In space no one can hear you scream. Well, unless you forgot to mute your mic.
This is a core conceit of surprise space-murder hit Among Us. But with multiplayer also being a core part of the Among Us experience, muting mics and silence might not seem that meaningful. When you think about it, though, Among Us is all about that isolation coming from an Alien-style disaster unfolding in deep space. Every round is a set of scales perfectly balanced between paranoid quiet and heated debate. And it’s the silence that makes Among Us one of the most compelling multiplayer experiences I’ve ever had.
In case you are unaware: Among Us, a crew of anonymous blob people are working together to fix problems on a spacestation – but the twist is that at least one of the players is an Imposter, secretly trying to sabotage the station and kill the others. Players are given lists of tasks to accomplish, and at any time you can call an emergency meeting to accuse someone of being an Imposter. These discussions can be… heated.
Look, most of us don’t want to get into arguments; they’re stressful confrontations that can end with someone crying. Before you even get to the arguing stage, though, you’ll more than likely have been in your own head about it – what it is you’re going to say, and all the brilliant comebacks (that you’ll never actually use) when the showdown finally happens.
“Look, most of us don’t want to get into arguments; they’re stressful and can end with someone crying.”
But playing silently in Among Us forces you to do all of that. In between meetings you end up planning your next move and thinking about how your alibi lines up with what someone else saw you doing. The beauty comes from how it doesn’t matter if you’re a Crewmate or Imposter. Because you’re lacking the clarity that a conversation normally provides, everyone is always sus. And you remain free to overthink your actions, reaffirming excuses to yourself that you might not even need in the end.
The same goes for how you see other players. When playing a game online without voice chat, players usually communicate with actions like jumping, or by using emotes, and your brain fills in the gaps to try and understand specifics or intent. That type of communication does exist in Among Us – but it’s dominated by paranoia and suspicion.
When a Crewmate decides to very quickly switch directions, or to follow you for way too long, or just run around in a circle for no apparent reason, you come to conclusions – sometimes the wrong ones – about the meaning of their actions. They could just be suddenly remembering a task, have no idea how to play the game, or even be suspicious of you. But it’s already too late: your opinions are already formed, and you’ll do whatever you can to stay alive.
When everyone is silent, it means you’re all essentially playing two games at once; you’ll be acutely self-conscious of how all your actions appear, along with constantly thinking ahead on how to justify them. Most multiplayer games are all about what happens in the moment.
On top of that, Among Us isn’t characterised by teenagers in voice chat saying horrible things about your mum.