Papers, Please is an indie puzzle game job simulation created by Lucas Pope. You are an immigration officer for the great country of Arstotzka. Your job is to screen the incoming visitors and approve or deny their entry. Your job is to check passport information and other important paperworks and give the stamp of approval to enter into your great nation or turn them away. The main rules are to check that there are no discrepancies between the visitor and their passports. The rules for entry become more and more complicated, sometimes involving terrorist attacks, disputes with neighboring countries, and accommodating asylum seekers.
The game is much more than just a job simulator, though. Interspersed with flocks of people looking to cross to Arstotzka, there are storylines placed throughout and new game mechanics. Some characters might come to you with new tasks, like handing documents to people. Others might influence the way you choose to play the game, like the man below, who gives you a bonus for detaining individuals.
You need money because, well, your mother-in-law, uncle, wife and son are all on the edge of dying of hunger, sickness and being cold.
The mechanics are simple and it feels very much like someone should be paying you for doing all this work, but the game is enchanting and brings you into this dystopian (well, not so far from the truth) world and it’s actually … fun?
Here, let me explain:
Fantasy: This game is fully fantasy for me, not because there are unicorns and elves, but because you become a full-blown Arstotzka as you progress in the game. Because your tasks require so much information checking, you end up memorizing all of the rules, all of the districts and issuing states, etc. The dystopian nature of the game becomes your reality quite quickly, as you are faced with choosing to spend your earnings on food or heat for the night. You never see what your family looks like though, which focuses your world on your job. I love job sims in general (Cook Serve Delicious is one of my favorites), so pretending to be another person and learning all of their tasks is very enjoyable and rewarding for me.
Fellowship: This past time I played, for this assignment, was the first time I played this game by myself. I had always played this with at least 1 other person. The game is debilitatingly hard without an extra set of eyes. There is so much information to check that delegating tasks to others makes it much more efficient and a little less stressful. It also allows you to make more money, which I like. Though the environment is simulated stress, it’s fun to be in a world with another person where this task is the only thing that matters–where your magic circle is that immigration office and you have one job.