‘Papers, Please’ offers dystopian tale of morality

‘Papers, Please’ offers dystopian tale of morality

William Conway, Staff Writer

Pitching the idea of a video game based around being an immigration inspector sounds like a hard sell. Luckily, one man, an independent game developer named Lucas Pope, circumvented that process by taking it upon himself to create “Papers, Please,” the self-proclaimed “Dystopian Document Thriller.”

In the game, you find yourself working as an immigration inspector stationed at the border of fictional communist country Arstotzka. The basic formula is as follows: Those with the correct credentials get a pass into the country and those without them get rejected. You as the player are given the power of deciding who ends up where.

Those in charge of Arstotzka have an ideal vision for their country, and they are very stringent who they allow in. As the work day begins you are given a code to follow. This code reads like a set of rules and you are specifically told which details to pay attention to most when examining papers. For example, on Day 1 you are instructed not to allow anybody from a specific country into Arstotzka.

In this sense, the game plays out sort of like a puzzle. People step up to your desk and present to you their papers. You read over them carefully, try to pick out any discrepancies and then decide whether to stamp their papers with an approval or a rejection.

The approval and rejection process is where this game really begins to shine. In theory, a game based around pushing and stamping papers should not work. It’s the morality of it all that hooks the player.

At the end of each in-game day you are graded on your work performance. The brass takes a look at how many you have allowed into the country and how many that you rejected. They also take into consideration how many you allowed into the country illegally. This all affects your score, and in the case of “Papers, Please,”your character’s salary.

The money you make at the end of each day goes toward supporting your family. You allot a certain amount of the money that you make towards heat, food, rent and other utilities. Some days you may only have enough money to pay for heat leaving your family hungry; some days you may only have enough money for rent leaving your family not only hungry but freezing too.

This helps drive the decisions on the job. Do you reject an old lady with an expired passport trying to get into the country to see her sick relative? Or do you illegally allow her access while taking a major pay cut?

The moral decisions that you make throughout the game lead you to one of 20 different endings.

“Papers, Please” is an addicting, challenging, and at times a melancholy experience. It shouldn’t be overlooked because of its seemingly boring premise.

Should you play Papers, Please? Yes.