More than 100 million downloads in September alone with 1.5 million concurrent player, Among us has quickly become a gaming phenomenon. Although the game was released in 2018, it has only attracted rapid popularity recently with unpredictable organic growth. So I took the time to research all about what has made the game such a success boiled it down to four factors:
· Social Factors (The social aspects of the game: streaming, meme culture & teamwork)
· Technical Factors (Technical developer decisions: in-game resources, decisions or design choices)
· External Factors (External world factors: global pandemic, Fall Guys & casual gaming market)
· Psychological Factors (The Psychological hooks which keeps players playing: social deduction & a strong theme)
What is Among Us?
Firstly for those who aren’t clear to what I am talking about? Among Us is a game available on Steam, android and iOS. Among Us is an online multiplayer social deduction game set in a space-themed setting where players each take on one of two roles, most being Crewmates, and a predetermined number being Impostors.
The goal of the Crewmates is to identify the Impostors, eliminate them, and complete tasks around the map; the Impostors’ goal is to covertly sabotage and kill the Crewmates before they complete all their tasks.
So let’s get in to it we will start with the most obvious reason the social reasons for success.
I would describe these as the more obvious and glaring reasons for the games success but nonetheless played a major factor.
YouTube & Streamers
Among Us popularity quickly rose when it was picked up by Twitch streamers and YouTube gamers allowing it to be quickly broadcasted to the community. One of the developers of the game accredited it’s success to Twitch streamer Sodapoppin which made the game popular on Twitch in July 2020.Following this, many other Twitch streamers and YouTubers began playing Among Us, including prominent content creators CallMeCarson, xQc, Pokimane, Shroud, Ninja, and PewDiePie.
Now that’s an altogether basic reason for any games success. However what is particular to Among Us is that the game allows up to 10 players playing at any one time. Now combine that with the social force of content creators. This allows for an extremely streamable game which allows creators to combine and share audiences. This allows the snowball effect to come in to place allowing for exponential growth.
After the initial buzz of the game and increased virility, meme culture kicks in to provide further in-game references, jokes and funny game events. Among Us has become a very popular material source for meme creators everywhere. This culture has spread to Twitter, TikTok and Facebook creating a curiosity to those continuously exposed to this content.
Below is one article which represents the meme culture Among Us has curated.
People are making heart-wrenching memes about 'Among Us,' the explosively-popular mafia-style…
"Among Us" is a massively popular hidden role game from InnerSloth that exploded in popularity in 2020 despite its…
Finally the last social aspect I will cite as a reason for success, has to be the teamwork aspect of the game. You can have a private lobby, fill it with your friends, and chat over Discord (or Zoom or whatever digital communication is your preference). It allows people to socialize with friends, even in a rather big group, which is perfect for 2020 but we will get on to that later.
Ok now let’s get on to the technical game decisions, design choices and factors which pertain particularly to developer choices which have made the game what is.
Firstly the ability to play on multiple platforms doesn’t limit players from playing on individual consoles anymore. Among Us allows mobile and PC players to play together removing any restrictions or limitations to a single platform monopoly.
This game be downloaded on iOS or Android simply which widens the pool of users and extends the game in to the casual market. In addition to this PC requirements are 1 GB of RAM, 250mb of hard drive space and a PC powerful enough to handle Windows 7. This enables the game to have worldwide appeal allowing almost anyone to get involved.
Further to this I believe the basic design of the characters and cartoon style graphics makes the game really easily digestible. I believe it provides a quick learning curve to getting to grips with the map, tasks and overall aim of the game. The costumes add a personal touch to gameplay in addition to several color options, skins, and even pets. Does this add stat value? No, but it adds customization that allows players to immerse themselves fully in a way that stays inline with the “don’t take this too seriously” feeling that Among Us offers.
Simplicity & Mini Games
Simplicity is key in this game and is what has makes it a really fun game to play. With a focus on minimal time investment it allows players to dive in at any time and enjoy the game for what it is. There are no player levels, there is no Battle Pass; there is no penalization for playing as little or as much as I want, which makes it easy to return to again and again.
The mini games/tasks you have to complete don’t require any real heavy thinking. It is the definition of a “pick up and play” game.
Another massive aspect of this game is the deceit and intellect required to decipher who the imposter is. The psychological hooks of this game keep people playing.
Social Deduction Psychology
I am not a psychologist but I saw this online and believe it says it best
“Social deduction games can be powerful tools to kick start discussions on the psychology of large groups and teams. They can also be used to explore and reflect on decision making under the lack of information. In the absence of objective evidence, we fill the blanks with our gut feeling which we then confirm or rationalise by selectively bringing up incidental observations, information and data points. Unless of course we can master the art of indirect observation and deduction.
It’s often experienced in social deduction games that players defend their decision by relating how the person is behaving, the person’s body language, whether the person is talking too much or not talking at all. Another realisation that the game creates amongst players is the power of Group Think or if most people agree to something, we also readily agree to it.”
Core principles such as trust and honesty are tested in this game within friends and randomly paired users. As well as piecing together information, clues about behaviour and discussion, all come together to use the data available to make a decision about who is the imposter make for an exciting game.
A Strong Theme
Another perhaps technical factor but also psychological is the Among Us spaceship theme. This is important as the spaceship theme fits the game mechanics of completing tasks such as fixing the wiring, manning the shields and amending the spaceships navigation.
The well thought out theme helps players relate to the abstract actions of the game to ideas and processes they can already understanding. It provides better context and creates an overall reason behind what they are doing.
Finally I believe there are some reasons outside the control of the developers which have contributed to the success of the game.
It has hard not acknowledge the impact of a pandemic has had on gaming as a whole but in particular a game which encourages friends and people to collaborate together allowing socialising in a safe setting.
Casual Gaming Market
Another massive factor of the games success is that it has reached the casual gaming market. Hyper casual titles typically feature very simple game mechanics, making them easy for just about anyone with a mobile device to figure out and play. This increases the market from hard-core gamers to every-day casual gamers tenfold.
With no restricitions to entry or previous understanding the game can quickly be enjoyed by anyone, giving the game universal appeal.
As well as this Among Us popularity in relation to Fall Guys has to be acknowledged and a reason I believe has helped the game grow. As users are familiar with the graphics and simplicity of Fall Guys mini game style.
This quote I found from an article couldn’t have said it better
“Funnily enough Among Us has been getting a lot of comparison to Fall Guys — another mega-popular 2020 game — despite the fact the games are wildly different. Visually their characters are both blob-esque creatures with arms & legs that wear silly costumes, and they both became popular around the same time, but that’s where the similarities end.
Fall Guys is a 3D platformer/battle royal hybrid and Among Us is a 2D mystery party game. They fit different desires and audiences, and many people are having a grand time enjoying both for different reasons.
Though the somewhat similar visuals could have at least in part helped Among Us generate interest in newcomers. Once Fall Guys made everyone fall in love with their art style seeing a different game with vaguely similar character design may have encouraged people to check out Among Us when they might not have otherwise.”
To conclude as with any popular game there is a lot of luck sometimes, whether it be being picked up by popular streamers or a global pandemic. Sometimes you make your own luck, I believe Among Us could be a flash in the pan until the next gaming craze comes along.
I am no gaming expert myself, however I thought an in-depth overview of a gaming phenomena would be an interesting read.
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