Among Us But It’s On Netflix
This is part four of an ongoing series of brainstorms dissecting death games from Netflix’s Alice in Borderland. Major spoilers for the whole show. Start from Part 1 here.
As the show goes on and the plot becomes more intricate, the death games take a backseat to the character relationships and conflicts. The final death game even makes up the entirety of the last two episodes.
That being said, there is still some interesting info that we can dissect from the final two games. Let’s get into it:
Game 9: Light Bulb
As you can see from the image above, the players are all in a room, slowly filling with water. A lightbulb hangs in an adjacent room that is also filling with water. Above the players, several electrical wires are hanging down, which will electrocute the players if they don’t answer a question correctly. After being given the playing card game category, 4 of Spades (Mental), the narrator describes the rules:
- One switch will turn on the light bulb in the other room.
- You can only flip one of the switches when the door is open.
- The door cannot be closed when someone is in the room with the lightbulb.
To win the game, they must SAY which switch turns on the light bulb.
How to Survive
This is probably the most straightforward “critical-thinking” puzzle in the entire show. There aren’t really any sneaky trick phrasings or secret murderers in the room. However, it may be straightforward for me because it’s the same problem that I remember reading in a “critical-thinking” puzzle book I had when I was a kid. Yes, I was always a nerd. Surprise!
Much like the show's side characters realize, they could take a shot in the dark by just flipping the switch with the door open. If they are wrong, then they have to guess between the two other switches. This plan has a 66% chance of success ( 33% chance the first switch is right plus 50% of 66% chance between the other two.)
However, they could raise their odds to 100% by turning on a switch with the door closed and wait a bit. By doing this, the lightbulb itself will heat up, and they will know if it was on without the door needing to be open.
Game Design Potential
This is basically an escape room-type puzzle. Solve the riddle, and you may pass. Speak friend and enter.
A limitation to this puzzle is that someone can only play it through once. Any repeat playthroughs would result in a boring and trivial exercise of turning a switch, checking, and be done with it. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Several fantastic puzzle games really only need to be played through once. Return of the Obra Dinn and What Remains of Edith Finch jump to my mind.
But, I can’t really extract too many game design principles from the game itself. The time limit helps raise the tension and panic, but that really is all there is to it. Actually, now that I type this out, I do like the idea that they all have to agree on the puzzle solution. There is panic and doubt when it comes to a mob decided on a complicated riddle. If you ever want to see how someone really does under pressure, go to an escape room with them. You’ll see how patient you both are in a stressful situation.
Game 10: Witch Hunt
This is the big one. The final two episodes of the series and everything has come to this final game: the Ten of Hearts. Without going too deep into the narrative, the two main protagonists have joined a large commune of people working together to find all the cards. However, the ten of hearts has still not been found. For reference, the last time the protagonist played a Hearts game, both of his best friends died, and he was left a complete wreck (See part 2 if you haven’t already read the breakdown.)
And the big twist with the Ten of Hearts? The commune’s entire base gets converted into a game arena, and all 58 members are participating.
The rules? It’s Among Us. Mostly.
The entire compound is told to meet together in the main lobby. One of their teammates lay dead with a knife in her heart. The players are told the following:
“The murderous witch who killed this girl is hiding among you. The witch role is not limited to a woman. To clear the game, you must find the witch and burn them in the Fire of Judgement.”
By the way, the fire of judgment is a massive bonfire outside.
How To Survive
This game is a doozy to break down because it is two hours of a death game where it is all about the character relationships and conflicts built up within the group of players. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t really care about all that because I’m trying to look at the game mechanics and how I can apply them to all sorts of players, not just ones that have to know each other for a while.
The scummy players took the violent and lazy approach and began to just murder everyone and toss them into the fire.
The tactful players did the obvious thing and analyzed the crime scene. After dodging the murderous players for an hour, they were able to analyze the knife and find that the fingerprints were in a reverse grip. The dead girl had killed herself.
The murderous witch was also the victim.
Game Design Potential
I absolutely love social deception games like Among Us. I pride myself on being a very honest and sometimes blunt person. I do not lie in real life as a matter of principle. However, when it’s part of a game, all bets are off, and I can lie to my heart’s content. Don’t get me wrong, I refuse to cheat, but if lying is an integral part of the game, I’m all for it. There are classics like Mafia, BS, or Werewolves. There are some newer games like Secret Hitler (or Palpatine), Sheriff of Nottingham, and Resistance. While all have fun mechanics, none of these games have the interesting mechanic of the victim being the murderer.
While it doesn’t quite work with Among Us because more and more people are killed throughout the game(they can’t all be killing themselves, unless…). The possibility that there is no real killer adds an extra layer to the game. Imagine a mechanic where if all the players agree that there is no killer in the game. As I type this out, I realize there is one game that I’ve played with this possibility: One Night Werewolves.
One Night Werewolves is sort of a variant game on classic werewolves. Instead of having multiple rounds where one person dies each night, there is only one single night. The villagers either catch a werewolf or they lose. This allows more rapid and chaotic games due to varying possible abilities and roles each player can have. However, when dealing out the players' roles, 3 of the roles are left out of the game. There is only two werewolves card in the deck so there is a small chance that there will be no bad guys in a game. If the whole group agrees, they can decide that there are no werewolves among them. I’ve played hours and hours of this game, and I think only once has a group been able to vote a peaceful end to the game successfully.
Also, can you imagine playing a single game of Among Us with 57 other players?!? And only one imposter!?! I think there is definitely an interesting game type that has yet to be explored. With the base Among Us mechanics, it would be way too hard for the imposter but with a little tweaking, I think it could create a chaotic and fun game. Basically Among Us Battle Royale. There would need to be a way to frame people. Maybe improve the chaoticness of the sabotage abilities. Maybe it’d need to be more like the Belko Experiment? Nah, that would be getting too much into Battle Royale with too little Among Us. But it still works on the assumption that people will inherently not trust others. The more distrust, the easier the game would be for the imposter.
Why? Why do humans struggle to trust each other? Most of these death games could be solved by everyone working together calmly and methodically. But why do humans fail almost every time? Because we humans struggle to trust people when there is a chance to be betrayed. No one likes to be betrayed. No one likes to be a fool. Most would rather distrust and be wrong than trust someone and be wrong. Vulnerability versus isolation. And that is a base principle that the gamemasters use throughout the death games in Alice in Borderland. They assume humans will inherently be scummy players. And that right there is the gamemaster’s weakness. That’s what you will need to exploit most when you are in the Borderlands.
I had a lot of fun breaking down these death games. While not every game was a brilliantly constructed masterpiece, I extracted some gold from each one. I hope you have enjoyed this sort of stream of consciousness research notes because I know I have.
I dunno… definitely another death game analysis though. But when I do choose the next one, it’s going to be the link below. Also, comment below if you have any recommendations on death games I should analyze next.
Also, if you want to play some fun non-death games with friends, here is a review of some fantastic party games: