When an indie game company founded Among Us in 2018, it received little fanfare. The multiplayer game, like many other games, stayed under the radar until the summer of the pandemic.
Endeavoring to keep viewers entertained during the quarantine, Chance Morris, known online as Sodapoppin, began streaming the InnerSloth-created game to its 2.8 million followers on Twitch in July.
By mid-September, Among Us started like wildfire. All of a sudden, big YouTube stars, TikTok influencers and streamers played it. PewDiePie, James Charles and Dr. Lupo have all played the game for millions.
Between us is a multiplayer game in which between four and ten players fall on an alien spaceship. Each player is referred to as a "crew member" or "cheater".
Crewmates have to run around the ship trying to complete a series of tasks while trying to exterminate and avoid being killed by one or more cheaters. Players can be voted out of the ship so every game becomes a survival: successfully vote the cheaters or do all your chores to win. It's simple, colorful, and easy enough for a five-year-old to play on an iPhone.
The young fans of online influencers not only watched the Among Us streams, they also started playing the game. Millions of teenagers and children across the country love Among Us, which is now the standard social platform for young people who are in quarantine.
"I stopped hearing about it a few weeks ago, I heard everything everywhere," said Judah Rice, 16, a Texas student. “People text about it. I know people who are on dedicated Discord servers and group chats among us. I have friends who meet and play it all the time. "
Discord servers popped up below us in early September. In one case, more than 98,000 teenagers bond, socialize, discuss, and play the game. Benson, a 13-year-old administrator of the server, said that there are often 30 to 40 different Among Us games playing on the server through voice chat channels at any time of the day. "Everyone is between 13 and 20 years old," he said. "My friends, if your teacher doesn't show up for your online class, they play. This is a way to pass the time when you have nothing else to do. Since we don't actually gather in a public area like the park we can distance ourselves socially with Among Us online. "
Between Us is very different from other highly social video games like Fortnite. It's more like a board game like Monopoly or a party game like Werewolf, where players have to read personalities and determine if they are being lied to in order to win. The large group size makes it easy to invite new friends to the group.
"You can meet a lot of people from Among Us, I made some friends out of them," said Juan Alonso Flores, 17, a high school student in Florida. “As soon as you start playing with the same people, you get to know each other. They get their phone numbers, discord tags. "
It's not just teenagers who disregard the game. Adults who can't hit a bar or swing from a party after work can also find community through Among Us. Ricky Hayberg, 36, writer and host of Internet Today, a culture and technology YouTube channel, said he had made closer friends with people he met through playing Among Us in the past two months than those who that he has known offline for years.
"It results in a more natural conversation. It's more of a party game. You're just hanging out with friends and the game is secondary," said Hayberg. "To excel in the game you have to know if people are lying and the truth and theirs general personality say. "
The game's continued success is fueled by a never-ending stream of Us Us-related content on the internet. Twitter accounts such as No Context Among Us and Among Us Struggle Tweets post memes about the game to hundreds of thousands of followers. Videos on TikTok, including the Among Us hashtag, have garnered more than 13 billion views.
"The hype continues to grow because everyone is playing it," said Nicole Draper, 17, who among us posts memes on Bruhloon, her Instagram meme page. “My TikTok For You page is flooded with Below Us memes. People do parodies and voice overs of Among Us scenes. It got bigger than any other game. "
During the game's rise, streamers on Twitch continue to power everything. "If anyone had any doubt that Twitch streamers were previously influencers, we proved they were," said Erin Wayne, Twitch's director of Community of Creator Marketing.
Twitch fans have seen Among Us gameplay on the platform for more than 200 million hours so far this year. Nathan Grayson, a writer on gaming site Kotaku, said the game was designed uniquely to be far more fun than your average first-person shooter game.
Viewers see influencers abandon their guards and express who they really are. "The game is about deception and the personality of the players," said Grayson. “It brings back the spirit to be with your friends. It's designed for streamers to play off each other, and they can also have streams where everyone is streaming on separate channels and their audiences in chat are speculating about which person is a cheat. "
Phil Jamesson, 28, a comedian who streams on Twitch, said the game resembles a series like "Hot Ones," in which fans watch their favorite stars drop the facade as they strive to tolerate increasingly flavorful chicken wings .
"There is a barrier that is lowered when the emotions are increased. If someone accuses you of killing a friend in the game, you get a glimpse of what he actually is as opposed to how he would like to present himself," he said.
People are already using the excitement surrounding the game for political purposes. MoveOn, a progressive advocacy group and political action committee, streamed games among us on Twitch with organizations like Justice Democrats and Crooked Media, as well as prominent activists, to encourage young viewers to vote.
"Virtual organizing is really on the rise right now," said Cameron Kasky, 19, a student and activist. “Down below is a great place to talk about really anything you want out there. You have the eyes and the attention of the people and the game isn't too complicated if talking about voting would be distracting. This will keep the viewers visually engaged while you talk about whatever you want. "