By Dax Duong
“Among Us” is a multiplayer cross-platform game that has exploded in popularity just this year. While the game was released in 2018, it didn’t become widely recognized until around mid-2020, when a sudden flood of players resulted in frequent server crashes.
Screenshots from the Wayback Machine reveal that in less than three weeks, “Among Us” gained over 100 million downloads through Android’s Google Play Store — on Sept. 3 it had 10+ million, and on Sept. 21 it had over 100 million. These numbers become even more shocking when you take into consideration that the game is also available on the App Store for iPhones and on Steam for PCs.
Why is “Among Us” so popular? Well, it’s free-to-play, incredibly fun and also very playable while sheltering in place. Each player (up to 10, if you have that many friends) is assigned to one of two roles: crewmate or impostor.
Crewmates try to complete tasks on the spaceship and discover who the impostors are so they can vote them out. Impostors try to murder crewmates without getting caught, using sabotages and fast-travel vents to aid them on their mission. Crewmates win by finishing all their tasks or voting out all impostors, while impostors win by pulling off a fatal sabotage or killing enough crewmates to take out half of the ship’s population.
One of the game’s strengths is that it’s pretty easy to pick up. You won’t be familiar with the map and all of the mechanics your very first time playing, but you’ll still have enough guidance to navigate to where you need to go thanks to a relatively intuitive user interface. However, after devoting what is perhaps too many hours to the game, you do begin to pick up on little details that can determine the outcome of the game in unsatisfying ways.
For example, players may quickly determine which members are innocent based on whether or not the task bar goes up after they complete a task, or whether they see a “visual task” — tasks that display visual indications to verify that the person completing them is a crewmate. This can narrow down who the impostors are in an efficient fashion, making for short games that revolve around systematic elimination instead of deception and deduction, which really make the game fun and thrilling.
“Among Us” already had an option to turn off visual tasks, but its most recent update includes changes like new task bar modes to make gameplay a little more spicy. These new task bar modes are “Always mode,” “Meeting mode” and “Invisible mode.”
The “Always mode” displays the task bar as usual, immediately updating the task bar whenever a crewmate completes a task. The last two modes are the ones that provide new functionality — the “Meeting mode” only updates during meetings and the “Invisible mode” completely removes the task bar. Since many crewmates use the task bar to determine whether others are innocent and impostors use the task bar to gauge how much time they have left before they lose from a task victory, these new modes make rounds more suspenseful and mysterious by obscuring a prominent game feature.
The new anonymous voting option can also mask another essential element of the game. Pre-update, voting was very transparent — you could clearly see who voted each round, as well as whom they voted for. But now all the votes appear as gray, so you can only see how many votes each person received, without any information about who voted for them.
This makes it much easier for impostors to vote as they please with less fear of getting caught or coming across as “sus” (that’s cool kid gamer lingo for “suspicious”). Actions like voting for a verified crewmate, not voting for an obvious impostor or skipping when voting is critical for crewmates can now be performed anonymously, providing impostors with more power and flexibility.
While colorblind support does not directly contribute to more “exciting” gameplay, it does make “Among Us” more accessible, and any feature that helps to make games more accessible is exciting. Before the update, the wires task (which requires players to connect ends of color-coded wires) was difficult for colorblind players. Now the wires have matching symbols on each end so that it is possible to complete the task without having to rely on color. Hats and outfits are also now displayed during voting, another colorblind-friendly feature that can help players differentiate between avatars of frequently mixed up colors.
The new task bar modes, anonymous voting option and colorblind support are the main changes arriving with the most recent “Among Us” update. The update announcement also confirmed that developer Innersloth is working on a new map — one bigger than Polus, the largest of the three maps currently available. So if you’re already an “Among Us” addict, get hyped for exciting new content. And if you haven’t dabbled in the hot gaming phenomenon that is “Among Us,” what are you waiting for?
If you are looking for “Among Us” players, contact Dax Duong at daxduong ‘at’ stanford.edu.