This is one of those occasions where I saw the memes before I saw the game. It’s called Among Us and it is insanely popular right now. In the latest meme-war with my 14-year-old son, I was “Rick-Rolled” and “sussed” at the same time. While I am a bit proud of my geek-parenting, I also realized this is probably a good time to bring my fellow geek-parents up to date.
1. What Is Among Us?
Among Us is a multiplayer game from indie developer Innersloth. It is available to play online or in a closed group of friends via wifi or LAN. It requires 4-10 players to become your Crewmates, with one to three Imposters among you. This is the most important part to remember: Crewmates and Imposters. Crewmates have to finish various tasks on board your spaceship and figure out who the Imposters are. Imposters are doing everything they can to sabotage the mission and kill off your Crewmates. When someone finds a body or a player calls an “emergency meeting” (allowed twice per game), everyone comes together to discuss and vote on who the Imposters are. And thus it becomes a game of deduction, betrayal, and misdirection.
2. Crewmates vs. Imposters
The first thing to note: you do not know if you are Crewmate or Imposter until the game actually starts. As soon as you know, it will change how you play the game.
Crewmates: The goal for Crewmates is to finish all of your tasks, find the Imposter (or Imposters), and survive. Seems pretty simple, right? Yeah, except for the Imposters part. The tasks are important because they are part of keeping the spaceship working. Now, if you find a dead body, you can opt to report it immediately and trigger a team meeting to identify the murderous Imposter… OR you can at least finish the tasks and hope you are not next. If you are the one killed, you can still complete tasks as a specter but you can’t talk to anyone.
Imposter: The gameplay for Imposter is a bit different. You will start with fake tasks to help you blend in with the locals. You can even use these fake tasks to sabotage the ship. You also have an additional ability to “vent,” which allows you faster travel around the spaceship via the ventilation shafts. Of course, if anyone notices you, they will know you’re an Imposter. You can, of course, kill any witnesses, but that leads to the next Imposter rule: there is a cooldown timer between kills. Use your skills wisely because you need to kill everyone (either directly or indirectly when they falsely accused as Imposters).
3. Is Among Us a New Game?
No, it was launched in 2018 and is experiencing a surge in popularity right now. According to Twitch Tracker, Among Us is the second most popular watched game, behind League of Legends, which is no real surprise there. What is a surprise is how it knocked Fortnite down to 4th place (behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare). It was picked up by some popular streamers and let’s face it: treachery is always a popular sport. Add to that the need to “kind of socialize” during a pandemic when we should not be socializing, and you have the perfect breeding ground for a game like Among Us.
4. Is It Child-Friendly?
Among Us is really popular with teenagers. Back in 2018, the game received a 16+ age rating for Strong Violence, but it has since changed a 9+ age rating with Fantasy Violence and Mild Blood.
To be perfectly frank, the animation is done in a cutesy style for laughs. There has probably been more graphic violence in Star Wars animated episodes than this game. The more important issue to consider is how your child feels about lying and deception. Some kids simply cannot handle the level of betrayal that comes with this game; you have to trust your friends to not make the deception personal and not make it personal yourself. While I have no issue with my 14-year-old son playing this game, I do not think it is a good idea for my 11-year-old son. The latter is far more literal in his approach to games and is less capable of this kind of psychological gameplay from real-life behavior.
Among Us is absolutely a personal choice for each parent. Before you set them free on the spaceship, I strongly suggest you check out the game yourself and find out who your kids would be playing with. If you are still unsure how your kid would feel playing Among Us, do a test run with a different game. A good example would be the tabletop game Antidote, similar in artwork and deduction. If no-one flips the table, then they are probably ready for Among Us.
5. Is Among Us the Imposter?!?
Yeah, funny thing about that. Among Us is not the first game in this style. If it looks familiar, it was inspired by Mafia (AKA Werewolf). The easy platform-play for the game creates a lot of similarities with both tabletop and video games: Antidote was mentioned above, along with Secret Hitler, Town of Salem, and Project Winter.
What makes Among Us stand out against these other games is the artwork. The graphics are comedic and light-hearted, in a way that softens the sting of betrayal and ensures the game stays in the realm of “FUN.”
6. Do Players Talk to Each Other During the Game?
This is always a good thing to check before letting your kids play any online multiplayer games.
Among Us does not have a built-in voice chat function. Remember, the game was originally designed for mobile-gameplay. When players start to discuss who the Imposter is, they can use the written chat function via the in-game chatroom or use a separate voice chat app like Discord. Most players prefer the voice chat because of the ease in defending yourself before your crewmates yeet you out the airlock. Either way, make sure you and your kids practice cyber-safety. Know who they are talking to and how to recognize the warning signs when talking to strangers online.
Sidenote: you can activate “Censor Chat” in the settings if you are concerned about swear words for your kids. And there are a few explicit usernames which simply cannot be avoided.
7. Any Accessibility Issues?
This is a question I have been hearing more often of late and something I will keep in mind for future games: are there any accessibility issues to consider?
The general gameplay in Among Us can be tricky for players who experience color-blindness. While the avatars are dependent on color identification, you can manage this with easily distinguished usernames.
You can also adjust the time to discuss and vote on Imposters, adjust the difficulty for killing other players, the speed of various players, and visibility within the map. Each of these variables can make the gameplay more equitable and subsequently more accessible for players of all levels.
Currently, Among Us is available for iOS and Android for free and Steam for about USD$5.25/AUD$7.50. There are additional bundles to purchase, which give you costumes for your avatar, mini avatars, and pets. Personally, the joy in playing comes from the friends you are playing with, not the additional features.
For short and quick games with friends, Among Us can be hella fun and super entertaining. It’s also a game I enjoy watching my kids play without plucking my eyeballs out and ripping off my own ears. It is the kind of game we can pull out on the phones and catch-up with friends… if they are still talking to us afterward.