Written by Lori May
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard of Among Us, a multiplayer title featuring intrepid space explorers that has positively exploded on Steam. Originally available as a mobile app, Among Us successfully made the transition onto Steam in November of 2016, living in relative obscurity until a few months ago. In our pandemic-fueled world of social distancing and relative isolation, interactive, inexpensive, massively social titles like Among Us have gained in popularity with remarkable speed. Blending both Co-Op dynamics with a Survival theme, Among Us challenges players to escape the vacuum of space as a team of crewmates – or as an Imposter, a separate faction that is determined to murder everyone and prevent their ability to maintain the spaceship and seek salvation.
Up to 10 players can join a lobby, where each is assigned a color. Provided your desired hue is available, each character can be customized by color, outfit, and accessory, or even pet company – and inexpensive, bonus cosmetic DLC options are offered to enhance your options. The ability to choose your color has led to countless memes discussing the types of players – the chaotic aspect of Cyan, the know-it-all aspect of Black, the determined effectiveness of Light Green. Regardless of your appearance, each player is randomly assigned to a role: Crewmate versus Imposter. The game allows for configuration, up to three Imposters per 10 slots, but the outcome is the same regardless of ratio: Opposing sides are either working together to repair their ship, or working towards murdering everyone who isn’t an Imposter.
When a body is discovered, the game transitions into the next phase, where the players discuss what happened. The in-game chat is full of arguments and debates, accusations and vehement denials, pitting players against each other because no one can be trusted. Successful Imposters kill in secret, or are convincing enough in chat that even if someone is a witness they can discredit them, possibly even turning suspicion around on the person gunning for them. The voting round follows, and if someone gets the majority vote they are expelled out into space. An important thing to remember is that each player has a vote – so Imposters can work together or sacrifice each other. Crewmates win by surviving and successfully repairing the ship, or by identifying and disposing of the Imposters.
Thanks to Discord, Among Us can be augmented by playing rounds with everyone on voice chat. This lends an entirely different dynamic, because players must be convincing via voice communication rather than simply relying on text. The discussion feels far more chaotic and volatile, and fast-paced; sometimes, it is easier to discourage accusations when you are an Imposter, and sometimes you can’t get a word in edgewise to defend yourself. With Among Us 2 already being in development, players are using Discord to give feedback for the Devs, contributing to the ongoing conversation for improvements and changes. Cross-platform play between the PC and the mobile versions contributes more versatility if you’re trying to convince friends to pick up the game – especially because the mobile version is free – but the $4.99 U.S.D. price tag on Steam is very reasonable, given the replay value and current hype surrounding the title.
Other us-versus-them titles have enjoyed periods of popularity, games like Town of Salem and Throne of Lies, both of which have far more extensive mechanics and complicated gameplay, but Among Us is a simplified, fast-paced, easy-to-learn alternative that has a plethora of players to challenge given the current popularity. A Top Seller on Steam for a reason, with seasonal updates and very few persistent bugs and issues, Among Us is an affordable, incredibly addictive way to interact with your friends remotely, without needing masks, or go find new friends (or enemies) on the vast, untamed world of the Internet.