If your kid has been calling everything they don’t like “sus” lately, they’re probably playing Among Us. In Among Us slang, “sus” means “suspicious,” a word that sums up the appeal of the multiplayer social deduction game perfectly: It’s all about mistrust, misdirection, and paranoia. But in a fun way.
Released in 2018 to little acclaim or interest, Among Us suddenly exploded over the last few months. Millions of kids are playing it, watching other kids play it, and memeing about it. Among Us has become so popular that a recent Twitch stream of the game with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been viewed over 4.5 million times. If AOC’s get-out-the-vote effort actually works, Among Us may help decide the next president.
If you’re interested, here are some top AOC Among Us moments, compiled for us by the Washington Post; if you’re totally lost, keep reading and we’ll explain everything.
So, what kind of game is it?
If you’ve ever played flesh-and-blood party games Werewolf or Mafia, you’ll be right at home with Among Us. In it, four to ten players take on the roles of menial workers on a spaceship, completing routine tasks to keep everything running smoothly. But one or two of the players are secret impostors, intent on murdering the crew. With a killer/killers stalking them, the crew meets to discuss who might be a traitor, and if enough people pin the same player, he or she is ejected out of the airlock and into space… which is great, unless you pick the wrong person.
The mechanics of the game are not that important. It’s really a game about interacting with the other players. The impostors try to divert suspicion onto innocent crew members, while the workers are busy trying to “sus” out the killer and keep suspicion off themselves. It’s hilarious and awesome to get together with friends virtually and try to trick them into accusing others of crimes, or try to determine which of your friends is a good enough liar to get away with space-murder.
Like most online games, it’s possible to slip into a session with a bunch of randos, but it’s not terribly fun. You really need to share voice chat and know the people involved to get the most out of Among Us, which is probably why your kid is addicted.
Play it a few times and you’ll get it. I joined a couple games with my kid and some of his friends and immediately got into the spirit. Turns out, old people like me are really good at deceiving children. Must be all that practice with the whole “Santa” thing.
Why is it so popular?
Among Us jumped to the top of online streaming charts at first because a handful of well-known gamers started playing it publicly, but it “stuck” because it’s the perfect game for social distancing. The barrier for entry is very low — it’s free for mobile, only five bucks on PC, plus it’s expanded to Nintendo Switch — and it doesn’t take a ton of concentration or video game dexterity.
Instead of being about perfect reflexes like a shooter, Among Us is about social interaction. In a time when kids (and grownups) can’t hang out together, it’s a perfect stress reliever and a great way to interact with pals.
Is Among Us here to stay?
In spite of its massive popularity, I doubt Among Us will be one of those perennially popular online games like Minecraft or Counter-Strike. According to my 13 year-old, the game is already slipping in popularity from a few weeks ago. I mean, parents know about it now!
And, with all due respect to AOC’s attempts to get young people to vote, when politicians start glomming onto a trendy kid thing, it sounds a little like a death knell. So now is the time to check it out.
This article has been updated since its original publication.