In the midst of a global pandemic, people are finding new ways to stay connected, even if they have to deceive, blame, or take out their friends online to do it.
A recent surge of nearly 85 million people have taken to their phones, laptops and desktops to play a game called Among Us, according to Sean Sands in an article he wrote on the popular website Vice. The game is set on a malfunctioning spaceship, and it is the job of the crew-mates on board to fix it up. Played in a group of four to ten people, the object of the game is for the crew-mates to identify and kick out the one or two imposters on board the ship. You have to create diversions, come up with alibis, and accuse other crew-mates to win as the imposter.
"It's so much fun," said Mallory Odom, a Pensacola State College sophomore. "You get to play with your friends and it's a lot of fun to see how you can get away with being the imposter."
There is a chat box for you and your friends to discuss who you think the imposter is. But Odom says that she and her friends use other modes of communication when they play: "We like to pick a time for all of us to play, and then we'll use Zoom, FaceTime or Discord to be able to talk with each other during our meetings. But we don't talk unless we're in one of our meetings; it keeps the game more suspenseful and fun that way."
Created by a team at InnerSloth, Among Us hit the app store in 2018 and was met with widespread indifference. The game really became popular around April 2020, at the height of the global coronavirus pandemic. Why has the general public suddenly started rushing to play this game?
Tyler Tomlinson, a first-year graduate student at Auburn University, may have an answer.
"It's a great way to occupy yourself during quarantine," said Tomlinson. "I mean, with all of my friends being in different states, we can all get online together and play this really entertaining game. I'm really glad I saw a bunch of people talking about the game online; I downloaded it immediately and told my friends to do the same."
In the last month or so, social media users have been posting about their experiences playing the game on social media sites like Twitter and TikTok. There's even been some interesting and humorous posts about how people have made new friendships, or even romantic relationships, while playing the game. Popular gaming channels on YouTube, like "PewDiePie" and "jacksepticeye" have collaborated to show their viewers how they play the game, averaging around 4 to 11 million views on each of their videos at the time of publishing, as seen on the viewer count on their respective YouTube channels.
There are many other games one could play with friends while in quarantine. So, why is Among Us the number one pick right now? Sands draws an interesting comparison in his article published on Vice: "Something in this game resonates at the same frequency as the practical experience of being alive in the year 2020. Among Us is rife with ever cascading crises, and people trapped in a sense of isolation while they try to solve problems for which they are woefully unequipped."
Mikayla Boyer, a sophomore at Spring Hill College, uses the game to relax after a stressful day: "There's a lot going on right now in the world, and that can definitely take a toll on someone's mental health. So I think it's really important to not get too stressed about everything, and even try to get some fun in where you can. This game helps me do that." She says that it's become a new ritual of her and her roommates to play every night before bed. "We'll get cozy in our separate beds and just play for maybe an hour or so. I think it helps us stay pretty sane. It's something to look forward to after a long day."
Upon initial release, Among Us players weren't able to relate to the situation created in the game. Two years later, being forced to live in similar conditions, players get a sense of relief when they are able to complete their tasks or kick out the imposter. The 2020 human experience seen in the game is what keeps its players coming back for "just one more game" over and over again.