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Illustration by Tonia Zhang

It Is Scary How Much “Among Us” Accurately Reflects Living In 2020

From comparisons of getting infected with Covid-19, to staying at home, to fabricating lies on the news, the game “Among Us” is a mirror of living in 2020. Are these uncanny resemblances why many find it comforting to play it this year?

Nov 28, 2020

The game “Among Us” is quite simple. There are 10 crew members stuck on a spacecraft working together to complete a list of routine tasks that maintain the flow of crucial systems and thus ensure the crew’s survival. Among the crew members, however, there are impostors whose job is to kill off members of the crew one-by-one before they can succeed in their tasks.
Something in this game strongly resonates with the experience of living in the year 2020. In Among Us, people are trapped on a spaceship consisting of several rooms, an experience that may feel eerily familiar to our experiences of quarantine and self-isolation. As time passes, problems start descending one after another and this is what keeps the game rolling. The game introduces a few impostors on the spaceship whose purpose is to kill crew members as they try to fix the station and restore order. While we are playing, we do not know who the impostor is — which evokes a similar paranoia to that induced by the fact that a stranger we meet might potentially be infected with Covid-19.
So, when we see a purple player standing near “electrical” connecting wires as part of their tasks, anxiously expecting someone to burst in and stab them to death, it feels exactly like going to the supermarket and seeing a salesperson being yelled at by a customer who is arguing about wearing a mask.
Weirdly, death does not kick us out of the game. The hardest part is when our crewmates decide to eject us for being a potential impostor. It is the sitting quietly as a ghost, listening in on the follow-up conversations, having no further say in the course of the discussion, watching as the traitor persuades the others that they are not the killer and seeing the same pattern take shape on some poor crewmate that makes me feel like I do not have control over the situation. That is the exact feeling I get every morning when I see what new conspiracy theory is being propagandized in the news or a new policy implemented that only worsens the Covid-19 situation around the world. Many people get that feeling on an even more personal level, losing control over decisions such as where to go and what to do.
One thing is certain — to say we have experienced déjà vu only once this year is an understatement. Every day feels the same, doing trivial tasks, and hoping the vaccine arrives soon. In a precisely identical way, Among Us sets the stage such that it feels predictive of this vaguely exhausting future we all seem to be trapped in. We play round after round, unfazed by the tough tasks in the hope that we will beat the impostor. So, when we hear the dooming sound of emergency for the hundredth time that tells the players the oxygen supply has been sabotaged and everyone is about to asphyxiate to death, we most certainly think, “Well, Red can probably fix the oxygen tank.”
Among Us is a classic example of how deceit and manipulation can lead to the destruction of communities. Often the impostor does not need to fully elaborate assertions of their innocence, but rather simply needs to create a plausible scapegoat. A successful impostor has to juggle keeping track of the tasks the crew members are doing while accentuating the uncertainty of players’ memories. When Blue suddenly can not remember exactly what tasks they have left, that is when the impostor strikes, claiming that Blue is a traitor. When Yellow keeps telling the same true story repeatedly about how an accused player killed a crew member in the electrical room, the impostor twists their certainty into deception and lies. The fact that no one has immunity over being accused or ejected in Among Us, in a way, sums up the experience of being immune, or not, to Covid-19.
The main appeal of the game lies in its social aspect. 2020 has shown us that we need to stay connected with other people in order to overcome the feeling of isolation. As the Center for Disease Control found the highest levels of anxiety and depression in young adults this year, it is imperative that we shift our focus to anything other than university, work or the uncertain future. If discussing who the impostor is on an online server diverts negative feelings and connects people together, so be it.
Maybe that is the most important reason that Among Us is successful right now: playing the game does not feel like a time most people would probably want to repeat. And that exhilarating feeling we get when we win — well, after a while, it subsides. Yet, here is a game that feels like it has so many parallels to the pandemic — from living in isolation to getting deceitful information — that it gives one solace. That comfort is perhaps what we are seeking more than anything. The feeling of persisting through the nightmare called “2020” and waking up as if nothing happened. The idea that maybe, just maybe, after the chaos is resolved we can get back to something that feels familiar.
Stefan Mitikj is a Staff Writer. Email him at
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