Recently, someone identified that I had a meeting notice on my calendar that said “Among Us.” I said it was a teambuilding exercise. They replied: “Yeah, because nothing says teambuilding like murdering each other than lying about it.”
Among Us is a free-to-play online game that is taking the gaming world by storm. In Among Us, you play a armless peanut of different colors who is on a spaceship, or planet, or something. Usually involving ten players, most are randomly selected as a “crewmate”, while two are selected as “imposters.” It’s a game that rolls out out in two phases. In the main play phase, the crewmates run around the game trying to perform tasks (which are meaningless little puzzles). Meanwhile, the imposters run around trying to kill the crewmates — its cartoonish, so it’s pretty family friendly. The imposters have a ‘cooldown’ which means they have to wait between kills, but they have the ability to use vents to sneak around the map, and also can sabotage parts of the map to gain an advantage. If someone comes across a dead body, the player can report a death which leads to the meeting phase. During the meeting phase, players have the ability to vote off who they think is an imposter. If a someone gets more votes than any others, that person is ejected from the ship. The game is won by the crewmates if either they complete all the tasks, or they vote off all the imposters. The game is won by the imposters if they either kill enough crewmates so there is an equal number of crew and imposters, or a sabotage runs its course and times out.
Or put more simply, we are talking about a interactive murder mystery. It’s a battle between detectives to find the bad guy, and the bad guys trying to get away with their deeds. As an imposter, your strategy is undoubtedly to cause havoc. You can get your kills in places where no one catches you. You can frame someone else for a murder. You can even throw your teammate under the bus just to make it look like you are innocent. For the crewmates, you have to balance completing your tasks with trying to identify the imposters. Some of the challenges to that are part of gameplay. Like you could be doing a task, and the puzzle covers your screen so that when you finish you find yourself next to a dead body … and no one else.
The game is based played with people who know each other. Also, it is best played when they are different locations, but are patched into a group call – like through Skype, WebEx, or Discord. Which means, it’s perfect for game players living under a “Stay at Home” order. I’m currently in one lobby of co-workers who get together every two weeks to “team build”, and am working on a second lobby of friends. Honestly, I have only been playing it for a month or two, but the influence has been around me for most of the last year.
Last summer, on-line gamers took advantage of the time at home to stream their Among Us games. They stream live on either Twitch or YouTube, and then follow it up with summary videos on YouTube as well. If you aren’t into video games and wonder why anyone would want to watch someone else play a game … well, I tell ya, it’s highly entertaining. They display their tricks, their methods, and their meltdowns in hilarious ways. High quality players like Disguised Toast, Valkarea, and Pokimane team up in lobbies of good friends laughing, playing, and enjoying the game. Yet goofballs like SocksFor1 and Mr. Blaza give us the weirdness of creative minds set wild. It’s so big that every day, there are tens of millions of views of Among Us videos. Content is so fresh that game updates are trackable.
The game is so widespread that these videos are adding to the English language. Take for instance “Sus.” Short for suspicious, it’s not used in place of suspicious. Mostly from the crewmate perspective, it is treated like a verb (“I am trying to sus out the imposter”), as a noun for the actions people take, (“Dude, why are you throwing sus on me?”), and as an adjective to describe actions (“Bra, you’re being kinda sus”). Oh yeah, and “bra” is a new word for “bro.”
There’s even a great meme out there that redoes the classic twist scene from Empire Strikes Back:
Luke: “He told me you killed my father.”
Black (Darth Vader): “Na bra, I was in electrical doing tasks.”
So, that’s how we team build during a pandemic. Faking tasks, running through Speci, hanging by the tree in O2, venting out of security, and camping cams.