My after-school unwinding routine used to consist of scrolling endlessly on Instagram, mindlessly swiping through TikTok, and half-heartedly attempting to learn dances from the comfort of my bed. Now, it involves me running into the kitchen at breakneck speed to grab a mostly-deflated bag of Cape Cod chips, the latest compilation of streamer Disguised Toast's best Among Us plays queuing on my computer.
Though I’m not a gamer by any means, watching Among Us streams has become a new favorite pastime of mine. Like everyone else, I was caught off guard by the game’s meteoric rise last year despite it being released in 2018, and curiosity had me researching what exactly the game was.
Among Us is a detective game somewhat like Mafia. In standard lobbies, ten players are each randomly assigned one of two character types. There are two impostors whose goal is to kill the rest of the players before they can complete their tasks or discover who the killers are. The other eight players are crewmates whose objectives are to complete their tasks and vote off the two impostors before they all die.
Considering how simple the game seems, it’s hard to believe how popular it’s become. But staying relevant hasn’t been a problem for InnerSloth, the developer company behind Among Us. In January 2021, there were still 62.6 million daily active players and 50.7% more hours spent playing the game than in 2019. Among Us has also become a popular icebreaker for remote office spaces (legend has it that bosses have used the game to determine who they can trust; if you’re good at impostor-ing and are trying to get a job, it might be best to keep your deception skills on the lowkey). Outside of work, it’s also a great social game for friends who are quarantining in the comfort of their homes.
If you’re looking for an introduction to Among Us or would rather leave the stress of impostor-ing to pros, watching streams is an excellent way to become acquainted with not only the game but the gaming community as well. The streaming platform Twitch especially has held the attention of diehard Among Us gamers and viewers, still racking nearly 5 million views in the second week of February 2021.
While some of Among Us’s popularity can certainly be attributed to the immense boredom many endured during quarantine, a lot of it has to do with several other components of the game. The game’s accessibility, sense of community, and the unique qualities that each of its players brings to the table are part of what makes it so enjoyable to play.
The game doesn’t require an understanding of niche fighting formations, the best combos to gain optimal EXP, or the best weapons for dealing the most damage. Anyone who knows how to click buttons on a screen is able to enjoy the game.
Sense of community
Viewers are able to bond with the chat feature available on Twitch and YouTube as they watch their favorite players battle their way to the top. It’s not like watching a movie, where there’s an obvious divide between the audience and the actors. If your favorite streamer is an impostor, you’re rooting for them to get sneaky kills and slip away unnoticed. If they’re a crewmate, you’re trying to figure out who the impostor is alongside them.
Though Among Us is a game without teams, you can’t help but feel connected to the player as you watch them succeed (or fail, because, okay, that was a pretty good kill…). Plus, it’s extremely exciting to learn new strategies and thinking processes from these pro players when they interact directly with the stream and narrate what they have up their sleeve. It’s hard not to feel smug when you integrate these strategies into your own play style and completely steamroll your friends.
Bringing people together
Regardless of whether gamers had their origins in Fortnite or Minecraft or Hearthstone, their skills are useful in Among Us. Successful strategies in those games help players deceive their peers. For example, the aforementioned streamer Disguised Toast is known for his psychoanalysis of each player’s play patterns, while Hafu is an excellent detective with her clever questioning, and 5up tiptoes a dangerous line between innocence and deception, easily tricking anyone who stands in his way. Their intense playstyles in combination with other players like Sykkuno and Corpse Husband, who are both genius commentators with an eye for trolling, make the perfect recipe for chaos.
Among Us might seem like just a game, but diving deeper into why people love playing it and watching their favorite streamers succeed (and inevitably fail at times) make it clear that there’s something more under the surface: Among Us is about community and breaking the gates that separate us and them. While I never thought of myself as a gamer, Among Us has helped me realize just how essential gaming and streaming are to the entertainment industry. I wouldn’t feel so empowered and productive after school if not for these gamers and their streams. It’s hard not to feel inspired to get work done after seeing a massive win from the underdogs or a great prediction (coined by Disguised Toast as a “soul read”) that completely stomped the lobby.
If you had told me that a few colorful crewmates and an affinity for killing were what would keep me entertained for months during quarantine, I wouldn’t have believed you. But for what this corner of the internet has given me—a better understanding of the world and the realization that even the seemingly silliest things can bring countless people joy—I am forever grateful.