Elisabeth Siegel

Despite social distancing and quarantine guidelines, students link through newly popularized game

Crossing the dining commons to get to her lunch table, sophomore Bridget Wang noticed students at about every table hunched over their phones. Peeking over a shoulder to get a closer look at the screen, she recognized the Telly Tubby-like astronauts clamoring across the familiar space-ship map of “Among Us,” an online multiplayer game that has been soaring in popularity in the past few months. 

To play, a player, alongside their friends or online strangers, gets assigned a role as either a crew member or an imposter. The crewmembers complete a series of tasks, while the imposter sneaks, sabotages and kills other players. Crewmembers eventually call meetings to reveal and vote out the suspected imposter. 

“Playing the game with my friends is such a good time because we’re always screaming and laughing,” Wang said. “It’s a great way to have fun and relax during these stressful times.”

The game was released in June 2018, but suddenly gained popularity and reached the top of app download lists by mid-September. The unexpected rise can be attributed to well-known gamers such as “PewDiePie” and “Pokimane” playing on the video live-streaming service Twitch.

“I mainly watch recordings of Twitch gameplays on Youtube,” senior Jack Beck said. “I usually play briefly during lunch, but normally on Friday or Saturday nights on a call with friends.”

Sophomore class Dean Phil Bryan has noticed students playing the game during lunch and at various times during the school day. His own family has even played it with each other, with his kids showing him how it works.

“I like that it requires reasoning, logic, and strategy rather than just running around and shooting,” Bryan said. “It gives you the sense that you’re actually doing something with another person even if it’s across the room.”

Users can play with people all over the world on any device, further attributing to its rise in popularity during coronavirus quarantine. The game’s fame resulted in an influx of “Among Us” related content and memes published all over the internet, especially on Twitter and TikTok.

“I have seen a whole lot of content about the game, from strategy videos to fan art and cosplays,” Beck said. “The memes are hilarious to look at and laugh about.”

Twitch fans have accumulated more than 200 million hours of watching “Among Us” gameplay so far this year. Fans get to see many gamers, influencers and public figures alike, show their personality and spirit and be themselves in an unfiltered environment. 

“I have seen many gameplays pop-up on my social media before and I take a look at them,” Wang said. “They’re so funny to me…it expanded my vocabulary to one that only people who play Among Us understand.”

Even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined in on the craze, playing on Twitch in an effort to encourage young people to vote. The stream accumulated 439,000 viewers, ranking as the third most viewed single stream in Twitch history.

“This was the first time I’ve ever heard of a politician playing a game to encourage voting for young adults,” Wang said. “It was a very unique and impressive way to open new doors.”

InnerSloth, the game’s developer, canceled its plans to make an “Among Us” 2 app in order to focus on improving and expanding their current content. These features plan to include new servers, colorblind support and an account system. 

“I’m looking forward to a new map and possible new game modes,” Beck said. “I also think that if they added more players that would be really cool.”

The rise of the game has caused a series of hackers which cheat and spam servers, an issue that InnerSloth has had difficulty keeping up with. The developers announced an update that tries to identify and kick the hackers.

“I have heard about hacking on the app,” Beck said. “I believe that the game developers have been quick to work on patches to make the game more safe from hacking.”

“Among Us,” though it is fairly new, has served as a tool for escape for many young people during COVID-19. People from many different paths of life have connected through the game and have used it as a way to spread positivity.

“COVID-19 and quarantine has been difficult on everyone because the social aspect just wasn’t there,” Wang said. “Playing ‘Among Us’ is a really fun time to hang out with friends even though we aren’t really hanging out. It’s definitely been a source of joy for me.”

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