by Cameron Morvant
“There are Impostors Among Us.”
From the moment those words appear on your screen, the game is afoot. A crew of ten cosmonauts are sent off to explore a space station full of faulty and dangerous equipment. Eight of them have to repair the ship, doing tasks and stopping emergencies in order to reach the end alive. Two have to stop the others, sabotaging the ship and travelling through the ventilation system to kill the crew and abscond undetected. If the body of a crewmate is found, a meeting is held, and the crewmates have a chance to eject the killer into space. If they guess wrong, these impostors get a chance to kill again. It’s a desperate race to see whose wits win out: the hard-working crewmates or the cold-blooded killers.
If you’ve played Among Us, that should all sound familiar; if you haven’t, you might be wondering why there’s so much killing in a game with colored beans as its characters. The answer lies in Among Us’ nature as a hidden role game. As the name implies, hidden role games are games with different roles known only to their recipient player. For Among Us, these roles are impostor and crewmate. The impostor in a hidden role game has the role of sabotaging, and usually killing, the other players. The crewmates have to find out who the killer is to win. Other hidden role games, most notably the story-based game Mafiaand online gameTown of Salem, utilize similar social deduction mechanics to allow the players to actively live out their roles. The impostors are chosen at random, so no one is especially favored. Depending on a player’s luck, they could be impostor two, three or five times in a row, or not at all. This makes it important to be ready; you never know when you’ll be thrust into the role of a killer.
The hidden role genre is certainly entertaining, but that doesn’t guarantee the success Among Ushas experienced. In fact, it didn’t succeed, not for two years. The game hit its stride the fall of this year, but it released in summer of 2018. It’s easy to see why it took so long, though. The game requires five people to play, and ten to properly enjoy. While there is an open lobby option, communication via text boxes is slow and cumbersome, especially since games can last ten to fifteen minutes. Among Us is best played with ten people over voice chat for hours at a time, something that is very hard to organize in the bustle of everyday life. Of course, this is not everyday life. This is the time of COVID-19, where everyone has to have voice chat and functioning internet to attend school, work and social events. There’s little to do outside, and with content platforms like Youtube and Twitch on the rise, there is no better time for a game like Among Us.
Even with the timing right, Among Uswould have never gotten anywhere if it didn’t stand out as a hidden role game. That’s where the crewmate tasks come in. These tasks consist of several mini games located throughout the map, such as fixing wires, rerouting power and transferring fuel to engines. They are simple, easy to learn and require little skill to complete. By completing tasks, crewmates create a win condition outside of discovering the impostors. Not only does this help the game progress, it also keeps people from grouping together and waiting for the impostor to get desperate. Conversely, impostors can sabotage different parts of the ship that divert crewmates away from their tasks and each other, making it easier to get a kill or hide a body.
The key to success in Among Uslies in both crewmate and impostor behavior. The best player is the one that can adapt to their audience and surroundings. The best way to do this is to become familiar with the map, tasks and controls. Most games of Among Usare played on the first map, the Skeld. The free play option on the app’s main menu will allow the player to familiarize themselves at their own pace, but a few rounds should be all you need to get in the swing of things.
Crewmates playing on the Skeld will have two additional advantage tools. The first is the admin table, located south of cafeteria. This will allow players to see where everyone is located on the map. It displays neutral colored character icons, though, so you won’t know which specific player is where, just the number of players in a given room. When observing, it is important to remember that dead bodies will also appear as character icons, so a room with multiple people in it might be worth investigating. The other tool is the security room to the left of cafeteria, which has live feeds of different locations throughout the map. If a player is using the security table, the cameras will light up, and four different locations throughout the map will become visible. Inexperienced impostors might kill in front of the cameras; if they do, the crewmate in security can report it. More experienced impostors will know this and stay away when cameras are on, making anywhere the cameras watch safe for the crewmates. You can’t stay in security forever, though. Tasks need to be done, and if the impostors see the lights are on, they might come for you instead. Both the admin table and security room can also be used by the impostors, so keep that in mind.
