Among Us was released back in 2018 and until recently had not known much popularity at all. The developers even opted to create an Among Us 2, which would solve many of the problems that its predecessor had. However, a Twitch streamer by the name of Sodapoppin would play it in late July, having thousands upon thousands of viewers. He would not be the first (SR_Kaif, AdmiralBulldog and singsing, all streamers with a combined 1.5M+ followers had all streamed the game on a regular basis before then), but his playing the game would skyrocket its popularity and Twitch viewership . Today, members of the US Congress have even used it as a tool to encourage people to vote for the US presidential election, with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez playing it with the most popular streamers on Twitch and YouTube.
The goal of the game is quite simple: Among a group of at most ten people on a spaceship, vote out the Impostor(s) before they kill everyone else. This is very similar to already well-known games such as Werewolves, Mafia and Town of Salem, where both Werewolves and Mafia would be played in person. Town of Salem brought the popular game type into a video game in 2014 and Among Us would, in my opinion, improve on it.
Among Us omits other roles that its likeliness included such as the Doctor and Medium which could prevent people from dying or converse with the dead respectively. Instead, it adds tasks that crewmembers must complete. This adds a new win condition to the game, namely to complete all tasks before the Impostor is able to kill everyone. Moreover, it adds a dimension to the game as it matters who is doing which task and where everyone is in the spaceship at every point in time.
One of my close friends introduced our friend group to Among Us about a month ago and we would play with the six of us for the first couple of weeks. However, we quite quickly came to the conclusion that playing with ten people would be more fun than playing with six as not only does ‘the more, the merrier’ hold in Among Us, we could also play with more than one impostor. The way we would invite more people to play with us is by asking individual people whether they had friends who also played. Even people who had never heard of the game would download it for free on their smartphone. This caused an in-flow of new people, causing us to meet and actually make new friends during quarantine.
I personally think that I would have played Among Us if it had become popular on Twitch regardless of being in quarantine. However, I do not think we would have invited as many people as we did because it would not be as important to us to socialize. Because of quarantine, however, we inevitably became more alone and thus needed to socialize more and required reasons to socialize with people. Obviously, I cannot know this for sure but this does suggest that Among Us’ popularity is in part thanks to Covid-19.
The success that Among Us now has, had caused me to ask myself whether there is value in designing our entertainment (systems) to be robust to or even benefit from crises. This would be a type of design-for-unexpectancies. Though I now believe that it is not beneficial to implement that as a rule, I do think it is interesting that there are parties who can possibly benefit from crises. Moreover, consumers may demand similar products in case another pandemic occurs, though again those products should not be designed solely with a possible crisis in mind but rather be robust to said crisis (i.e. robust-by-design rather than design-for-unexpactancies).
I suppose the takeaway of this post is then to play Among Us (it’s free on phones!) with friends and strangers alike and appreciate its ability to benefit from what is in my opinion the strangest times of our lives. As a final note, I do hope that people find more ways to stay in contact with their loved ones through online platforms. Keep distancing socially!