Community Review: Papers, Please

It couldn't be a coincidence. On Saturday afternoon I bought Papers, Please. I played it for one short hour. That night I went to a friend's house and before long we were talking about Australia's own issues with immigration. Papers, Please is a game designed to instigate conversation and it succeeds.

The interesting thing was this: while I define myself as very liberal in my politics I was supremely conservative whilst playing Papers, Please. If I was even slightly doubtful about the veracity of someone trying to enter Arstotzka I stamped 'Visa denied' and felt nothing. Zero regret. I think people who play video games are often conservative by default. They simply don't want to make mistakes.

I don't think I played enough of Papers, Please to make any kind of decision on its quality. I don't even know if that kind of judgement will ever make sense. Papers Please isn't really fun to play, it's not a fun little diversion. It's an experience you learn from.

But in that regard it's essential. It's a game that demands you talk about it. It's important.

Anyone else here playing Papers, Please? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Comments

    I got the other day and it's okay but not great.

    My girlfriend and I have sunk quite a few hours into this game already.

    It's amazing.

    Oddly enough, I'm not too fussed about the point it makes. I've done sympathetic plays (my default option) and I'm in the middle of a playthrough where I just decline anyone and everyone with the slightest discrepancy so that I can get enough money to unlock certain endings.

    I'm just doing my job! And I think that's the real point that it's making. Not about the immigration laws but how people will do less than great things simply because it's their job and they need to earn enough to survive.

    The sense of humour is fantastic. Jorji is one of my favourite characters in recent gaming. He's just so happy about being arrested... again. Is okay, he talk to police. He know all police now.

    In terms of just completely nailing a tone, Papers, Please is perfect.

    The mechanics are somewhat clunky but in a very deliberate way that actually adds to the game.

    The sound design is also great. The logo marches on to screen, the sound of the stamp is very solid and the distorted loudspeaker just seems right.

    Glory to Arstotzka!

    EDIT: The picture for this article bugs me.

    The photo doesn't match the person, the passport doesn't have an issuing city, the passport number matches but is highlighted as a discrepancy, strip searching is presented differently and I haven't seen that verify thing before.

    Last edited 12/08/13 11:49 am

      Glory to Arstotzka!!!!

      Oh, the sound design/music is wonderful. The dreary tones of the marching logo screen convey everything you need to know about the atmosphere. I don't think I've ever seen a setting so neatly encapsulated.

      Passport number and Entry Permit are a discrepancy. There's a Q on the end of the Entry Permit but not on the end of the Passport number.

        I'm assuming that the pic is a concept art. There's a few things that are quite different. For instance "question" instead of "interrogate", and the verify thing, whatever that is.

    Ahh damn, I forgot this was released, I'm buying this as soon as I get home :p

    I think you definitely need to complete one playthrough or at least make it to day 25 or so to really fully appreciate the direction of the game. I don't want to spoil anything, but this is really an interesting game to play. It's not "fun", like you say, but it is diverting.

    It also warrants repeated playthroughs, not only so you learn to be more effective in the role you are taking on, but also to better understand how certain decisions can impact the course of events, and how to prepare.

    Definitely recommend.

      There are 20 endings, including game overs.

      There are also 8 tokens to unlock by doing certain things, like letting someone's wife through when she doesn't have the right documentation. Some are a bit trickier and I won't spoil how to get them although I will say that one combines two fairly funny bits.

        I've unlocked three of the tokens, one that you described, another from your pal Jorji. At some point I might see if it's possible to collect all of them in one playthrough and if there's any benefit for doing so.

        So far I've only finished it once and got ending 16 (I think). I've also been arrested for delinquency a few times before I started using the easy mode crutch.

          I got arrested for delinquency after I saved enough to get a Class 5 apartment and then spent all of my money on that day :(

          Living in luxury and dirt poor. There's a statement on society there.

            Since the decreases in heating bills never seem to offset the increases in rent (plus you have to spend all your savings upgrading), I am sorely tempted not to upgrade to better apartments. I'll see how I go.

              There's an achievement and maybe it's tied to an ending. I haven't really looked.

                Well, I might jsut get the hang of playing it and see what happens. I think striving towards a specific ending can come when I've seen more than two.

    I've played a fair bit of it and got to about six endings, with 11/13 achievements. Needless to say, I love this game.
    I really enjoy games that seem like they're mindless but you're constantly having to observe and be aware, and that things are changing around you. I guess that's why I'm in the job I am.

    I also enjoy the decisions you make - should I let this person through with their sob story but their incorrect documentation? Does it make me a bad person if I just reject them out of hand? Fuck, I've spent too long thinking about this and now I've ballsed up the entire day and my son will go hungry again tonight.
    And again, time management is pretty important in my job and maybe it gives me a little more sympathy for retarded bureaucracy with its stupid inflexibility just because someone isn't willing to stretch that little bit to let them get outside what's part of their job. And a lot of the game isn't about being "good" at the job, it's about being "good enough", which says a lot about society right there.

    Grabbed this last night after reading all this here.. I am not disappointed.. great game.. My family died after only 6 days, so now I've put it on easy mode till I get a feel for things.. but yeh.. really enjoyable.

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