Online problem-solving role-playing game Among Us has taken the world by storm. In this reader submission, Lecturer Flora D Floris and colleagues from Indonesia’s Petra Christian University suggest four activities that teachers can use to incorporate the game into their English classrooms.
Among Us is a multiplayer game developed by Innersloth that was released in June 2018, but rose to fame in 2020, just when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Google Play Store data from December show it had garnered over 100 million downloads and it was the number one game downloaded from the Apple Store last year (Webster, 2020).
Among Us is set on one of three locations: a spaceship, above-Earth base, or planet base. The game follows the story of a spaceship crew trying to get by in their voyage, only to find that there is a parasitic shapeshifter – an impostor – among them. There can be a total of 10 players in an online game, with up to three impostors.
Players are given either one of these two roles: crewmate or impostor. As a crewmate, a player has to go around completing tasks. As an impostor, a player has to pretend to do the assigned tasks while going around killing crewmates. If a body is discovered, a crewmate can call an emergency meeting to figure out who the imposter is. The game ends when the impostor is found.
The benefits of multiplayer games
Multiplayer games, in general, offer the potential to be used in English classrooms. The game format automatically provides a linguistically rich and cognitively challenging virtual environment. Meeting and playing with global players in a real-world English language environment exposes learners to natural speech, a wide variety of Englishes, and various basic language functions – such as asking and answering questions, sharing items or locations, praising, and warning.
Studies have shown that having an immersive experience in a fun, informal, and interactive digital space is conducive to English language learning (Sylvén & Sundqvist, 2012). Among Us has some distinctive features compared to some other multiplayer games, and these features bring added benefits to its use in English classrooms:
- It is suitable for a class setting, as it can be played by up to 10 people. Depending on the class size, the teacher can assign students into groups to play the game in multiple rounds.
- Each game round lasts roughly five to 20 minutes. It does not take a long time to play, so it will not disturb the class.
- Among Us is rated 7+ on the Play Store and Everyone (E) on Apple Store. It is labelled as non-threatening; thus, it is suitable for some younger students.
- The game requires a lot of social interaction and deduction skills. Each player needs to be able to verbally express their thoughts about who the imposter is and defend themselves if they’re suspected as the imposter. In addition, all players need to work together to win the game or figure out who the villain is.
Suggestions for classroom activities
Though many teachers might be aware that multiplayer games such as Among Us can help students in their English language learning, weaving the game into English lessons can be tricky. Here are four fun ideas for how teachers can incorporate Among Us into their English classrooms (similar ideas might be applicable to any other multiplayer games).
- Prior to this assignment, the teacher has discussed the features of descriptive writing.
- The teacher assigns the students into groups depending on the class size and asks each group to play Among Us for a round (maximum 20 minutes).
- The game must be recorded and saved.
- One of the impostors and one of the crewmates also need to take notes of important things that happened or the strategies that they employed.
- After playing (and recording the game), the next assignment is to come up with a piece of descriptive writing about the gaming experience from the impostors’ and the crewmates’ points of view. The writing is based on the recording and the notes taken during the game.
- Students will then submit the recording and their writings to the teacher.
- The teacher refers to a recording of people playing Among Us (such recordings can be found easily via YouTube).
- The teacher asks the students to watch the video and pay attention to the expressions used when the gamers are having a discussion to find the imposter.
- The teacher then asks the students to note down the expressions that they have noticed from the video.
- A classroom discussion follows.
- As a final follow-up activity, ask the students to either: Create a short conversation (or role play) in which the characters use the expressions that they have learned; or play the game and use the expressions that they have learned (the game playing should be recorded and submitted to the teacher).
- There are some online articles about Among Us. The teacher chooses one or two articles for a reading lesson.
- The teacher asks the students to find the main ideas, specific information, complex vocabularies, etc., based on the selected reading text.
For a writing class, the teacher can ask the students to write either:
- A compare-and-contrast essay about Among Us and another popular multiplayer game.
- A narrative or descriptive essay describing their experience in playing Among Us.
- A poster presenting some tips for playing Among Us. (As an alternative, the teacher can ask the students to generate tips for an imposter or crewmate only).
Many academics agree that multiplayer games provide a meaningful context for language use, encourage students to communicate, and help students sustain their interest and effort to learn a target language.
In making the above suggestions for how to bring Among Us into your classroom, we argue that language learning and gaming can go together, and using gaming to support learning in the classroom is not a waste of time.
Innersloth. (2020). Among Us. https://www.innersloth.com/gameAmongUs.php.
Sylvén, L. K., & Sundqvist, P. (2012). Gaming as extramural English L2 learning and L2 proficiency among young learners. ReCALL, 24(3), 302-321.
Webster, A. (2020, December 2). Zoom and Among Us dominate Apple’s most downloaded charts in 2020. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/12/2/21890489/apple-iphone-ipad-most-downloaded-2020-chart-zoom-among-us.
Have you ever considered using multiplayer games in your classroom? Is this something your students are interested in outside of school? If you’ve used these kinds of games before, what learning outcomes did you hope to achieve and was the experience successful?