Among Us a the casual mobile and PC network murder-mystery social game. It offers players two distinct adrenaline rushes, round by round: either the pulse-pounding paranoia that anyone you’re standing next to might kill you, or the thrill of stalking and murdering everyone you’re playing with, all while maintaining your veneer of innocence.
In a delightful cartoony package, this simple formula is part murder mystery, part jury trial, and a great way to kill some time... And other players. Let’s explore the game in more detail.
What is Among Us?
Among Us puts up to ten players together on a space mission, represented in a quirky, fun, hand-drawn 2D style. Players are set to roam in an overhead view spaceship setting as Crewmates who must keep the ship running.
The only thing is, not everybody is a Crewmate.
One to three players are, in fact, imposters, and it’s their job to sabotage the ship and murder everyone on it, one by one, while pretending to be innocent. It’s your job, as a Crewmate, to stay alive, keep the ship running, and figure out which one of these brightly colored, jumpsuit-wearing “friends” are deadly imposters by calling emergency all-hands-on-deck meetings.
These meetings are group chat where accusations fly. And then, so does the body of the accused, if a majority votes to eject a player.
A little animated board game in space
Distrust, fear, and deception along with some deductive detective guesswork and psychology all combine for a surprisingly addictive little animated board game in space. In an era of video games with hours of backstory and lore, Among Us offers players a simple but wickedly wonderful gameplay experience with no large narrative. Just a pick-up-and-play-online party game that anyone and everyone can get right into within minutes. And, it seems, everyone is.
Background and history
Any Among Us review would not be complete without a bit of background, and this game has an interesting one. Among Us seemed to explode onto the scene in 2020 as the perfect social – and anti-social – online game play experience for quarantine, putting you into the virtual company of strangers for fun while being sure any one of them presents a deadly menace.
But it was actually released in 2018 (then called “spacemafia”) to very little fanfare or acclaim. In fact, it almost winked out of existence more than a few times along the way, due to such dismal lack of success in both download and player base.
Although today the average daily number of people playing Among Us sits at 60 million, the game struggled for over a year with a very small but dedicated player base. Sometimes only 30 to 50 concurrent people per day were playing it. Not 30 to 50 thousand; just 30 to 50 players.
Virtualizing the mechanics of a social deception game
Developed by Marcus Bromander, the app takes the central gameplay mechanic of the live party game “Mafia” (sometimes called “Werewolf”) and makes it virtual.  Depending on your grade-school experience, you may have encountered a similar style game in your classrooms during rainy days called “7-Up” or “Heads Up.”
In all cases, the dynamics are the same: a group of people must guess who among them are on the “enemy team,” with penalties (of sorts) for incorrect accusations. The winning conditions for the group are to successfully figure out who the hidden enemies are, accuse them, and exile them from the game. The enemies’ winning conditions are the elimination of the group. In “Mafia” or “Werewolf,” this is done by way of distributing cards, and having everyone close their eyes, while the “enemy” group (Mafioso or Werewolves) plots, unbeknownst to them, with gestures.
Refining the interface and adding mini-game elements
Among Us puts this kind of social gameplay into action on mobile devices and computers, giving the “imposters” the ability to kill the Crewmates, and the Crewmates the ability to call “meetings” to vote the impostors out as a team to eliminate them. The game’s mechanics and interface were tweaked over time to allow for an easy-to-jump-into experience, with a quick turnaround on sessions, refining the gameplay and adding mini-game upkeep elements. The end result is a delightful game that follows the edict that all successful games do: Quick to learn, long to master.
Getting noticed by social media influencers
It was when the game got noticed by social media influencers and the meme-culture of the internet that it blew up into a viral sensation. Users and broadcasters on game content-streaming platform Twitch discovered Among Us in 2020.
While Among Us is fun to play, it is also unlike a lot of other games in that its cartoon/homebrew presentation and easy-to-understand mechanics and player-supplied intrigue make it fun to watch as well as play. Which the internet, writ large, did.
Streamers playing and narrating games got Among Us attention and downloads, and with the downloads came the memes and videos. TikToks, YouTube videos, songs, and remixes spread awareness of the game and its kill-or-be-killed antics to players everywhere. And during the quarantine and social distancing times of 2020, having a fun and easy game to play with other people made Among Us go huge.
Downloaded 200 million-plus times by 500 million players
How huge? A YouTuber who wrote the song “Show Yourself,” based on the gameplay and using edited footage, skyrocketed to 60 million views in under four months. The game itself has been downloaded over 200 million times.  Quite a jump from the early years when a few dozen people barely kept it going. In November 2020 alone, it had approximately half a billion active monthly players. 
Among Us gameplay
So how to play Among Us on PC? Each game begins with choosing the color spacesuit that your blocky little astronaut will wear and the game assigns you a role for the round: Crewmate or imposter. Crewmates are assigned “tasks” to keep the ship ship-shape. These take the form of completing little mini-games by traveling through the map and flipping switches, solving short puzzles, and the like.
If all the Crewmates finish all the tasks, they win.
Imposters vs. Crewmates
The Imposters, bent on killing, are visually indistinguishable from the other Crewmates but cannot perform tasks. Much like a goof-off employee, they must fake looking like they are doing work with bogus tasks while the others actually busy themselves with keeping the place running.
