For the millions of Americans who have been discouraged or barred from seeing friends and family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been an incredibly lonely — and at times truly depressing — year.
However, for many of us, video games offered an escape from the confines of our living rooms, and a way to stay connected with friends. And perhaps no other game did so more than the space-themed online indie multiplayer, “Among Us.”
Amber, a professional video game livestreamer who goes by “PaladinAmber” on Twitch and asked that we not use her last name, said that since the pandemic broke out, “Among Us” has helped her maintain friendships, start new ones, and even maintain her mental health.
“Silly to say but it has changed my life in some way,” Amber said in an email exchange with YR Media.
The cross-platform game — in which teams of up to 10 players must conduct spaceship maintenance while a smaller number of “imposters” try to sabotage the mission and pick off the other players one by one — has enjoyed a surge in popularity this year, after originally being released in 2018.
In just the last month, the free game has been played by “nearly half a billion players,” according to Innersloth, the development company behind “Among Us.”
“Every game developer launches their game with the hopes it’ll be somewhat of a hit (or at least, profitable enough to help fund the next game),” said Victoria Tran, the community director at Innersloth. “The ‘Among Us’ initial launch didn’t seem like it would hit the numbers we’re at now…[We are] definitely shocked and pleasantly surprised, to put it lightly.”
The game was largely popularized by famous gamers on Twitch, YouTube and Facebook Gaming, such as Alanah Pearce, who regularly streams and uploads “Among Us” videos for her nearly 100k Twitch followers and more than 547k YouTube subscribers.
“I feel like it’s a no-brainer that “Among Us” is popular in 2020 because it’s so social … In 2020 — a year where a lot of us are socially isolated and unable to even be in groups of 10 ourselves — I think it has been a great relief for a lot of people,” said Pearce, in an email to YR Media.
And Pearce isn’t alone in thinking so. In response to a Thanksgiving-themed tweet posted by the official “Among Us” Twitter account, several fans expressed their gratitude for the game’s ability to make 2020 a little less of a bummer.
What makes “Among Us” the perfect game to play with friends during quarantine, according to “PaladinAmber,” is that it allows the player to bond with their friends (or strangers!) in a way that helps them forget about the stresses of the real world.
“I think it gave us a sense of ‘togetherness,’ which I know is super cliche but I think it’s allowed us to escape and shut out the fact that things have dramatically changed … With so much uncertainty and worry, we’ve been able to escape, which not everyone can say,” wrote Amber.
Because the game can be played for free, and is available for iOS and Android mobile, “Among Us” has even managed to attract players who (probably) wouldn’t normally consider themselves gamers, such as New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has live-streamed on Twitch while playing “Among Us” with a number of prominent gaming personalities, Pearce included.
The congresswoman’s first “Among Us” stream became the third-most watched livestream ever broadcast on the platform, according to Polygon. During her second stream, and with the help of Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh, AOC raised $200,000 for charity to support those struggling financially during the pandemic.
Innersloth, the four-person team behind “Among Us,” said that while they never expected the game to see this much success, they are glad it has brought people together.
“2020 has been a terrible year for pretty much everyone, and the fact we made something that helped people get through it is an honor,” Tran said. “That’s really all we could ask for — to still be able to enjoy the company of other people.”