The Average Gamer

Papers, Please Review (PC)

Papers Please - Multiple Names
Someone told me last week that Papers, Please is a game about empathy. It is. After a 6-year war with its Kolechian neighbours, Arstotzka has finally reclaimed its half of Grestin, a town that sits on the border between the two countries. Your task is to ensure that everyone coming into Arstotzka has the correct paperwork.

Work is scarce in Arstotzka and you have mouths to fed at home. You’re paid on a piece rate, so every prospective entrant you correctly evaluate is another meal for your family, or another night you can turn on the heating in the cold, wintery November.

It won’t be long before you start to resent the little differences in the paperwork. Where the hell is this passport from? Why is all the information in the wrong place? Is that even a real city? Dammit, this guy is a Kolechian worker so that’s FOUR different bits of paperwork to correlate instead of the usual two. This woman has gained weight so now I need to scan her and that’s 10 minutes that could’ve been spent processing another person.

But of course, you have to scan her because yesterday you didn’t have weighing scales at the border and a suicide bomber killed one of the guards. Your work is important.

It’s easy to forget this in the real world, when you’re standing in that hours-long queue at the airport, desperate to wash the travel stench off your skin and you know the person at the desk is going to glance at your passport for all of half a second, nod and wave you through. Their work is important.

It should certainly be more important than pulling crap like this. Then again, a few weeks into your job at the Grestin border, a guard approaches. He gets paid extra every time you detain a suspicious character and he wants to pass a cut of that on to you. Where a minor infringement used to be an annoyance, now it’s a potential source of income. Detain enough people and maybe you could afford the medicine that little Jimmy desperately needs. But do you really want to arrest someone because some bureaucrat misspelled their name on a work visa?

Papers Please - Final TallyThe game is about much more than empathy. It’s about choices. It’s about your own morality.

I told a friend about one situation: a dancer comes through my booth. As I stamp her passport to let her in, she tells me about her travelling companion who waits behind her in the line. She’s afraid he’s going to enslave her into a life of prostitution. She begs me to prevent him from entering the country.

He approaches my desk. I check his paperwork for even the smallest discrepancy. Perhaps he’s gained a few pounds since his ID card was issues. Perhaps he uses a different name now. No such luck. It is perfect.

My friend’s response: You have to let him in. It’s your job.

But I don’t. I get two free “mistakes” per day before they start issuing penalty fines. I can stamp DENIED over every inch of his passport if I want to. Is it my job to blindly enforce the rules? Or is it my job to stop human traffickers from enslaving vulnerable people? There is no one to turn to. It’s all up to me.

You can buy Steam-redeemable keys for Papers, Please from the game’s official website.

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