Why Among Us Became One of the Biggest Games on Twitch Two Years After Release

Among Us Makes Deceit Despicably Fun

Games Features Among Us
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Subterfuge is a constant in Among Us.

Backstabbing, lying, and turning your friends against each other are the most effective ways to win the game. Don’t let those cute crew member avatars fool you. It’s a game about social deduction and every match is full of drama. Among Us manages to set up a fantastic playing field for interpersonal gameplay that swaps genres from goof central to a John Carpenter movie in two seconds. There are very few moments in a round where you’ll be 100% sure you can trust another player, and that’s what causes the stakes to skyrocket during every interaction.

Among Us came out over two years ago with a modest amount of players, but over the past few weeks it’s started getting major attention online. According to a recent devlog from developers InnerSloth, their active player numbers have recently jumped from 30 to 50 people per hour to 70,000 to 110,000. The massive influx of players prompted the team to launch a merch shop and also announce development on Among Us 2. Quick rounds full of deception and mystery combined with quarantine isolation has made Among Us the perfect storm for Twitch and YouTube right now.

If you don’t know how it works, Among Us is an asymmetrical horror/puzzle game about a space crew that has a murderous imposter(s) aboard the ship with them. Crewmembers are trying to complete tasks via minigames so that they can blast off, while the imposters are doing everything they can to sabotage the journey or kill the majority of the crew to secure their victory. Whenever a body is found there is an automatic meeting called to figure out who the killer is. Those are the only times you can type/talk to the other players in the game; the rest of the time you can only communicate through waddling back and forth. During a meeting you can vote someone out and send them floating into the dark abyss of space, but if there isn’t enough evidence then you can choose to skip the vote. Crewmembers are also allowed to call emergency meetings whenever they like to discuss anything they deem important (I do this a lot because I get scared easily and like to know what my friends are up to). Up to 10 players can play each match and most rounds usually have two imposters. Imposters are outnumbered, but just knowing they’re there is a haunting thought when you’re playing as the crew.

Stats from TwitchTracker

Watching matches play out is an electric jolt to the system. You want the crewmembers to win, but you’re also secretly cheering for the imposter underdog, wondering how they’re going to deceptively wiggle their way into a win. The tension is always tangible; I remember a round where I was the imposter and I sat back and silently won due to crew members infighting and accusing each other of things that I did. It was kinda hilarious. Among Us has this amazing ability to switch tones like its flicking a switch. One moment you’re at a meeting, joking around with your crewmates, and the next you find a corpse and the vibe immediately swaps to high pressure whodunit. It’s a simple premise, but the mind games you can play are actually bonkers.

It allows for some truly insidious strategies. There’s a self-report feature that’s really funny, it gives the imposter the option to report the body after making a kill. If the imposter plays their cards right they could get people to believe they’re innocent, and just found the body laying there. It’s a chaotic play that spells horrible news for crewmembers, especially the unlucky souls who don’t have an alibi. Another flabbergasting play is the double kill. Some imposters will innocuously group up and follow two crewmembers into a room they deem safe (due to four players in it) only to get tag-team assassinated. It’s a cold world in Among Us. Don’t trust anybody, not even yourself.

I like to dress my character as a minion.

Similar to Town of Salem and the drama/theatre game Mafia, Among Us is a virtual party game where people’s playstyles are a direct reflection of their personalities. There are players that are task-oriented and will go off alone and try to complete everything as fast as possible. Conversely, there are players that take on a detective role, embodying their inner Nancy Drew and take command during meetings to figure out which players are imposters.

There is no “right” way to play the game. The game’s lobby offers a plethora of customization options from player speed to imposter’s vision range to the amount of emergency meetings available. That freedom to play how you want to play, and try wacky strategies and schemes is one of the reason’s the game has appealed to such a massive amount of people.

Most of us are still stuck inside, but people still want that social interaction. While games aren’t a proper substitute for that, they’ve been a nice way to safely spend time with friends and provide something to collectively get excited about. Among Us is a great, accessible, and thrilling example of that right now. It’s so entertaining to watch and play with strangers and friends alike because each match is innately messy and full of intrigue. If you haven’t given it a try yet, you should. Solving space crimes with pals every once in a while is a nice way to slice through the everyday mundanity while connecting with people (even if they might stab you in the back).

Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.