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Among Us vs. Pretend - When is a knockoff game too close to the original?

(Image Credit: Innersloth (left) / whitesquare (right))
(Image Credit: Innersloth (left) / whitesquare (right))
Izaak
ANALYST
Modified 18 Nov 2020, 01:07 IST
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A new game on Steam called Pretend looks suspiciously similar to Among Us, with many people calling the game a ripoff or clone.

The explosive success of Among Us has inspired clones and adaptations on the game to come out in force. But when is a game that takes inspiration from Among Us a clone or knockoff, and when is it something new and inspired?

The phenomenon of the media clone

Whenever something in any medium becomes big and successful, there is almost always something else suspiciously similar made to capitalize on its success. Anyone who has walked through the movie aisles of any store that still sells physical movies will probably have seen one of these.

For example, at the time when Micheal Bay’s Transformers movies were regular box office hits, an opportunist producer created the film Transmorphers, pictured below.

(Image Credit: The Asylum)
(Image Credit: The Asylum)

With gaming, this particular trend seems to be mostly limited to indie games and mobile markets, and with good reason. Developing a game can often take a long time and require the production of assets, engines, animations, voice work, and so on, all of which make cloning a game a difficult process.

Any development team big enough to clone a popular game probably doesn’t want to risk a lawsuit and would be better off creating their own game, whereas any team small enough to consider cloning a game likely won’t have the capability to actually create a convincing one.

The fine line of artistic inspiration and where Among Us fits in

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Small indie mobile games like Among Us however, can achieve global success with minimal assets and a small development team. With just three developers responsible for creating Among Us, it’s an easy target for opportunists to copy, especially with most of the design work done for them.

Because the biggest strength for Among Us is how all of its features work together, copying them and applying different map designs, skins, animations, and so on has the potential to actually be successful, clone or not.

With Pretend, it’s impossible to avoid the comparisons with Among Us. While it’s difficult to say exactly where the line between inspiration and theft lies, it’s entirely fair to suggest that Pretend has crossed that line. In their own trailer, Pretend features animations, character models, tasks, and more that have exact parallels to Among Us.

But why should players care?

From a player’s perspective, it might seem like there isn’t too much of a reason to care if Among Us gets cloned, as they can simply play the clone they like best. If the moral arguments aren’t persuasive enough, then consider this: if the best part of a game is what it stole from another game, then what does it actually offer?

The modern realm of gaming and game development doesn’t end with release. A game’s actual release is really more of a next step in its development, and with Among Us, the developers have already shown their commitment to improving and adding new content to the game.

Clones, by their very nature, require less effort and tend to be indicative of lazy design. It will be difficult to imagine a developer who would rather copy the work of others putting in the time or effort to make their game better when they didn’t even bother to make their game different.

Pretend wasn’t the first Among Us clone, and it won’t be the last, but it is a perfect example for understanding why clones get made and what effect they can have on the general picture.

Published 18 Nov 2020, 01:07 IST
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