Among Us: 2020 Sus

If you aren’t familiar with the trending game Among Us, I think it’s worth finding out more about, because I think its viral-ity comes at this particular time (summer 2020) for specific reasons in the collective unconscious. It is an indie game made by a small creator, not a big gaming company. It has been around for a few years, but only now went super viral. I wanna look at why it exploded so huge they cancelled a sequel.

In Among Us, you play in a self-explanatory group game of ten people. You are astronauts arriving at an abandoned space ship and fixing it back up. Each of you has a set of trivial tasks to do. They’re tiny minigames like connecting 4 pairs of dots or swiping a card through a reader. If you do, you win. But there’s a catch: one of you is an Imposter, an assassin bent on killing everyone. Each time a dead body is found or an emergency button is pressed, a meeting is called and somebody is voted off the ship and thrown into space.

Simple enough? It’s a digital variant of a game many of us played when we were young called something like “assassin”, where heads would go down, an assassin would pick somebody to die, and the group had to identify who it was.

Why now? The game has been around but few played it. Suspend your disbelief and assume for a moment my frame of reference: I like to think there are almost no coincidences like this in the world, only complex patterns we fail to identify. I tend to think at least most viral things go viral for a reason, and that reason has to do with the online humanity at the time, even if we never do discover why a thing gets popular.

Right now Americans are roped in the drama of another political election, a massive high stakes game of deciding who to trust. We’ve had a terrible year, with members of society reporting each other and covering their faces with masks. We have had violent riots and a breakdown in many formerly-civil public discourses. After a rough summer, many people are looking for something to settle down and tune out even while paying attention to the news. Perhaps they’ve already decided who they’ll vote for and put it out of mind. 2020 has been a long year filled with looking for who to blame, and it has torn down our ability to trust each other and anything, and we have been desperate for a way to cope with it.

Enter Among Us. Twitch streamers started playing it in the early phase of 2020 but critical mass was hit right as the summer was ending and all of a sudden almost everybody I know online is playing this little 5 dollar game. It’s FUN, but so are a lot of games. Seriously go play it some. If you like, you can try playing with friends! It’s a barrel full of laughs. Go look up YouTubers playing it if you’re coming totally from the outside.

I think Among Us is what we needed. We needed a childhood game to serve as a simulator of being betrayed or literally back-stabbed. Those worth their salt in the psychological professions will tell you that exposure therapy is one of the most effective ways at helping people overcome their mental challenges – their fears and phobias. We’re SO TIRED of 2020 we don’t want to think about it anymore. And yet, we’re looking for a “new normal”, a new way to look at the world that isn’t discouraging and can help us move forward in spite of the fears. Having a videogame where you do it is a good way to practice.

Maybe I’m optimistic, but I like to think Among Us is going to have a massive positive dampening effect on the culture. I think in time there will be less incentive to protest in the streets. Maybe we can’t ignore the challenges of trusting other people in news and media any longer, and need an easy way to start doing it. Maybe we need to practice working together in spite of things we fear. Maybe we need to bond with friends or even total strangers as we take turns in a group being a devious monster and then laughing about it.

Don’t be a POTP

Part of the problem with being part of the problem is that you cause part of the problem and that’s problematic.

Ears bleeding yet? Good. (unless you still like the words, in which case I’ll spam it some more until you don’t. Surely this is a good way to acquire a readership!)

Politics ruins everything, and it’s all the other side’s fault. We hate them, and we’re justified in it because everything that’s going wrong is their fault. Believe us, we’re on your side so obviously we’re credible. If only us reasonable people had more power surely we’d finally be able to deal with POTP (P*rt of the Pr*bl*m). So buy our product, support our creators, subscribe to our news, boycott all of theirs, and vote for our guy (again?), and you can have hope that there will finally be a change for the better.
Hey now, don’t be cynical! If you’re not with us you’re against us.
Don’t be a POTP.


Right now there’s a lot of quiet consensus that something in the United States of America has gone wrong. There’s a lot of debate and disagreement as to what it might be, but everybody is looking for a pattern. You’ll find there are a couple themes among the different theories, just waiting to seduce you. You’ll also find the pattern isn’t new, and that instances of the pattern crop up in every industry, niche, and subculture. Almost independent of which theme seduces you, you’ll have PROOF* your theory is correct.
*which many people will totally reject

I have a theory that everything will be okay. Eventually.
If you’re capable of suspending disbelief, you might agree with me, and you might understand people a little bit better. You might find there are a few things you didn’t yet know about what you knew. But you’re gonna have to trust me, and we’ll get to why.

