Gaming Spotlight – Papers, Please

Everybody who’s ever travelled abroad has come across the necessary evil that is Border Control! That’s right the endless queuing, holding tightly onto all your important documents, and hoping you haven’t forgotten anything in fear of the dreaded strip search!  If you were hoping for a game that challenges you to sneak through this hall of scrutiny, then I’m afraid Papers, Please is not the game for you. Instead, this fantastic independently created game puts you in the position of a Border Control Operator, that’s right it is your job to check and examine all the people trying to enter your country.  What country is that? The glorious, communist, country of Arstotzka.

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Papers, Please is the creation Lucas Pope (@dukope), and was originally submitted to Steam Greenlight (a branch of Valve’s Steam distribution platform designed specifically to promote and develop Indie games) on 11th April 2013.  After a huge celebrated welcome and community support the game was greenlit on 1st May 2013, giving Pope the opportunity to complete the game fully and release it to a wider audience.

Grim yet affecting, it’s a game that may change your attitude the next time you’re in line at the airport.

(Simon Parkin writing for The New Yorker)

The gameplay of Papers, Please has the player inspect arrivals’ documents as they reach the Border Control Booth.  At the start of each day you will be given a short briefing, this will include rules for admission.  As the game goes on more and more rules will be added and omitted, it is down to you to remember these rules and who you will be allowing into the country. Using a varied range of tools (questioning, fingerprinting, full body scans) you must determine whether their papers are in order.  If they aren’t, the player must then choose whether to have the applicant arrested, or simply deny them entry.  This all seems pretty straight forward, until your morals as a human being are brought into question.  As you progress through the game you will be faced with a number of moral dilemmas, such as allowing the wife of an immigrant through despite her lacking complete papers, or accepting bribes to allow a wanted criminal through the border.  At the end of the day your performance is evaluated and you are awarded a pay-check, this is where the game adds further moral choices for the player.  You must then decide how to spend your hard-earned money; on rent, food, heat, and other necessities in low-class housing for your family and yourself.  Will you put the safety and well being of your family before the security of the country, or do you focus on protecting your glorious country regardless of the consequences?

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The game has a wonderfully designed graphic style which personally I fell in love with straight away, it suits the overall feeling and theme of the game perfectly. This coupled with the fantastic music, range of interesting characters, and the fact that there are twenty different endings depending on your choices made, make the game a joy to play.

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