Why do you play video games? Do you wish to wind down and relax after an evening of hard work? Do you play competitively for a rush of adrenaline or the thrill of challenge? Is gaming a hobby so deeply ingrained into you that you can’t put your finger on it? Everyone plays for their own reasons, but many games set out to satisfy just a certain few of them.
In 2020, we’ve spent the entire year locked within our homes. Many are forced into work or school that they feel uncomfortable attending. Many more are struggling financially and stretched beyond what they can take. This year, we needed games to unite us and lift our burdens.
People have gotten lost in fantasy worlds long before gaming. Tabletop RPGs have been prevalent for decades. The freedom to craft your own story and adventure within the rules of the board. Gaming has allowed similar experiences, but you’re always locked into a set story. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild drops you into a large, open, world right in the middle of a complex story. You will become Link, but Link is still defined by the game. AMONG US drops you into a sandbox with a win condition and a loss condition. The game automatically assigns the role of imposter and lets everyone have their fun.
It’s easy for these games, usually designed for mobile devices, to be passed over. Their simplicity is viewed as a fault by a larger audience. Phone-friendly controls and simple interfaces make these games perfect for small gatherings or quick online adventures! Skyrim wants to make you into the dragon born hero. Dungeons & Dragons wants you to define your character and your story and gives you the tools for short and simple missions or large month-sprawling campaigns. Which one of these do you think AMONG US is more like?
I don’t mean to make it out like AMONG US is designed to let you write your own version of The Odyssey, but there’s a freedom in the game I’ve not found in many others. I’ve seen many people say that they “don’t get” AMONG US, but I think it’s weirder when people say they do. AMONG US is designed so that nobody “gets it.” Sure, you can have exact patterns and locations memorized, but there’s nothing to “get” here.
When I first downloaded AMONG US, I wasn’t exactly sure there was anything in it for me. I didn’t see how this video game was worth my time, but now, I see that AMONG US really isn’t a video game. AMONG US is exclusively about what you and your friends get into within the small confines of the map and the looming threat of an imposter. You never have to get into a complex role to play AMONG US, but it’s so much better when you get into the right mindset.
Where’s the appeal? Why is this game so popular? It’s in the beauty that there is no appeal. That, just like tabletop RPGs, the rules end in the confines of the “board.” There are dozens of ways you can customize your experience. Thousands of “house rules” to enforce. The random online experience is fine enough, but a single player will never “get” AMONG US.