Thursday, August 8, 2013
In Papers, Please you work as a low-level government bureaucrat inspecting the passports of those who wish admittance the fictional Soviet satellite-esque country of Arstotzka . As your shift progresses you sit at your window and make dozens of decisions regarding whether individuals may come in or are denied entry.
At first, all you do is make sure that the prospective entrant has a valid passport and is a citizen of Arstotzka, but as the game progresses you become mired in a web of complicated rules and caveats. Make a mistake and your pay gets docked. Here and there you have to make tough moral choices as to whether to let certain people in despite their lack of proper credentials. Will you let the spouse of an otherwise qualified citizen in? You have to balance your allegiance to your county with your need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror every morning.
All the while you must balance the choices you make on the job with the needs of your family. If a child gets sick you often must choose between feeding your clan and medicating your child. Rarely do you have enough money to pay for everything you need, which spills over into your work life affecting your decision to take a bribe or make a more humanitarian choice regarding someone's entry.
Papers, Please is a seminal example of games as art. The art direction choices really do a great job of creating a grim atmosphere and mood. Though you are just playing a game, its creators to a tremendous job using a drab color palette, 8-bit pixel art, and an intentionally clunky user interface to get the player to consider what they would do in similar circumstances.
Glory to Arstotzka!
YouTube's "Papers, Please Trailer" video
YouTube's "Papers Please - Part 1 - Arstotzka" video
Two friends have a fun time playing Papers, Please