A Classic Irishman takes his time to sus things out right

Among Us (2018)

I had problems with the Among Us game from the start. It’s a fully online game you see, and you know what that means – rooms upon rooms full of cretins, or children, which are practically the same thing. Have you ever wandered into a classroom and found yourself confronted by a room full of the dumbest looking Patrick Starfishes ever, all gawping back at you? Well, that’s what your typical Among Us room looks like.

Now, you can mitigate this risk of intellectual heartbreak by playing only with your friends via a private room and access code. Pretty simple concept really, but for a fellow who’s only been exposed to Nintendo’s online strategy, this type of thing is mindbending. We had it once in Pictochat, and then never again.

And I certainly did find myself in lots of private online rooms among friends in those awful (yet secretly terrific) days of lockdown. But even that didn’t sit right with me either, and I’d been wondering why. Among Us always seemed like a fun little game, so why did it make me uncomfortable? Well, I believe I’ve found the answer – it’s because I’m a classic Irishman.

As you can probably tell already, before I condescend to explain it to you, a classic Irishman is right up there in the patronising stakes with the Gaelgeoirí, that is, the Irish language speakers, and we really wear our superiority. I’m not talking about a badge of honour here now, badges are generally non-offensive. That’s just a nicer way to say “stereotype”, in a similar vein to how “ex-pat” is a whiter way of saying “immigrant”.

No, I’m talking about an umbrella of superiority, ready to gouge your eyes out, a pair of steel-capped boots prepared to give you a proper root up the hole. And there are two things that typify a classic Irishman’s behaviour, which I fear have been lost over the years in favour of, as a wise man put it, “personal stereos and higher education.”

Firstly, the Irish absolutely never cede to authority and will not respect it. And what can you expect? We had British boots on our necks for centuries, but we are a nation of rebels, and we fought to take our land back. Ah, well, most of it back, but this is the point – the Irish have such a wilful mistrust and resentment of authority and the rules that we will try to subvert them at any opportunity. This goes right the way up to the top of the public sector, by the way, which of course means nothing ever gets done -we may be world record holders in public sector malaise.

Secondly, the very worst thing you could be called in Ireland is a rat. To rat on your peers represents the final betrayal. It is sneaky, underhanded and it’s a method of cosying up to the hated authorities we discussed. The idea of someone ratting out a different household for scamming the social welfare, for example, or sticking a magnet beside the electricity metre, would be considered an unthinkable and unforgivable act, a real skinflint thing to do.

The Irish have historically been great at looking the other way and saying nothing, especially when a nice wad of banknotes are being surreptitiously placed into their hands. I’m a grudge-bearing man, you know, and I remember every single time some snivelling rat told the teacher on me. God, I’m not a violent revel like some of my countrymen, but I could have taken a knife to them, the same one they plunged in my back.

If only we’d had Among Us back then, eh? Although I still fear it’s not a game for the Irish. See, the deal is this – you’re put into a room of people (10 maximum, you shouldn’t bother with anything less than 8) and brought onto a spaceship, and it becomes a blue-team-red-team scenario: 9 of you must perform tasks around the ship to win, but the one remaining spacefarer is actually an imposter. Well, that’s not so bad, there are workplaces out there with a much higher lemming-to-loafer ratio than that.

Anyway, the Imposter is quietly sent to sabotage and murder as many of the bluesies as possible. What follows is quite literally a bit of murder, mystery and suspense, a game of intrigue, and you’re not able to communicate until a body is found or an emergency meeting is called.

Well, it sounds great, but for classic Irishmen like me it becomes torture to play. First of all, if you’re a regular worker drone, or “Crewmate”, then where does the game get off telling you to do tasks? Where’s the worker’s union on this? You won’t have even had a chance to get a cup of tea into you. It’s just busy work anyway, making you go all around the ship to download files or swipe cards or shoot down asteroids or other unfulfilling work.

You don’t have to do any of it to win, but the other way for Crewmates to emerge victorious is not much better, because it requires you to vote someone off the ship, quite literally firing them, spinning, into the dark abyss of space, and this conflicts heavily with that other Irish aversion to being a rat. Let me tell you, it doesn’t feel good writing out a case as to why red or purple or cyan should be ejected.

And it is just text commands, no voice chat here, one of many great decisions by the developers. It doesn’t matter that you just saw the Imposter brazenly murder someone in front of you, you shut up and say nothing. Trying to be the Atticus Finch of the room and calmly presenting all the facts just tends to backfire on you anyway, in a lady-doth-protest-too-much fashion, but you’ll get a great laugh out of people taking it all way too seriously and having a meltdown in the chat.

But it’s not any better when you get the role of Imposter either; if anything, it’s nerve-wracking. This might be tied to how the Irish are so set in our ways that we won’t try anything new, ever. Or perhaps it’s a morbid fear of being brought before righteous justice, by way of mammy’s wooden spoon, that inhibits us.

I’ll go against the Irish grain here by doing a complete about-face and changing my outlook, rather than staying completely stuck in my ways. All I’ve done is moan about Among Us up until now, but quite honestly, I think this is a brilliant little game. The graphics are simple but effective, you have a great deal of customisation over the room’s rules and even your appearance, and you really do get into it and involved, like any good murder mystery, I suppose.

Best of all, it’s playable on absolutely everything, maybe even your smart fridge one day (most un-Irish – this type of conspicuous consumption is what we would refer to as “having notions”) and it’s fully cross-platform too. It’s quite a feat of programming, really. It probably became famous because some green-haired fool played it for 10 million braying morons on YouTube or Twitch, but who cares? Just because they’re Imposters, doesn’t mean you have to be.

21 February 2023

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