The Imposters can attack other Crewmates, killing them instantly in a SPLAT. Imposters can also utilize the vents to quickly travel/warp from one section of the ship to another; Crewmates cannot.
Imposters can also sabotage ship systems, sending the Crewmates off to fix the problem, and giving themselves opportunities to catch one unawares, separated from the group, and dispatch them.
Crewmates, if they suspect a certain color player to be an Imposter, may hit the emergency button to call an emergency meeting, or they may report a dead body, if they find one. Both events trigger a group meeting where everyone enters a timed chat, makes accusations, defends themselves, and ultimately votes on who will be ejected from the ship.
To trust, or not to trust, that is the question
Here’s where psychology comes in. Imposters can also call an emergency meeting, where they accuse another player. As someone who was just busy with their own ship-upkeep tasks, and looking over their own shoulder, the Crewmates often don’t know who to trust, and end up ejecting an innocent member of the crew.
This, in addition to making them feel awful, reduces the number of people available to complete the necessary tasks and increases the chances of being caught alone – and killed – by the remaining Imposters.
If you see “Red” leaping into a vent, a sure sign of being a villainous Imposter, and call an emergency meeting, Red might just sweet-talk everyone in the chat into thinking you’re the one leveling false accusations. For a very simple interface and silly, cartoon-like lumpy characters, the emotional stakes are pretty high!
So with those simple little directives and mechanics, that’s the essence of the gameplay elements. It’s the constant unknown of the other players that provides the intrigue. Playing the game over and over in multiple rounds will yield very different results; both due to the fact that you may play as Imposter in one round, and Crew in another, but also because that one round may end quickly, whereas another might be a harrowing cat-and-mouse game if the Imposters play it that way. Like an animated board game, each playthrough will vary.
Play with friends or strangers
The original, live-action games of “Mafia/Werewolf” were meant to be played with a group of friends in the same room. While Among Us lets you open that up to players from all over the world, if you’re just by yourself. You can also host a private game, giving local access only to your actual friends.
This makes it more of a true party game, and changes the psychology and bluffing (or detective work) you must do, as the Imposter may be sitting on the couch across from you, where you can look at their faces for tells and clues!
Or you can just join any open game, jumping onto a ship with players from across the globe. Both ways offer different kinds of fun, but fun nonetheless.
Is Among Us safe for kids?
App stores recommend the game for kids 12 and up.
While Among Us is an engaging, non-realistic, and hand-drawn bunch of pudgy astronauts tooling around a cartoon spaceship map with handwriting font graphics, it is a game about lying, murder, and dead bodies, and puts players into some kind of (limited) chat contact with anonymous strangers. At its core mechanic, it also encourages and gamifies the skills of lying and manipulation as strategies.
As such, parents of elementary school children may want to think twice about downloading it onto their kids’ PCs or mobile devices and tablets. A profanity filter will block out the usual suspects of foul language, but there’s always a chance that some random user out there will try to “troll” the meetings with inappropriate messages. Generally, though, people come to play.
A handy vocabulary primer
The Among Us chat is quick and to the point, and a kind of jargon has arisen among players. It becomes evident quickly enough, but here are a few terms and phrases you might see, and use:
- Elec: Short for “The Electrical Room.” Often used to quickly give location information for where a player was reported doing something that seemed...
- Sus: Suspicious. The worst and most damning accusations. “Yellow mad sus,” typed by an 8th-grade boy across the country might be enough to convince the other players that your yellow-clad astronaut is, in fact, highly likely of being a murderer.
- Third: Most game rounds have only two Imposters, but three are possible. Being accused of being a “Third” might see you getting jettisoned into space.
- Throwing: Losing on purpose, or “throwing the game.” Bad form.
- GG: Good game. Standard gamer shorthand in a chat after the successful competition of a fun round.
- Vent: As a verb, to vent is to travel through a warp-vent. “Red vent” is an accusation that the red player was seen going into or popping out of a vent.
Is the game free to play?
Required system specs to play on the PC
This game does not require a powerhouse of a gaming PC. It's easy to play Among Us on PC with just a standard rig and a good internet connection. Here are the minimum specs for PC play:
- Operating system (OS): Windows 7 SP1+
- Processor: SSE2 instruction set support
- Memory: 1GB RAM
- DirectX: Version 10
- Storage: 250MB available space
HP systems to play Among Us on
Among Us can be played on anything from an HP Chromebook for a $5 purchase on the Google Play store, to standard PCs and laptops. Here are just a few options.
HP Chromebook x360 14c notebook
The HP Chromebook x360 14c
is a Chromebook, but it could pass for one of HP’s high-end notebooks at first glance. The metal body and aluminum alloy finish give it a feeling of elegance and solidity. And it converts to tablet mode.
HP 250 G7 notebook
The HP 250 G7
is a great piece of tech that is all about getting the job done. The bottom line is that what it lacks in fancy presentation it more than makes up for in power and performance under the hood.
HP Pavilion 15t laptop
The HP Pavilion 15t
is a compact laptop with a smaller profile that nonetheless packs a performance punch with an 11th Generation Intel processor and a powerful new Intel Iris® Xe integrated graphics card. And its long battery life and HP Fast Charge will keep your game on.
Whichever platform you end up playing Among Us, you’re sure to enjoy this addictive little board game in space. Have fun with it and hopefully you’ll be as “sus-free” as possible while you play.
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.