If you have a tween or teen who’s bored at home, you’ve likely heard them talk about playing the videogame Among Us with their friends online. It’s been available to play since 2018, but this year saw Among Us skyrocket to popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people in lockdown to connect with friends online rather than in person.
Since the late summer, Among Us has become the subject of many memes and gaming streams online attracting over 60 million daily users and garnering over 100 million downloads of the mobile app. In mid-October, U.S. Congress members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar even held a Twitch stream as a way to encourage young people to register to vote in the 2020 election, bringing even more attention to the online party game.
This probably has parents wondering: Is Among Us appropriate for kids to play? Is there anything you need to worry about your kids seeing or learning? Whether your kid is asking for permission to play, or they’ve been playing it for a while now, this guide has the answers to all the questions parents may have about this popular online murder-mystery game.
Among Us is an online multiplayer game from the developers at InnerSloth that has players working together to fix their crumbling spaceship while figuring out who the imposters are. It’s what’s known as a social deduction game, which means the game-play focuses on a conflict between two teams: the informed minority and the uninformed majority. While this may sound complicated, it’s a pretty simple concept.
At the start of each game, you’re randomly assigned the role of bad guy (a.k.a Imposter) or good guy (a.k.a. Crewmate). The Imposters know what role each player was assigned (i.e., they know who the other bad guys are), while the Crewmates are none the wiser. In order for Imposters to win, they must kill all the Crewmates without getting caught. If the Crewmates want to win, they must either discover who the Imposters are and vote them off the ship, or finish repairing the ship by doing little tasks (which present as simple mini-games) before the Imposters are able to kill everyone.
The only catch is that players are only allowed to talk to each other during emergency meetings, which only happens after a body of a slain Crewmate is found and reported or someone presses the emergency meeting button (each player can only press the button once per game, depending on your settings). During a meeting, players discuss what they’ve seen and vote to either kick out a suspicious player or continue on without an elimination. However, Imposters will try their best to convince the other players that they’re one of the good guys, so players must use logic to see beyond the deception and make the right choices. Sounds fun, right?
There are three different maps to explore and each game only lasts around 10-15 minutes, so even if you die or get voted out, its not long before you can play again.
You might hear the word “murder” and “kill” and decide this game isn’t appropriate for your kids. But in fact, the vast majority of this game is relatively tame. There’s no visible blood in the game, and when a player finds the “dead body” of another player, the cartoony art style makes it look more like a colourful honey-baked ham than a corpse.
One thing to note is the somewhat shocking kill animations, which occur when you get murdered by one of the Imposters. These show fairly violent scenes, including getting stabbed with a knife or a sharp alien tongue, getting your character’s neck broken and getting shot with a gun. While these are pretty grisly, each scene only lasts on screen for about two seconds and they don’t get shown very often depending on your role. If you’re an Imposter, you’ll see it every time you make a kill, which depending on your skill level is easier said than done. If you’re a Crewmate, which you’re likely to be most of the time, you’ll only ever see the animation if and when your character gets killed (i.e., no more than once per game).
No. As we said in our parent’s guide to Fortnite, multiple studies prove that violent video games do not increase aggression in kids. There’s a slight chance that playing too long and too often will affect your child’s mood, but that’s likely less a function of the specific activity or content within the game, and more a sign that your kid might have a tendency to fixate on games.
Among Us is currently available to download on mobile (on Android and iOS) and on Windows PC. While the PC version costs $4.99USD (or $5.69CAD) to download via Steam, the mobile app is free to download and play. So as long as your kids have access to a phone or tablet, they can access the online features without spending any money. As well, they don’t even need to create an account like they would for other online games like Minecraft and Fortnite, so there’s no need to provide an email address. Among Us can usually also be played on Chromebook, the laptops kids use the most, as long as the Chromebook can access the Google Play store.
While the game is completely free to play, there is downloadable content (a.k.a. DLC) that your kids may ask you to purchase for them. Like in Fortnite, these packs are cosmetic and don’t affect the way the game is played or help your kid win—they just change the way your character looks on screen. The base game comes with different coloured suits your character can wear as well as funny hats, including a flamingo floatie, a chef’s toque, a toilet plunger or an Elvis-style pompadour. With the DLC, you can purchase skins (i.e., outfits), more funny hats (like a flowerpot or a brain slug) or even pets that follow you around in the game. These all range in price but most are between $1 to $4.
Each game can have anywhere between four and 10 players, so if your child decides to play in a public game online, they’ll likely be playing with people they don’t know. However, there is no voice chat function within the game itself, so unless your kid connects to an external voice chat service like Zoom or Discord, they won’t be directly chatting with strangers. There is a text chat function in the game, but as previously mentioned, it’s only open during “emergency meetings” and those last for only about 30 seconds. Even so, they maybe be exposed to bullying or comments that are racist, sexist or homophobic during those meetings as the chats are not moderated (although there is a setting to turn on a rudimentary chat censor that blocks profanity).
If your kid is playing with a specific group of friends, they’ll likely play in a private game which requires a code to enter, so no strangers can get in.
As with most popular games, playing Among Us can provide your child with cultural capital among their friends at school. Being able to talk about the game mechanics and strategies and understand game-specific jargon like “venting” and “sus” will allow your kid to be involved in discussions and jokes said within friend groups and not feel left out.
At its core, Among Us is a game about teamwork, where you work together to figure out who can and can’t be trusted within the group of players. This can be a benefit as it helps hone kids’ logic and social skills, especially during a time when kids may be stuck at home and in need of socialization. However, we must note that the game is also about betrayal; for those playing as Imposters, certain undesirable social skills like lying and manipulation are the key to winning. As long as your kid can understand when it’s appropriate to use those skills, there shouldn’t be cause for worry.
Ultimately, that’s a decision you’ll have to make yourself depending on the age of your individual child and their emotional maturity. Common Sense Media rates the game as good for ages 10+ (and it tends to be conservative in its age recommendations). Since the game is easy enough to learn and fun for adults too, you may want to try playing as a family first to see how your kid manages before letting them play online with friends. If it’s too intense—which it can be at times, with the background music and sound effects—you’ll be there to comfort them. And you can chat about things like why it’s OK to lie during a game but not OK in other circumstances. Plus, in a family setting, kids would be able to decide whether they want to continue playing without having to fear repercussions from their peers.