You’ve probably heard of, if not played yourself, Among Us—a beautifully designed mafia–esque multiplayer social deduction game that’s recently exploded in popularity amongst teens and adults alike across the world. Even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez gave it a go recently. But just in case you haven’t played, here’s a quick overview: players are dropped into a spaceship with the goal of preparing for departure, and are privately assigned one of two roles. Crewmates navigate the ship completing tasks, while one or more impostors must masquerade as crewmates and avoid being discovered while attempting to kill the rest of the crew. To win, the crewmates must either finish all their tasks before being slaughtered by the impostor(s) or figure out who the impostors are and, Survivor–style, collectively vote to eject them into space. Impostors win if the number of crewmates is equal to the number of impostors after crewmates are killed by impostors or mistakenly voted out.

If you’d like to completely dominate your friend group in your next game of Among Us, be sure to check out this exhaustive compilation of strategies, tips, and tricks for both beginners and experienced players—but first, let’s get into why and how the game became so well–liked so fast. Here’s a couple of standout reasons that Among Us is not only the third most–played game on Steam, but also the second–most–streamed game on Twitch right now after having not appeared on the charts before early this year.

A classic social deduction game

First, anyone who’s played Among Us can recognize that it pulls key elements from existing social deduction games like Mafia or Werewolf, making it easy and enjoyable to play repeatedly without getting bored. The game mechanics only enhance this by providing in–round tasks that build suspense by taking up time in between votes. The simplicity of these tasks, coupled with the intuitive gameplay and engaging storyline, make the game incredibly approachable for all age groups and skill levels—a true hallmark of a good social deduction game. 

This level of approachability means the game is very adaptable to its audience: gameplay can change drastically depending on the skill level of the group you’re playing with. For example, newbie strategies like self–reporting a kill are quickly exposed in an intermediate–level group, but they can often mislead veteran players who might not expect their fellow players to be bold enough to execute obvious beginner moves.

Popularity among Twitch streamers

As the platform itself has exploded in popularity, so, too, have Among Us stream views on Twitch. The impulses behind the game’s crowd appeal on streaming platforms slightly differ from those behind the uptick in the volume of actual users; specifically, Twitch audiences are absolutely eating up content where their favorite creators, who otherwise would never have interacted with each other, stream Among Us together. Streamers like PewDiePie, Hasan Piker, and Ninja, who each exist in entirely different spheres of the Twitch community, are using Among Us to merge their immense fan bases and attract tens or even hundreds of thousands of viewers on the regular. The crossovers are often wildly unexpected yet increasingly entertaining to watch; in fact, AOC’s stream topped over 435,000 concurrent viewers, placing it firmly in the top five for most–viewed streams on Twitch.

Audience accessibility

Not only does Among Us make it easy for streamers to collaborate with each other, but it also lightens expectations on viewers. Although it might seem like there could be nothing simpler than sitting behind a screen and watching someone else play a game, a lot of professional streamers are extremely skilled and well–versed in the slang that comes along with one particular game, and it might be difficult for viewers to follow along or stay engaged if they don’t play the game themselves. Among Us eliminates this issue with its intrinsic baseline simplicity: there’s a very shallow learning curve to actually understanding how to play the game, and yet it’s still possible to learn more about it without being overwhelmed while watching streamers’ gameplay and strategy.

Another not very widely acknowledged reason the game has been so successful is the stellar language support. Among Us can be played in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, or Russian, and has servers across North America, Asia, and Europe—all of which set the stage for the game to be a worldwide hit.

The quarantine factor

The beginning of the pandemic had people turning to social media platforms that don’t really feel like social media, like live–streaming, podcasting, or even other video games like Animal Crossing—all of which are places where participants can feel a comforting sense of community and social interaction with a low level of actual participation. But as the lack of social interaction began to wear on all of us, people began to pause their podcasts and search for ways to spend time speaking to and playing with smaller groups of people. The Among Us player count skyrocketed, as a game that’s often best played without being spatially near your fellow crewmates (or impostors!) while still providing a physically and mentally interactive and engaging social activity. And as more and more joined the game, playing in public rooms became better and better, drawing even more players and improving gameplay further in a cyclic motion that only built upon the existing boost.

The future of Among Us isn’t crystal clear, as the developers announced recently that they were cancelling the development of Among Us 2 in favor of revamping the original, presumably to avoid splitting their fan base. Regardless, players will certainly be clearing asteroids, fixing wires, and accidentally voting out innocent crewmates through the final stretches of 2020 and beyond.