Among Us, the space-themed multiplayer social deduction game was first released on June 15, 2018, by InnerSloth, a small independent game company. Despite its release over two years ago, the online game didn’t gain popularity within the Berkeley High School (BHS) community until recently, towards the beginning of the 2020 school year. The game is most popular in countries outside of the United States, including South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil, with over 100 million downloads in total. The game’s sudden spike in popularity raises the question of whether it will maintain its popularity for much longer.
Among Us includes three different terrains or spaceships in which stubby avatars dressed in colorful spacesuits can play. Unlike many online games, Among Us is more low-stakes, without a scoring or ranking system. The lessened pressure to maintain a status has proven appealing to casual players. The comparatively low key nature of the game is by no means suggestive of a lack of excitement. Among Us entails trickery and detective work while juggling puzzles and avoiding death at other players’ hands. Kayoko Hoffman Hattori, a sophomore in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), said, “[Among Us] is a game where you have to actively think and strategize. It makes you notice your surroundings more because you have to think of everything.”
During COVID-19, it’s not just the excitement attracting players. Many students associate Among Us with the in-person party game, Mafia. Given the lack of social interaction that has accompanied the lockdown, Among Us serves as a fun way to connect strangers and friends. “We have so much time on our hands,” noted Academic Choice (AC) sophomore Geno Aymar-Nunez. Nunez began playing Among Us when he realized it was not only free, but “a good way to pass all the time you have and just connect with friends.”
Similar to Mafia, there are two teams in Among Us. “Crewmates” comprise the uninformed majority while “Imposter(s)” make up the informed minority. Crewmates use a map provided to each player to navigate throughout the spaceship in search of tasks. The crewmates’ goal is to complete their tasks as quickly as possible before the imposters kill them. Some tasks are more interactive than others. “No one likes download,” said Maddie Philhower, a sophomore in Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA). “Downloading” frustrates just about everyone who plays Among Us; the task requires pressing a button to wait for a “transfer” of files. “You just sit there for 30 seconds,” she said, but the tedious task only increases the suspense of the game.
The Imposters’ goal is to kill as many crewmates as they can without getting caught by fellow gamers. They complete “fake tasks” to appear to be a crewmate. Imposters also have a map that they can use to “sabotage” areas of the ship. Imposters have access to more of the ship, allowing them to catch crewmates off-guard.
Crewmates may call meetings and announce a fellow players’ death, which initiates a public chat conversation between players to deduce potential imposters. Optional voting can determine the expulsion of a player. Discussions are a crucial time for imposters to fake their innocence. If an imposter cannot manage to hide their identity, they risk being voted off by crewmates. “Sometimes people who are really inexperienced won’t report a body until you walk into the room. Then it’s safe to assume that they could be the imposter,” Philhower said. Hattori explained how she looks out for possible imposters. “Are other people looking sus? Are you looking sus?” Hattori laughed, “It’s probably made me have trust issues with some of my friends.”
As with all works of entertainment, Among Us could use some revisions. During October, hacking issues spammed public chats, some messages saying, “Trump 2020” or giving away imposters. “I think that the people that made [Among Us] had a really good idea in mind,” said Aymar-Nunez. “But I also feel like it’s getting ruined because people are learning how to cheat.” Among Us creators, InnerSloth, are working to resolve the hacks and deleting ads to ensure player safety. Alongside hacks, gamers are growing tired of the maps and avatar choices. To their delight, InnerSloth announced a new map at the beginning of November. Set to be released in December, the new map will include new tasks and fixes to multiple loopholes in the game.
Among Us is a place for social interaction, which, however contrived, is vital as we enter another period of COVID-19 lockdown. The game is suspenseful, fun, and certainly engaging, all things that make it an excellent source of entertainment for BHS students. No one can say for sure if Among Us would be as popular without COVID-19, or if it will persist in popularity in the face of hackers, cheaters, and new fads, but for now, Among Us is something BHS students should check out if they haven’t already.
Update: This article was changed to include the small learning communities of three interviewees.