It's about a 2 min. read.
Ask any CMBer what they love about CMB and there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s the people. Social distancing hasn’t been easy on anyone, but it’s been especially difficult for a company that works so collaboratively and regularly schedules social events and club meetings. Since March, we’ve been looking for ways to stay connected, and recently, a group of us hopped on the bandwagon for a game of Among Us.
Multiplayer has been a part of the gaming community since the 1970s. But the desire for social connection in a year of social distance has increased their popularity. At the start of lockdown in March, Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer gaming among Game Pass users and 23 million new friendship connections over Xbox Live. Research on massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) show that benefits of this genre include a stronger sense of social identity, more social competence, and lower levels of loneliness. Nurturing social connections through multiplayer online gaming can create and build friendships as strong as those IRL.
Even so, many online multiplayer games have an air of exclusivity. The idea of joining an MMO or jumping into a game of Fortnite is daunting to non-gamers and even some casual gamers. Both in terms of gameplay itself – a battle royale situation feels more isolating than ever these days – and hardware – if you don’t have a console or PC for many games, you’re out of luck.
Among Us dismantles some of these barriers. The overall gameplay is familiar to many who spent their childhoods playing neighborhood games like Mafia: the crewmates works individually and collectively to build trust and uncover who among us are the Imposters (or if you’re an Imposter, to avoid being suspect…or “sus”), all while engaging in micro-tasks—quick little puzzles and games—throughout the spaceship. It takes a few rounds to get into the groove, but overall, the gameplay is very approachable and a lot of fun.
Making the game even more attractive is how accessible the program itself is – Among Us can be played on either PC or mobile, and it’s cross-platform so your friends can play together using whatever technology they have available. You don’t need a high-powered gaming rig to play the game, but if you already have one, that’s fine too! With the rise of video conferencing during COVID, players can easily enhance their games. While discussions in Among Us are typically done via in-game chat, you can invite your friends to a Zoom call and have those conversations “in person.”
It’s no wonder that Among Us reached over 80 million players by mid-September, a number previously met by Pokémon Go in 2016. It’s the perfect game for this day-and-age. The definition of a “gamer” has been expanding for a long time, and the major change in everyone’s lifestyles has helped with that expansion exponentially. We saw this with the major success of Animal Crossing in the spring and it’s continuing with Among Us and other games now. With both Animal Crossing and Among Us, there’s a social aspect – either through direct multiplayer or a larger game community. Recent research showed that the longer a player played Animal Crossing, the happier they felt, possibly due to the social features the game presents. The only question remaining is when social distancing ends, will these newly minted gamers continue to play?
While the first impulse, once the pandemic is over maybe to rush outside and connect in-person, being isolated in lockdown, has highlighted the importance of social connections, both as a human need and within the gaming industry. Gamers will be drawn to these new types of social connections made in quarantine, and developers should continue to build games within this space.
Blair Bailey is an avid gamer who graciously coordinates our Among Us games at CMB.
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