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What is the game 'Among Us' and how do you play? Here's what parents should know

OK, it's all about murder and deception. But there's teamwork and cooperation, too!
/ Source: TODAY

It's a classic version of a whodunnit mystery with an outer space twist.

If your kids are playing the wildly popular game "Among Us," chances are you've heard them debating who the impostor is while discussing ways to keep from getting killed by the other players.

It may sound treacherous, but what is "Among Us" and is it safe? TODAY Parents chatted with experts about the game and came up with answers to some of the questions moms and dads may be asking about the online trend.

What is "Among Us?"

"Among Us" is an online multiplayer game created by developer InnerSloth in 2018. The game saw a boost in popularity in 2020 due to TikTok and YouTube gamers posting videos of themselves playing along. U.S. representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar further boosted the game's popularity recently when they shared a live stream of themselves playing the game on the online streaming service Twitch.

The game can be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores for free, or purchased on the online gaming platform Steam for $5.

How to play 'Among Us'

Players join in groups of between four and ten players, either online or through their local Wi-Fi connection, to perform tasks on a spaceship, sky headquarters or planet base. The problem? One player is an alien impostor out to murder everyone, and it's up to the rest of the group to determine who it is.

"Among Us" is a game where players try to identify a murderous alien impostor.
"Among Us" is a game where players try to identify a murderous alien impostor.InnerSloth

As players complete tasks to repair the ship or base and get the crew back home, the impostor attempts to kill others while concealing their identity. Players can call emergency meetings to discuss who they think is the impostor and why, and once a suspect is voted off, the remaining crew can learn whether their guess was correct. This continues until either the impostor is identified or the innocent crew members are killed.

The game is fairly simple and straightforward, making it easy for even the not-so-screen-savvy parent to learn and play alongside their child.

What should parents know?

Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that helps parents navigate raising kids in the digital age, suggests kids be at least 10 years old to play "Among Us," due to some of the themes of trickery involved.

"'Among Us' is focused around the concept of deception, where users act as imposters scattered through a crew of explorers that attempt to kill or sabotage everyone's efforts in order to succeed," said Jeff Haynes, a senior web and video game editor at Common Sense Media. "On its surface, the game’s concept may sound negative, but the action is cartoonish and humorous in nature, and the game does foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation as players try to complete their tasks."

In short, kids should be old enough to understand the difference between hiding their identity in an online game and telling lies in real life if they're going to play.

Is the game safe?

While the general concept of "Among Us" is fairly simple, parents should watch out for the unmoderated online players.

"Parents should be aware that 'Among Us' is unmoderated," Haynes told TODAY Parents. "Users can use voice chat or typed chat in the lobby, before a match starts or during meetings, which could potentially expose kids to profane or sexually inappropriate comments and content."

There's also no supervision when it comes to other players' usernames.

"Users can name their avatar racist, homophobic or offensive names as well," said Haynes. "We recommend that parents exercise caution to minimize kids’ exposure to violent or offensive content."

"While there's currently no mechanism in the game to make sure kids are only playing with their friends in private groups, parents can make that a family rule and supervise sessions to ensure kids follow it."