot of ways, a return to the old Party Game, where you and friends all get together and just have fun together. While I know not all groups do this, my group has gotten comfortable enough to have open comms while we play, with the rule that we can’t talk about the game. Other groups will mute mics during play, but turn them on when in meetings (deciding to throw others off) and between rounds.
Additionally, there is an unofficial game mode called “Hide and Seek”. The setup is such that the Imposter has almost no vision, and to play correctly is denied sabotage. Then they have to reveal their identity at the beginning of play. Players can’t throw anyone off the ship, and thus they must complete the tasks before the Imposter finds them. Overall, this is my favorite way to play, and when imposter we all range from laughing evilly to giggling uncontrollably when looking for other players. The whole thing is hilarious, and reminds me of days long ago when playing things like Trivial Pursuit with family in the early 90s.
In the end, I’m pretty sure that’s what causes it to be so awesome: Among Us is a fun party game that has helped all of us weather the nightmare that was 2020, and whilst we still have some “rough sledding”, to use the vernacular my own Governor used, it will certainly be remembered as a serious contributor to us getting through it.