So I picked up Papers, Please over the weekend. It’s a … strange … game in the more serious gaming genre, simulating the act of a border agent in a repressive regime.
The gameplay consists of judging people by their paperwork, through intentionally minimalist and sometimes difficult to interpret graphics. If they answer correctly, they get admission. If they don’t, a supplicant can be denied entry; or worse, detained.
It’s so easy to fall into a routine in Papers, Please, correlating and stamping documents. It’s easy to ignore the lives on the other side of your screen, focussing only on the correctness of their paperwork.
It’s easy to be frustrated by regional politics imposing new rules, new processes that slow the line, and mean the difference between warmth and the freezing night, eating and starving.
I was able to cut a deal with the guards to get some extra money, and we survived a little longer, built up some savings against the slow days. My family makes it another day.
There’s a larger plot that I can’t easily get involved in; a rebellion brewing and trying to recruit me, but if I let their agents through, I’ll be fined. We’ll starve.
I’m loving this game. All these tiny stories, of trying to do the right thing against a dreary background of suffering and pain, making the best choices that we can. That we can fall into the routine, that our own morals and desires can be subsumed by needing to eat; needing medicine, needing heat. That we exercise this will against our own, and the justifications we give ourselves in doing so.
This is a great game. It’s challenging, and dark, but filled with sparkling moments of life and joy.
For $10, it’s a steal. I recommend you all play it.