After becoming familiar with the map and the tasks, it’s important to figure out what path to take. It’s much easier to prove your innocence if you know where you’ve been, and you can save valuable time completing tasks. The most common room to get tasks is the electrical room, which has a vent near the back that makes it easy for impostors to get kills and escape. It’s best to get any tasks in this room done early while the impostor’s kill cooldown isn’t up. From there, try to move in groups and stray only to complete tasks along your path. The more of your route you and others can account for, the faster you can find the impostor.
If you’re an impostor, the best thing you can do is act like a crewmate. This means you should still chart your path, travel with people where it’s convenient, and integrate tasks into your explanation. You can stand in front of task locations to make it appear as though you are doing tasks, and travelling in pairs or groups may help to build trust. Of course, this system isn’t guaranteed; in any close-knit group of ten, there is bound to be someone who isn’t fooled by these tricks, especially if they’ve seen them before. They usually command the conversation, carefully lay out all of the evidence and guide the group to a consensus. As an impostor, they are the ones you should give the most attention to. If they are good at their job, they will direct suspicion your way and point out any fallacies or deflections that might shift the focus off of you. If they’re bad at their job, they will accuse and remove several crewmates without you having to lift a finger. Your reaction should depend on their success. Good detectives should be eliminated or debased as quickly as possible to keep the impostors in the clear; bad detectives should be given enough rope to hang themselves and the entire crew.
When trying to get kills as the impostor, it is best to strike fast and vent quickly. You have to place yourself away from a body once it’s found, something you can’t do if you’re caught standing over it or running away from it. Vents solve this issue, assuming you can pop out without being seen and establish an alibi quickly. If that proves difficult at first, you can close doors to prevent access to a body long enough to escape. The doors are closed for a set amount of time, and crewmates can see through the doors, but this shouldn’t be an issue if no one saw you enter the room where the kill happened.
Emergencies can help to further distract from a kill. Turning off lights limits the crew’s field of vision; their report button will show if there is a body, but it won’t show who is around them. Sabotaging lights makes it easy to kill someone at the back of a pack of crewmates, hide a body or give an impostor time to regroup. Similarly, calling reactor or oxygen brings people to specific locations. Impostors can use this to draw them to or away from a body and establish an easy alibi. In late game, reactor and oxygen can also make it easy to get a double kill. As the name implies, double kills happen when both impostors are able to kill a crewmate in the same location without being seen. Since reactor and oxygen both require people in two different places, it is easy to get a double kill with enough coordination. You could do this in regular game, of course, but there’s always the chance that your fellow impostor won’t kill, the body will be reported, and you will be ejected. Make sure you know who you’re working with and adjust accordingly.
Finally, the number of remaining crewmates can and should affect how the game progresses. The game ends when the impostors are caught, or the number of impostors equals the number of crewmates. Since most games have two impostors, said impostors will win if there are four total people remaining. If there are five people, they can kill a single person and win, and with six they can call reactor or oxygen and double kill. For this reason, it is usually a bad idea to vote with seven crew members remaining and two impostors. If crewmates vote and don’t get an impostor out, there will be six people left. The impostors can double kill and win the game. If the crew waits on seven, though, they will still have another chance to get an impostor out. The most the impostors can do quickly is kill two people. After that, they will have to wait for their cooldown to end, and so five people will be left. This gives the crewmates another chance to get out an impostor, assuming they can pool votes against the impostors for a majority.
By the same token, the crew should always vote on five if there are two impostors remaining, since a single kill would lose them the game. If one impostor has been eliminated, the crew is safe until there are four people remaining. If the crew votes wrong on four, the impostor can sabotage to prevent emergency meetings and kill to win the game. With three people, a vote is necessary for crewmates to win, since skipping would also create the above scenario.Among Usis a game of lying, planning, betrayal and triumph. The best crewmates are cunning detectives that can find killers and complete tasks effectively. The best impostors gain the trust of the crew and kill without leaving a trace. The game is easy to learn and simple enough to understand, but the levels of depth are as limitless as the number of people you can play with. If you can get together a group of ten, it’s a thrilling evening of accusation and treachery where adaptability is key. From the vents and sabotages to tasks and meetings, there’s always something new to discover when there’s impostors Among Us.