Let’s start from the beginning.
Things in life are complicated, man. I mean really, really, no-word-suffices complicated. Like there are so many things you and I don’t know, and don’t know we don’t know about, that it’s existentially frightening. That’s like the whole premise of Lovecraftian horror. Dungeons and Dragons finally went mainstream the year after that genre was injected into it, so there’s undeniably gotta be something to it. I’m sorry to say it, but many of those who aren’t bothered by it probably naively haven’t thought about it enough. But it can be OK once you’ve been spooked, we just have to learn how to process that reality day to day.

It’s just an example, you don’t have to read At the Mountains of Madness to appreciate horror movies or the dread of something equivalent to having left the stove on. Humorously, if you actually did leave the stove on, it might actually be ok and not cost you the house. That’s actually pretty close to what I’m getting at here. It’s a bit like we’re living in a time where everyone is so obsessed with whether the stove is on that they are neglecting the other crucial things in life and becoming mentally unstable and scaring people away by screaming at their friends, and making the few not scared away just as crazed. Some threats are real, but the personal threat is likely not, and inability to distinguish between your life and another place results in a distorted worldview that blindsides us constantly.

This wouldn’t be a huge pr*bl*m but for so many bad actors legitimizing scary worldviews for their own benefit at the expense of listeners. It’s an easier path to notoriety to scare other people than actually providing something positive, and too many of us exploit fear, unconsciously or otherwise. (it’s not simply “media”!) It’s all of us, making us spiral downward if we don’t resist it. Try going viral on social media by being optimistic. It’s harder.

Our bodies are divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems; I’ve touched on this before. We’re driven by forces of fear away from things and pleasure towards things. If you’re not posting outrage or porn your luck going viral will be harder. One of things everyone needs to remain mentally healthy, which nobody seems to be getting, is a workout and balance of these systems. In some sense, courage tends to be an outgrowth of mental health, and cowardice the opposite. We need restraint on our concerns much like restraint on our desires. We need to have a fear to face – were it not so we’d avoid all discomfort and wouldn’t consume horror as an entertainment genre. Yet we’re living lives too comfortable at home and letting world news be our horror, which is unwise because it’s not a book you can close. Somebody in another state tragically died of [terrible avoidable thing]! You know people in other states, what if it happened to them!?

So what is to be done? If we’re going to move to a better place, we have to stop spreading fear in each other and start spreading faith in each other. This takes courage to make more courage. One of the ways to establish trust is to risk being the first to lower your weapons. It’s that risk taking in order to “prove oneself” that defines the brave and heroes. We have to start giving people who hate us (read: are afraid) reasons to trust us.

Too often we are afraid to lower our weapons because we feel that’s surrender or that opens ourselves to being shot. What i’m trying to convey is it does. It wouldn’t be brave if there wasn’t a real risk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So try sending friendly private messages to your enemies seeking common ground. I’ve done so and often they return their own compliment and suddenly we can talk. This is the way forward and I strongly advise you to try it. Whenever you are in a conflict and people are putting up walls or talking past each other, don’t block or mute. DM or follow. Lean in, step forward into no-man’s-land, and see what happens. Maybe you’ll step on a figurative landmine. But there’s a much higher chance you’ll cause a ceasefire. In time you might even dispel the riots and mobs.

Takeaway

We need more heroes. It starts with me and it starts with you. It isn’t simply naive to try, it’s focusing on the light on the other side of darkness. We must first recognize that people begin in naive ignorance, and understand the evils of the world, and then make a gamble and act with a positive outlook anyway. The cynical and “blackpilled” don’t see a difference, but it’s not naive to be optimistic when you know the world is burning. That takes paying attention first, then inner strength to gamble yourself second.

We need to increase trust. We need to be as honest as we can be, give our adversaries credit for what they get right, and talk to them one-on-one. We must discourage inflammatory behavior in our peers and risk losing them.
If we can do this, we’ll find others like us or braver, who we can trust. We’ll find more opportunities to build something, we’ll decrease hate and anger, and we’ll be able to root out rot in our systems. We’ll win friends and begin to form growing, merging, and solidifying bubbles of peace.

Also, if you don’t share this article, you’re part of the problem. *wink*