For the better part of pandemic life, my children’s days have been centered around Roblox. When can they play Roblox? Which of their friends are playing Roblox? Can they get ten dollars to use in Roblox? They’ve been Roblox obsessed, along with most kids they know.
A few weeks ago, my daughter came to me, iPad in hand, and asked if she could download a new game called Among Us. She named a few friends who were already playing it, and told me everybody was playing. I’m always skeptical of her use of the word everybody, but after seeing the age range was 9 and up, I told her she could.
She downloaded the game, and — goodbye, Roblox. Hello, Among Us.
Maybe I should have researched the game before I let my almost 11-year-old daughter download it, but I didn’t. (It’s a pandemic. I’m doing my best.) But as her obsession with the game grew, and after she’d roped her 9-year-old brother into the game, I figured it was time to learn more about the game that had unseated Roblox in their hearts and minds.
Among Us isn’t a new game. It’s actually been out since 2018, but remained mostly unnoticed until this summer, when a Twitch streamer known online as Sodapoppin began streaming the game on Twitch to his few million viewers. Fast forward to September, and apparently my daughter was right, because everybody did start playing it. YouTubers, Tik Tok stars, and other streamers jumped on the Among Us bandwagon. The game has even been leveraged for politics. Groups like MoveOn started streaming the game in an effort to encourage young viewers to vote. Likewise, on October 20, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar played Among Us and hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to watch.
Cameron Kasky, a 19-year-old student and activist, recently explained why political groups have turned to the game in an interview for The New York Times. He said, “Among Us is a great place to talk about really anything you want to get out there. You’ve got people’s eyes and attention and the game is not too complicated where it’d be distracting to talk about voting. It leaves the viewers visually engaged while you talk about whatever you want.”
The premise of the game is easy enough. Between four and ten players are dropped onto an alien spaceship, and each player is assigned a role as either a “Crewmate” or an “Imposter” on the ship once the game begins.
According to the game’s description, “Crewmates can win by completing all tasks or discovering and voting the imposter off the ship. The Imposter can use sabotage to cause chaos, making for easier kills and better alibis.” Crewmates have to finish their tasks to prepare their ship for departure and figure out who the Imposter (or Imposters) is. Meanwhile, the Imposter’s goal is to sabotage the mission and kill Crewmates. If a Crewmate finds a dead body, they can choose to either report the murder and call an emergency meeting to report the Imposter, or strategically choose to continue completing tasks, and hope the Imposter doesn’t come for them next.
While Among Us is social, it’s different from popular video games like Fortnite. In many ways it’s comparable to a game night board game as it requires the player to be able to read personalities and figure out if they’re being lied to. One blog called Among Us “a game of deduction, betrayal, and misdirection.”
In full disclosure, I tried to ask my kids about the game to get a fundamental understanding of the game from some of the players actually playing. The answer I received was in the form of two kids excitedly talking over each other about crew members and imposters and vents. Maybe I’m out of touch (maybe…definitely…it’s fine) but I didn’t get it until they were playing in the backyard, and, in an attempt to recreate the game with their imagination, recruited me to assign them as a Crewmate or Imposter.
Overall, Among Us is cute and colorful and kid-friendly, but like any online game with users from all over the world and a chat feature, there are a few things parents should watch out for.
For one, unless the “Censor Chat” feature is selected, children might be exposed to mature language by other players. Even outside the chat, there’s the potential to be exposed to inappropriate language, depending on the screen names gamers have chosen.
More than that, whenever children are interacting with strangers on the Internet, there’s a risk that the person they are interacting with isn’t a safe person. For this reason, especially with younger children, online play should always be supervised, and it’s important to discuss online safety with all aged children.
For nearly seven months, my children’s days revolved around Roblox. While that game served us well for nearly a year, I’m glad they are beginning to widen their horizons a bit. And right now, anything that allows them social, pandemic-safe fun is a win in my book.