Sophie Reviews – Papers, Please
Papers, Please is one of the best games I’ve ever played when it comes to moral dilemmas. I’ve spent hours fretting over my decisions in game, and even after I’ve finished a session, I’m haunted by my choices. And that’s precisely what makes this game so damn good.
This is a condensed version of her spoken review of Papers, Please:
Papers, Please, released on August 8, 2013 and developed by Lucas Pope, a former developer for Naughty Dog, is set in the fictional Soviet-style country of Arstotzka. You the player have just won the job lottery, and are the country’s newest border control bureaucrat. Basically your job is to check the documents of returning citizens and visitors to the country, and either deny or allow their application for entry. It doesn’t sound like a very interesting concept, but the beauty of this game is in its ability to completely immerse you in your situation.
The gameplay itself is pretty simple: you receive someone’s travel documents on your desk, inspect them for discrepancies, and either stamp them as approved or denied based on what you find. Each successful applicant earns you 10 credits, which you use to feed and house your family. Each mistake you make will mean you forfeit your pay for that applicant. That’s literally what you do all day as border control – look at papers, and stamp documents. To accompany this bizarre memory game, is Papers, Please’s monotonous, drudging music. On the surface, it’s a very simple, straightforward concept: work quickly and effectively, and you can afford to take care of your family.
But then, rules start changing. This leads to a very confusing bureaucratic mess, which leads to you frantically checking and rechecking the rulebook, only to get it wrong and approve the wrong entrant anyway. But you don’t have time to worry about these decisions, or regret making a wrong one, as you have to make enough money to ensure you and your family get to eat tonight. And trust me, every time you screw up and accidentally kill a family member, you will feel an overwhelming sense of defeat and uselessness.
Papers, Please is repetitive, and frustrating, but the fact that such a simple game can stay with me for days after having played it, and that I feel compelled to care about the fates of people who I know nothing about is what makes this game genius. Papers, Please is one of the best games I’ve ever played when it comes to moral dilemmas. I’ve spent hours fretting over my decisions in game, and even after I’ve finished a session, I’m haunted by my choices. And that’s precisely what makes this game so damn good.
Glory to Arstotzka.