Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 2021.
Featured Article: “With Nowhere to Go, Teens Flock to Among Us” by Taylor Lorenz
Among Us is a multiplayer game where four to 10 players are dropped onto an alien spaceship. Each player is designated a private role as a “crewmate” or an “impostor” — and millions of youths across the country have become hooked.
In this lesson, students will observe how The Times reports on a trend they probably know a great deal about. They will then make a case for why and how this game, or other social games like it, might be worthy of classroom time, especially during a disrupted school year when community-building is crucial.
Do you play Among Us? If you don’t, do you know people who do? What’s fun about it?
Has your experience of the game been like that of this student, who is quoted in the article you’re about to read?
“A few weeks ago I went from not hearing anything about it to hearing everything about it everywhere,” said Judah Rice, 16, a high school student in Texas. “People are texting about it, I know people who are on dedicated Discord servers and Among Us group chats. I have friends who get together all the time and play it.”
Before you read the piece, pretend you are a Times reporter who has been assigned to write an article for a mostly adult audience about the popularity of this game among teenagers. What are all of the things you would want and need to include? Why?
Make as long a list as you can, then, as you read, check off the details that appear both on your list and in the actual piece.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article. Then, answer the following questions:
1. When was Among Us created? Who does this piece credit with first making the game popular during quarantine?
2. Do you agree that it has become a “default social platform for young people stuck in quarantine”? How, when and where do you see people playing?
3. This article compares Among Us with other popular social games. How would you categorize it among the games you’ve played, whether video, board, family or party games? Which is it most similar to, which is it very different from, and why?
4. Have you made friends playing Among Us? Do you follow the “never-ending stream of Among Us-related content on the internet”? If so, what are the best Among Us memes you’ve seen?
5. Why, according to those quoted in this article, is this game fun to watch being played on Twitch? Do you agree?
6. How are people leveraging excitement about the game for political ends? Do you think this is a good idea?
7. How many of the details about this game and its popularity covered here were also on the list you made in the warm-up? What did you list that the journalist didn’t cover? What did she write about that you didn’t list? What did you think of the piece over all? Do you think it does a good job of capturing the game and why it’s so popular?
Option 1: Make a case to play a social game as a class.
Do your teachers think Among Us has no educational value? The students in Krisy Lawlor’s homeroom pod at the Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx beg to differ.
Ms. Lawlor is one of the 60 participants in The New York Times Teaching Project we are working with this year. She virtually meets her homeroom, a group of remote and blended learners, for 30-minute check-ins at the beginning and end of each day, and they sometimes play the game together.
Ms. Lawlor says that at a time when students especially need social-emotional support and community-building, the game is perfect. She asked her students why Among Us might not just be fun but also educational. Here is what they told her:
“You can strengthen your skills of observation. [For example:] Look out for dead bodies and open vents. It can also help your sportsmanship. You don’t want to act like a bad sport because you lost. You also don’t want to tease anyone just because they lost.” — Imani M.
“It can be good for the brain because it’s a logical puzzle.” — Sienna V.
“It’s like investigating.” — Alexa R.
“It can help students to be emotionally patient with their classmates and understand different perspectives. It can strengthen a student’s investigating skills and analytics. It triggers people’s logical curiosity. And you can learn how to create a claim and use the evidence to build your argument.” — Rana S.
“It can help you be more persuasive because you have to convince a person why you think the impostor is who it is. You have to have teamwork because you have to work with the people that you’re with and have trust.” — Anaashey C.
“You have to build trust in your teammates. If one person is saying ‘I think this happened because they found a dead body,’ you have to trust them because you all want to see who the impostor is.” — Anonymous
How and when might playing this game — or another social game, if you’d rather — fit into your school day? What case can you make for why this game should be played during class time now?
Option 2: Examine and suggest more reporting on teenage trends.
Choose one or more of these pieces, or find many more in our monthly Teenagers in The Times section, and examine them. Which do you think do the best job of reporting on teenage experiences? Why? What advice would you give adult journalists covering young people in general?
Finally, if you were advising a group of journalists who were interested in the trends among your friends and classmates, what might you tell them about? Why? How would you explain why the trend was important to teenagers? How would you explain what it might say about your generation and what it is experiencing now?
About Lesson of the Day