It's 9:30pm on a Tuesday night, and I've just received a text from my younger sister, Alana. It reads (with the caveat that it must be sung to the tune of Frozen's 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman'): "Do you wanna play Among Us? Do you wanna do some tasks?"
We've been bitten by the Among Us bug, and while this may be an obvious game to have on our radar, it's a rather large milestone for me and my younger sis. You see, Alana doesn't play video games. Ever. When we were kids, she'd make up elaborate, ritualistic dances to especially difficult Kingdom Hearts levels that were meant to help me beat them, but she never dared touch a controller - it was never really her thing. That is until we realized there's more than one gamer Among Us.
Do you wanna play Among Us?
My interest in Among Us skyrocketed after AOC played it on Twitch back in October to encourage voting. I sent the video of her stream to my sister as one of those "isn't this cool" kind of texts that we exchange dozens of daily, and promised myself that I'd get around to playing Innersloth's smash hit very soon.
But my sister beat me to it. You see, Among Us is a rare amalgamation of her interests that resulted in the perfect storm of gaming intrigue: there's a heavy TikTok presence, easy access to anyone who works on a computer, and an abundance of memes spawning from it. That the controls are quick and easy to get a hang of only increases its attractiveness to casual gamers. Before I knew it I was getting schooled on a popular video game by the same woman whose past gaming experience was limited to beating on the fake drum set that came with Rock Band 3 until our mother came downstairs to yell at her.
The day Alana texted me to play Among Us, she'd already been playing on her own for a week or so. I was completely green, so I decided to play two games solo before she joined me in a feeble attempt to get gud fast. I made an ass of myself in both of them. In the first game, I was the Imposter and was immediately caught "venting," which is an ability only Imposters have that lets them navigate the spaceship by crawling through ventilation shafts. In the second game, I was wrongfully accused of being an Imposter after I was found in the vicinity of a dead body. Not knowing that multiple people are assigned the same tasks on the ship, I tried to shift the focus onto another player who claimed they were "filling up gas canisters" by typing in all caps "THE GAS WAS MY JOB, ORANGE IS SUS." To which they replied: "We all get the same tasks, asshole." And so, I was ejected into space.
The Padawan has become the Master
After thoroughly embarrassing myself, my morale was low, but my sister texted me a game code, so I hopped into a lobby with several players in it. One of them was a black-clad spaceperson named 'Spookydook' who had bat ears on their head. Even in a simplistically designed in-game lobby with avatars that resemble Fall Guys beans, I knew my sister when I saw her. "Hi Alana," I typed into the chat as I walked back and forth in front of Spookydook. "Sissy!" she typed back.
We kept a text thread open while we played, sending messages about which players were irritating us and pointing out the best gamertags (we laughed a bit too hard at 'lilshart'). We absolutely never used it to tell the other person who they had been killed by, as that would be cheating, and cheaters never prosper. There was one time when we were both imposters that we texted back and forth about it, but considering she immediately vented in someone's eye line and I killed someone in a roomful of people, it certainly didn't help our cause.
Alana patiently answered all my questions as we played, which included "How do I lock doors?", "Who reported the body, was it me?", and "How can you tell if someone is faking tasks?" Each response was written in the kind of gamer lingo that implies a deep understanding of the game in question.
I can't emphasize enough how bizarre it was to get texts like that from my sister, a person who used to ask me to play Left 4 Dead just so she could laugh at the witch scaring me, but refused to help me get through a level because it was "too much pressure." I don't think she's ever even held an Xbox controller. Yet, in Among Us, I watched Alana chat with other players in a lingo that soared above my head, and I began mimicking her behavior just to seem more in the loop. I truly felt like Obi-Wan Kenobi watching Anakin Skywalker lay waste to a roomful of enemies without breaking a sweat.
Our first session went on for hours, late into the night, until we both realized the time and promised to link up again soon. My sister lives about an hour away from me and is in the COVID-19 high-risk category, so Among Us has replaced our in-person hangouts. It's even giving us a chance to virtually see each other far more often than we did even before COVID.
We try to have at least one Among Us session a week, sending each other the same twisted riff on Frozen's iconic song to try and kick off a sesh. Just last night we had one that began with my sister FaceTiming me to say: "I feel like I'm having an identity crisis. I never know what to put on my guy." When we got into a lobby, there stood Spookydook, still in black, still sporting bat ears. I guess that's her identity crisis sorted, then.