Trackside Teen Center has brought the popular online game, Among Us, to life.
Among Us is an online multiplayer game that gained popularity with teens and pre-teens last fall. The game is set on a spaceship with multiple rooms where players complete specific tasks. Players are assigned to the roles of ‘Imposter’ or ‘Crewmate’. Crewmates complete tasks around the ship and try to identify the Imposters, who are secretly trying to kill the Crewmates before they can complete their tasks.
Trackside Program Director John Priest was first introduced to the online version of the game by one of Trackside’s high school volunteers. They soon put together an Among Us club, where kids played on separate devices but sat masked and socially distant. The club was successful but Priest wanted to find ways to make Trackside activities more interactive.
“I was looking at them playing and at the spaceship in the game, and I started looking around at Trackside and thought, ‘You know, this is kind of laid out like a ship, it’s got little rooms and passageways…,’” Priest said, explaining his inspiration for the live version.
“I started talking to a few kids about it and I could see their eyes light up and I said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do a live version of this.’”
Along with Priest, Trackside’s Director of Development and Operations Cindy Moser, and Program Coordinator Tracy Dean have transformed the teen center’s building into an Among Us spaceship, bringing the game out of the internet and into real life.
Every aspect of the game has been replicated. Each room at Trackside has been transformed into a “task room.” Players are given task cards and wear colored aprons that match the colored characters in the online game. In the digital version, players crawl through air vents to get from room to room. The unique layout of the Trackside building has allowed Priest and his team to recreate these secret passageways to make the game as realistic as possible. During the daytime games, Trackside’s windows are completely blacked out to create the complete spaceship effect.
Priest, a Wilton parent and Middlebrook Middle School teacher, has seen firsthand the effects of too much screen time on kids.
In school, he said, “Kids’ eyes are shot, they’re always on their computer… You walk in and you see kids behind screens just melting away.”
Witnessing his students’ lost personal connections has been just as frustrating for Priest.
“As a self-professed kid myself I just knew that live is live, and hearing people’s voices–even if you don’t ‘see’ their voices [under masks]–is so important,” he added.
Priest gathered inspiration from Youtube videos from other people who had created similar live-action Among Us games. Once he had a plan, he played a successful trial game with his own middle school daughters and then decided to open it to the public.
“I’m just trying to take what they’ve immersed themselves in digitally and bring it live because they need the live so much,” Priest said.
The result has been rewarding. Priest told GMW that he has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from parents who are grateful that their kids have a fun and safe way to get out of the house. He hopes to recruit more high schoolers and thinks that clubs and sports teams could benefit from playing the game as a team-building activity.
Priest hopes to continue running game sessions through March and possibly during the April school break, but transforming Trackside into the Among Us spaceship requires a lot of time-intensive prep work. He is recruiting high schoolers who may be interested in helping set up and run Among Us events (interested candidates can email Priest directly).
Playing the game is open to Trackside members at a cost of $20. Basic membership costs $25 per year.
Games usually take place on Fridays from 6:30-9:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 3-5:30 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m. Priest said spots tend to sell out within the first few hours after new dates are posted. To learn more and sign up, check the Trackside website for more Among Us game dates.