Among Us: 2020’s Little Game that Could

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

Image courtesy of Innersloth

Trending in both streaming markets and socially, it can be hard to find someone on campus who is unfamiliar with “Among Us.”  The game of deductive reasoning, democratic judgment, and deceptive back-stabbing has gone from relative unknown to viral trend over the span of a single month.  But how did it get this way?

Launched on July 15, 2018, for Windows, Android, and iOS devices, the game came from studio InnerSloth, and had moderate to low reception upon release.  Consisting of designer and artist Marcus Bromander, programmer and composer Forest Willard, and artist Amy Liu, the team is one of many to have adapted the social deductive game structure of “Mafia” and others into a video game format.

Communication major Sean Bella says one of the reasons he finds “Among Us” engaging is how it adds to the formula of games like “Mafia” and its imitators.

“I found it to be a unique twist on the ‘Town of Salem’ kind of games,” said Bella.  “The option of dead crewmates doing tasks [and] giving their crewmates another way to win is cool.”

Communication major Devon Rhodes attributes the social aspect of the game as the biggest draw for him.

“It can be stressful at times, but it’s a very fun and challenging game, especially with your friends,”  Rhodes said..  “Just FYI, you’re highly likely to lose a friend or two from playing this game.”

The primary gameplay loop consists of players completing tasks on a map, with one imposter randomly selected to sabotage their efforts and kill off the other players.  Players will converse after reporting suspicious activity and try to deduce the imposter’s identity, who can sow discord and mislead the investigation to keep from being eliminated. 

Despite the simple concept and humble beginnings, “Among Us” skyrocketed to record-setting streaming numbers.  TwitchTracker reported the game as having 753,943 viewers on the streaming platform Twitch at its highest peak on Oct. 21.  This was mainly due to the growing number of public figures and celebrities playing the game and bringing their followers along.  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) debut stream was the reason for the record-breaking stream numbers on Oct 21, outclassing previous record holder Tyler “Ninja”  Blevins’ approximate 628,000 viewers, according to The Verge.

The success of “Among Us” comes from a variety of factors.  With a free mobile version and a price of $5.00 on PC, the game’s easy accessibility and deep gameplay loop play a huge part in its popularity.  Added to the attention received from many streamers and public figures, the game has extended outside the streaming and gaming niche and into pop culture.  Adding to that, the adrenaline rush players get from deceiving their friends in a safe, easygoing environment, and it is no surprise why “Among Us” has hit the big time.

As for the game’s future, InnerSloth canceled their plans for “Among Us 2” to focus on improving their surprise success, and with good reason. The overwhelming influx of players keeps the studio busy strengthening their servers to accommodate the massive numbers and rolling out patch after patch to keep hacking and spamming at bay. 

Like most trending games, such as developer Mediatonic’s success, “Fall Guys,” “Among Us” will most likely see diminishing numbers in the coming months.  Despite this, the game’s unprecedented popularity shows that even in a pandemic, an increasingly divisive social and political climate, and natural disasters nationwide, “Among Us” may very well be 2020’s bright light of fun distraction in a thoroughly bleak year.