It had to happen sooner or later. This week, I finally gave in and plunked down the five bucks so my kids could play Among Us on Switch with their friends. I had held out for so long due to my aversion to allowing my kids into online chat situations; I've had enough bad experiences with game chat that I wanted to keep my kids far, far away from anything that even vaguely resembled an open chat room.
I needn't have worried. Launched in 2020 on Switch, Among Us employs a smart little interface that allows players to communicate the basic ideas of the game - accusations, claims of innocence, pointing out that someone is "sus" - through a nifty series of dialogue wheels. You can't actually talk, and you can't actually hear anyone else, which makes Among Us a perfect social deduction game for the pre-teen set. Being a dad that doesn't want my seven-year-old called every name and slur in the book, I'm pretty happy with this design.
But, the Switch does leave a bit to be desired when it comes to what my kids really want to do, which is play Among Us with their friends. All these kids have Switches, and as we all know, Switch - awesome as it is - doesn't have anything remotely like voice chat. This left my kids with the question of how to communicate with their little friends while playing.
Turns out, all of these kids have Fire tablets as well, which allows them to all hop on a group chat, something like a Zoom call for 9-year-olds. My daughter sits at our dining room table, with her Switch next to her propped-up tablet, and she and the other kids all howl at each other for hours on end about who is the imposter, who is the crewmate, and who has the best pet.
No one suggested that the kids get on a call since they can't chat through Switch - they just kinda did it one afternoon. There seems to be little consideration for keeping the game's secrets among friends. I regularly hear my daughter scream "I'm the imposter! Look out! I'm coming to get you!" to her friends, who all scream in unison while their little characters scatter on the screen. They aren't playing the game right, but whatever, they are having fun.
Woe be it to any serious Among Us players that get plopped into a game with this gaggle of tablet children, as they don't seem to follow any rhyme or reason when it comes to the game's voting system. They regularly use their voting block powers to hurl innocent people into space, just because they don't like the character's name or their color. Crew members and imposters alike gang up on strangers, and argue bitterly in the game's simple chat system, often against their own interests. It's weird, but pretty funny to watch.
I'm glad that my daughter isn't playing a game with in-game chat, and I'm glad that she found a way to work together with her friends to enjoy Among Us, even if they are totally breaking the game for others. On these long, cold days, this gives the kids something to do to keep them busy, and she has shown me when playing by herself that she really does understand how the game works.
Still though, if you run into a gang of Among Us characters all dressed like chefs (each with a ham for a pet), look out. They don't care about the game's rules, and they are all cheering for your death on an Amazon tablet Zoom chat.