I must have heard about Among Us about eight different times a week for the past month. My teacher friends raved about it. My students raved about it. My teacher friends told me about how they played the game with their students. I heard it so many times, and I even heard of teachers building relationships with their students by making Among Us clubs in their schools where they played the game with their students.
Yesterday, I gave in. In my final period, we finished our lesson early, and instead of assigning more work on a Friday afternoon, I asked my students: “do you guys want to play Among Us?”
Naturally, this meant I had to download the game, which I did, but my students’ faces lit up. Students who never participated started to tell me what I was supposed to do. They were more engaged in the game than they had been in virtual learning so far, and even though I had no idea what was going on, they explained what an imposter was and what I had to do to play the game.
I thought Among Us was a new game that had only been around for a couple months, but according to Taylor Lorenz at the New York Times, Among Us has been around for two years. Originally, it fizzled out and went under the radar, but the pandemic brought it back as a viral game for teenagers and gamers everywhere.
The game resurfaced after a Twitch streamer known as Sodapoppin (Chance Morris in real life) streamed it. It has always been more popular in Mexico, Brazil, and Korea, while the U.S. audience had been comparatively small. But after Sodapoppin started playing the game on Twitch, many League of Legends streamers started to play as well. Hearthstone streamers picked up on the trend and began to play, and the rest was history.
Part of what led to the game’s resurgence was the pandemic itself. According to Nathan Grayson at Kotaku, Among Us overtook Fall Guys at the top of Twitch, and part of the appeal is that it gave players a sense of social interaction that kept people from losing their minds. Forest Willard, the programming and business lead of Among Us, told Kotaku:
“I think the current climate, with social distancing, is amplifying what potential was already there.”
The game is now at the center of the streaming ecosystem. The premise is a multiplayer game of 4 to 10 players going around a spaceship. Players either have to prepare the spaceship for launch or sabotage it and are randomly assigned as either a “crewmate” or an “imposter.” While crewmates try to ready the ship for takeoff, they also try to collaborate to parse out who is the imposter.
“The main tool in impostors’ belt is deception. They look like regular crew members, so it’s up to other players to sleuth out who’s leaving a trail of cold blood in their wake,” Grayson says.
Being a new player of two days in Among Us, I will admit that I am a very bad imposter. I did not realize I could be seen when I hid in a vent, so I’m not discreet at all.
However, Taylor reiterates that Among Us has been a social platform among young people and teenagers in America. In Discord, servers have been popping up all over the place, and teenagers who talked to Taylor say they’ve made several friends on Among Us through Discord servers. Even adults have used the game as a party platform of sorts, where recently Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar have played the game on Twitch as hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to watch.
Salvador Rodriguez of CNBC notes InnerSloth initially wanted to make a sequel for Among Us, but the company instead pivoted to continuing to support the original, even adding a new map to the game.
I have seen Among Us be used to great effect within the classroom as well. Other teachers, including Kirsy Lawlor in the Bronx, who is interviewed here by Katherine Schulten at the New York Times, also play the game in class. She finds it helps community-building in the classroom and gives her students social and emotional support.
It is the community-building aspect I also want to focus on. While I’m not going to be playing Among Us in every part of my classroom lessons, the game certainly requires a lot of collaboration, and if you’re the imposter, it requires a fair amount of deceit and possession of a good “poker face.” According to Lori Gracey at Tech Notes, the deduction skills required for the game invite players to verbally discuss who they think the imposter is, as well as collaborate to win the map.
Since I teach special education, it is fortunate that the game also has accessibility features so my students can spend more time discussing and voting. We can adjust how many people are imposters by class size as well as how far people can see within the game.
Of course like all games, a teacher has to regulate the chat as well as the names being used to ensure they’re all appropriate, and at times they are not. Fortunately, I have had practice with similar issues when using Kahoot!, another classroom learning game tool. When using Among Us, I have also had to make the games private for obvious reasons.
One downside is the ads within the game that waste time — fortunately, they’re only 30 seconds long. And the game ended up being a great incentive for my students. Since all my students completed their assignment and showed greater than normal engagement in my lesson, playing Among Us in class was used as a reward. One of my students, once school ended, told me that he would be playing the game all day, so I’m not sure how much of an incentive it really was, but it helped build relationships between my students and between me and my students.
Maybe I’ll make an Among Us club — and I hope Among Us is popular and viral enough for a long time so the club stays relevant.
Originally published on November 11, 2020 on SUPERJUMP.