When an indie game company created Among Us in 2018, it was greeted with little fanfare. The multiplayer game remained under the radar as many games do — until the summer of the pandemic.
Eager to keep viewers entertained during quarantine, Chance Morris, known online as Sodapoppin, began streaming the game, created by InnerSloth, to his 2.8 million followers on Twitch in July.
By mid-September, Among Us caught on like wildfire. Suddenly major YouTube stars, TikTok influencers and streamers were playing it. PewDiePie, James Charles and Dr. Lupo have all played the game for millions.
Among Us is a multiplayer game where between four and 10 players are dropped onto an alien spaceship. Each player is designated a private role as a “crewmate” or “impostor.”
Crewmates must run around the ship and try to complete a set of tasks while trying to root out and avoid getting killed by the one or several impostors. Players can be voted off the ship, so each game becomes one of survival: Successfully vote off the impostors, or complete all your tasks to win. It’s simple, cartoony and easy enough for a five-year-old to play on an iPhone.
The young fans of online influencers weren’t just watching Among Us streams, they began playing the game too. Millions of teenagers and kids across the country have become hooked on Among Us ps4 and xbox, which has begun to serve as a default social platform for young people stuck in quarantine.
“A few weeks ago I went from not hearing anything about it to hearing everything about it everywhere,” said Judah Rice, 16, a high school student in Texas. “People are texting about it, I know people who are on dedicated Discord servers and Among Us group chats. I have friends who get together all the time and play it.”
Among Us Discord servers began cropping up in early September. In one, more than 98,000 teenagers connect, socialize, discuss and play the game. Benson, a 13-year-old administrator of the server, said that there are often 30 to 40 different Among Us games at any time of day happening over voice chat channels in the server. “Everyone is aged 13 to 20,” he said. “My friends, if their teacher doesn’t show up to their online class, they play, it’s a way to pass the time when you don’t have anything else to do. Since we can’t really congregate in a public area like the park, Among Us allows us to be online social distancing.”
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Among Us is very different than other highly social video games like Fortnite, for instance. It’s more similar to a board game like Monopoly, or a party game like Werewolf, where players need to read personalities and determine if they’re being lied to in order to win. The large group size makes it easy to invite new friends into the group.
“You can meet a lot of people from Among Us, I’ve made a few friends off of it,” said Juan Alonso Flores, 17, a high school student in Florida. “Once you start playing with the same people you start getting to know each other. You get their phone numbers, Discord tags.”