Posted by: Jasmyn Barkley | November 30, 2021

“Among Us” and Pre-Photography Crime Investigation

This may be the most absurd connection I’ve ever made, but I think there are fascinating parallels between the multiplayer video game “Among Us” and pre-photography investigation. For those who don’t know, Among Us is a game in which each player is a uniquely-colored alien (each color of the rainbow is available, plus black, white, and brown, but no two players can be the same color) aboard a spaceship. At the beginning of each game, one or two players out of the group are randomly assigned the role of “impostor,” which only they are notified of. The impostor’s role is to kill all the other players. The other players’ roles are to figure out who the impostor is and eject them from the spaceship before they are all dead.

As I think is generally expected, this results in an atmosphere of paranoia, suspicion, and defensiveness, as crewmates and impostors alike try to convince each other of their innocence. What I think connects this to the Victorian era is that there are no cameras in this game; the only evidence that anyone can present is either eyewitness testimony or a very convincing alibi. The result: if you don’t have a ready explanation of where you were and why when the body was discovered, if no one can corroborate your absence from the scene, or if someone saw you in the area shortly before discovering a body, there is little you can do to defend yourself. This is a game in which innocent players are considered suspicious enough that they get ejected, and impostors are completely capable of diverting attention for long enough to win.

I’m fascinated by this game as a potential representation of how people act under such circumstances. Of course, real life is much more complicated, but when you boil it down to its fundamentals, I’d guess that crime and investigation looks very similar–especially without the benefit of cameras. It’s difficult to prove anything when surveillance is nonexistent. Not impossible, but difficult; and I wonder how many times a situation like this played out in criminal investigations before photography became widely used to surveil and document people.

Essentially, limited visuality can have interesting consequences. On the one hand, we have witnesses (“I saw Orange in the hallway walking away from the body!”), but on the other hand, there is rarely any actual visual proof. It’s complicated, because what people say they saw in this case becomes the most important thing, in which case we are still relying on visual evidence to reach a conclusion; however, it is distinctly unreliable, and there is a painfully conspicuous lack of objective data. It’s a complicated situation, and while it can’t exactly reflect any real-life event, I think this dual nature of visuality–both important and unreliable–is exemplified by Among Us, but applicable to reality as well. It calls into question what we trust, and what we choose to believe, especially when technology has failed or is absent from the scenario.

Of course, it also calls into question whether any of this matters, since lots of people are going to die either way.


Responses

  1. Hi Jasmyn,

    This is a super cool post, and I wanted to say that I love the parallels you draw, especially the line on how the game of Among Us allows us to “question what we trust, and what we choose to believe, especially when technology has failed or is absent from the scenario.” While not too familiar with the game, I think what you say is really important in the discussion on where technology stands as becoming irrefutable evidence, and how we function in its absence. It’s interesting to look at how integral it has become in things like criminal investigations, where its absence seems absurd and unsettling!

  2. Jasmyn, I think your blog post hits the nail on the head in terms of visuality and reliability. I wonder how much we can truly rely on cameras or videographic surveillance to prevent/document/prosecute crime.


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