Tuesday, 5 July, 2022
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You can still socialise with friends during Covid, just plot to kill them online

From celebrity gamers live streaming it, to US politicians using it to encourage voting, Among Us is the new videogame taking the Covid world by storm.

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If you haven’t heard the terms ‘sus’, ‘crewmates’ and ‘imposter’ floating in the air in the past few weeks, you’ve been living under a rock, to use a cliche. In the past few weeks, a new game has taken the world by storm and no one can stop talking about the appeal of Among Us. This is no Blue Whale, in fact, it is all about group activity, something the pandemic lockdown has revived after years of solitary gaming.

And since this is truly the only acceptable form of social interaction during the pandemic, because it is not injurious to your health. You may not get out of the house trap thanks to Covid-19, but the world of Among Us will be kinder to you. Maybe.

The multiplayer sort-of-suspense-but-not-really game was launched in 2018 by the indie game company InnerSloth, and it instantly tanked. But in this pandemic-affected year, the game was rescued from silent ignominy of the multiplayer game graveyard and catapulted into instant fame after gamer Chance Morris began streaming it online in July to his 2.8 million followers on Twitch — a popular streaming site primarily used for streaming games.

And now, everywhere you go (virtually, not physically of course), everyone is hooked onto the game.

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Nostalgia of old detective games

In the game, which is typically played between 4-10 players, ‘crewmates’ find themselves stuck on a defunct spaceship and have to complete tasks to fix it. One or two of these crewmates are actually ‘imposters’ who are meant to sabotage the completion of the tasks and ‘kill’ their crewmates. Crewmates can win if they complete tasks or figure out who the imposter is. Remember, that simple old game Mafia? It’s like that but virtual, and potentially much more elaborate.

While playing, you have the option of chatting live with your fellow players to figure out who the imposter is.

The basic premise of the game may not seem like much, but the hype surrounding the game has spread like wildfire. Even US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC, did a live-stream of herself playing a game of Among Us in order to encourage young Americans to vote in the upcoming Presidential elections. Her stream was the fourth-most-watched stream, in terms of views, in the history of Twitch.

According to a report in The Verge, Among Us was downloaded about 100 million times in recent months.

However, the idea that a fairly average game has taken the gaming world by fire is quite strange or ‘sus’ (read suspicious), as Among Us players would say. The appeal of the game does not lie in its storylines or graphics, but what 2020 has become quite good at selling — nostalgia.

The first time I heard and then later played the game, it reminded me of the childhood ‘offline’ games we used to play, such as ‘raja, mantri, chor, sipahi’, I spy, or killer-detective. It is also reminiscent of classic board games, like Detective and Monopoly, where the basic principle was the same. You had to find the mole in the group; the chor, the spy, or in this case the ‘imposter’.

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A sign of our strange times

The best part about Among Us is that you can play it with all the friends you have missed hanging out with during Covid lockdown. People have started their own ways to play the game, either via a Zoom call or on Discord. Playing Among Us brings back those memories of fun and games from pre-Covid days. The game is simple enough to give you the space to converse with your friends while being undercover as the imposter and planning murder in your virtual avatar.

With PUB-G having been exiled from the Indian mobile gaming scene, there has understandably been a vacuum in this space. But perhaps people have also shown an affinity to Among Us because they are so exhausted of the pandemic, and can now actually identify with the blobs of colour in the game.

Teetering about being trapped in a spaceship is eerily familiar to being trapped inside your house. Except the imposter, in this case, would be Covid, which has proven to be rather elusive. It’s much easier (well, almost) to catch the imposter in Among Us. 

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