It’s the new online roleplaying game taking the world by storm, but here’s what you need to know before you let your kids play.
At the time, I did my own little google search and asked my kids about it. I was relieved to hear they had no idea what I was talking about, but that didn’t last long at all as I was soon faced with the same “everyone else plays it” moaning as the other dad had previously mentioned.
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About Among Us
Among Us is a teamwork/strategy game available to download for free on iOS and Android devices. It has been around since 2018, but has recently become one of the most successful games of 2020 after some of the most popular gamers streamed themselves playing it on streaming platform, Twitch.
As a player, you join a game, which auto-fills with people on the internet from around the world. Alternatively, you can co-ordinate to play with friends and fill your own ‘local’ game which requires a password to join. The game begins when all spaces are filled and the app randomly selects a number of “imposters” and allocates the rest of the players as “crewmates”.
If you’re a crewmate, your goal is to figure out who the imposter is before they kill everyone and complete as many of the tasks listed on the screen.
If you’re an imposter, your goal is to kill as many other players as possible without being seen while sabotaging the tasks they’re trying to complete.
You can call yourself anything you like. Source: supplied.
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Games can have one, two or three imposters and everyone is aware of how many there are from the beginning. Regular emergency meetings are called where people can discuss any suspicious behaviour, or when a dead body is reported. You might ask where it was found, who was near it. People will start pointing the finger at each other and then you have a timed window where you can vote for who you think the imposter is, or you can skip the vote if you’re not sure.
People get voted out and you then find out if the voters were correct or not, until the imposter has been discovered or they’ve killed everyone in the game.
Among Us from a parent’s perspective
If I’m ever concerned about content for my kids, I research it online and then either watch or play it myself first. In this case, I checked out the Common Sense Media recommendation that it’s suitable for kids over the age of 10. I also read about what to look out for in Among Us, which was the chat function that is unmoderated. Gamers can also select absolutely anything as their screen name, potentially leaving children open to inappropriate language, and there are items available for purchase, that have absolutely no bearing on gameplay.
I jumped into my first game and quickly felt out of my depth. I clicked on the chat function and it was only seconds before someone asked how old I was. I was using my daughter’s name, which is one of the most common baby names in the last 10 years (Olivia) and I said I was six years old and living in the UK. I did this a few times with differing reactions. Sometimes other kids shared their ages and simply said hi and we got into the game.
While there’s not much time to chat, you can definitely get some conversation going while you’re waiting for voting or for games to start. Like the time I joined ‘hornygirl’ and ‘hornyboy’ only to be laughed at and booted out when I told them I was six years old. The next time I changed my name to ‘Juicy’ (I know… I was tired and failed miserably at putting myself into the brain of a 16-year-old girl), and someone asked me to come, to which I replied “I’m here”… it was not what they were hoping for.
If someone swears, like the person that didn’t want six-year-old Olivia to play their game, there is a profanity filter that kicks in, but while the words hidden, the effect is not.
“**** off, Olivia” still hurts when you’re a child just trying to play a game… which brings me to my own personal conclusion: the deaths themselves aren’t bad, the profanity filter does a pretty good job of hiding bad words, but there are sexual predators and horny teenagers everywhere. There are also bullies and mean people, who can find their way to insult a child, and no game is worth that.
If your child absolutely has to play this game, they should have an adult sitting with them guiding them through any tricky situations.
I wouldn’t trust my kids to play this without me unless they were in a ‘local’ game with real-life friends only and there was no contact with strangers on the internet.
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Do you know who your child is talking to? Source: supplied.
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What do the experts say?
Yasmin London, the Executive Director of ySafe, is a cyber safety expert. Here are her main concerns about the game:
Among Us is not suitable for primary school-aged children under 12. While the graphics are cartoon-like there is still the use of knives and visuals of the cartoon players being stabbed and killed. Communication with others is essential to gameplay as it’s all about working as a team to find the ‘imposter.’ The online gaming feature within this app allows children to chat and play with anyone anywhere in the world and unfortunately cannot be turned off. This poses risks to children coming into contact with potentially problematic strangers and engaging in conversation with them. Accusations by team members on who the imposter is, could also potentially lead to cyberbullying style behaviours by players in the game.
A screenshot of a knifing in the game. Source: supplied.
2. Unmoderated chats are risky
While the online chat feature can be censored to filter out the inappropriate language it is not password protected and children can easily turn the censor off with a click of a button. The chat is also unmoderated and people can speak about anything they like. There are also issues with language, and in the game, we have seen players using racial slurs and offensive language as usernames. Parents need to set firm ground rules around the use of the game, such as only allowing use in communal areas of the home and only allowing gameplay with real-life friends, or those their parents have approved. Kids can do this by selecting the ‘local’ option, creating a code and inviting their real-life friends to play. Kids should be instructed not to share this link with anyone outside their “real life” friends.
Watch out for in-app purchases. Source: supplied.
3 . In-app purchases are a concern
Removing ads and in-app purchases is difficult and the app has a button to restore in-app purchases (this cannot be done if the devices’ settings have been restricted with a passcode). The app also has pop-up ads after each game prompting players to use real-life money to upgrade their skins, pets and hats. It is important that parents speak to their children about protecting their personal information, understanding the consequences of in-app currency and making sure they don’t share it with anyone on any of their games.