In a year where the majority of the nation has been under statewide quarantine, I think we’ve all been looking for activities that we used to do in our pre-COVID normal lives.

Like flicking beans or plotting the deaths of your friends and loved ones.

Every year there is a game or two that comes out of nowhere and takes over a big chunk of the streaming market. Last year, it was Apex Legends and the “revival” of Minecraft. The year before it was the rise and domination of Fortnite. And the year before that it was H1Z1, PUBG, and (also) Fortnite as battle royales took over the industry.

But you know what all of those games have in common, along with many of the titles that have been mainstays at the top of the Twitch charts for years? They’re all competitive games. Games where the sole goal of the game is to shoot, blow up, snipe, and kill your opponent until you or your team emerge victorious.

But you know what is not the goal of each of those games? Fun. Let’s take Counter-Strike as an example. Here is a GIF of the first 2 minutes of every CS:GO match.

Exhilerating. I mean, true talent on display right there.

To win in these games, you have to intentionally do things that are not fun. In CS:GO, that means staring at a choke point for 2-3 minutes hoping that someone walks through and you get the shot off first otherwise you’re stuck waiting until the next round. In battle royales, that means spending half the game looking for usable weapons, ammo, and materials instead of actually fighting other enemies. That’s not to say that these games are not fun; if they weren’t, no one would play them.But “having fun” is not the end goal of these games.

I had a friend as a kid that would throw a party at his house once every few months. 30-40 kids from school would come over, his parents would buy us all pizza, and everyone would split up and play games. One room would have a Gamecube with Dance Dance Revolution and Mario Party for the girls and their simps, another room had a Madden tournament for all the athlete hardos on PS2, and another room (my go-to) alternated between Mario Kart: Double Dash and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Now I’m not gonna lie to you, I walked into that room expecting to win every single game. That’s all I gave a fuck about. I wanted to win every race and every game of Smash. But all of those games really succeeded because of the emphasis on “having fun with your friends”. No one really likes to play Mario Kart by themselves instead of with 2-3 of their buds; it’s not as fun. Same goes for Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, DDR, Fuzion Frenzy, and many other party games.

And that is the element that has been missing in the gaming industry for a while, true party games where having fun and laughing is at the center of attention. And that is why Among Us and Fall Guys are crushing it on Twitch right now.

I’m gonna brag for a second: I knew Fall Guys would be a massive hit when it was first revealed at E3 2019. The premise seemed simple, the art style was bright and colorful, and while it was yet another battle royale I thought it had enough innovation to make its mark. Once I actually got my hands on the game in beta, everything I hoped came true. I play Fall Guys to win like everyone else does, but when I lose I can’t help but laugh. And when my friends lose and scream, I laugh even harder. I mean we’re a bunch of jellybeans dressed up like chicken and glizzys just flopping around an obstacle course with giant bananas and pink propellors. It’s fucking hysterical and it hooks you in even further by playing on your nostalgia for silly minigames found in Mario Party and Fusion Frenzy. Truly a genius move by Mediatonic and they have supported it with a great marketing and social media presence.

Among Us, on the other hand, completely came out of nowhere for me. Games like Mafia, Secret Hitler, and Town of Salem have always been a hit and Among Us just took that idea and put it into a video game. Add in a few simple and addicting minigames and you’ve got yet another hit. I’m honestly not sure how it was brought to light this year considering that it has been out for 2 years, but once it caught a spark it exploded onto the scene. Who knew lying to your friends and killing them in cold blood was so much fun? Well, I mean except Ted Bundy. He knew.

To me, one of the biggest things that has made Among Us such a success is the replayability. It reminds me of the replayability of Smash Bros; each game has the same premise but with unfold in a brand new way every single time. Sometimes the killers are really sneaky and good at covering up their kills, sometimes they pop out of a vent right in front of you. One match you may live the entire game, the next you may be the first killed. There are just so many outcomes and they change every time you play with new groups. And that right there is the recipe for success for any video game: keeping your players coming back every day to experience something new.

One last thing I want to point out: did you notice how both of these games are indies? Both of these massively successful titles that have made millions of dollars were made by small teams of 30 people or less and succeded almost solely because of innovative and addicting ideas. I’m telling you guys, indie games aren’t the future. They’re the now. Start paying attention to and investing in indie games guys. They’re better than 75% of the dogshit these AAA companies are spitting out.

Cover image by u/ArtConnorWright