There are those times as a gamer where you question the validity of a traditional idea of what is a game, Papers, Please is a wonderful example of a non-traditional piece of what I would call art (Videogames as an art form argument is done to death, so won’t even be approached here). The best way to describe Papers, Please isn’t as a set genre of gaming, but more an experience of the most bizarre and fascinating nature.
At its core, Papers, Please is based around the idea of border patrol. You check details of peoples passports and documents to make sure they can enter the great (and fictional) country of Arstotzka, this may sound like an odd concept but it’s pulled off with great aplomb, pulling at your morals and presenting you with the idea of decision and consequence. You receive credits per person you deal with at the border, the more you do, the more money you have. Here is where the moral dilemma and consequence come in. You are responsible for your family, and although you never see them or know any details, you care. Money you earn goes towards heating and food, simple check boxes at the end of each day. This sounds easy on paper, but unless you rush through the line at the border (which has its own risk/reward), you can’t always afford everything. Your dilemma lies in what you choose to do with the money when you don’t have much of it. Do you spend it on upgrading your booth so you can be more productive? Do you spend it on heating so your family doesn’t go cold or do you pay for medicine for family members with illness? Papers, Please is littered with these choices in which you are forced to make.
With twenty endings available, your choices impact the story in somewhat interesting and obvious ways. In some cases it’s quite clear that you are making a decision that would take you down path A or B, in others it’s not obvious and will be something that slips under the radar. This ideal is fascinating and daunting all in good measure. Making a decision or even a mistake can mean the difference between a totally different story ending than you were hoping or even planning for.
If you haven’t played Papers, Please then you are missing out for sure. Each play-through could take you around an hour and a half. Baring this in mind, and considering that there are twenty different endings, the play-ability is endless. There is even a mode where you endlessly deal with people and don’t deal with the story centric issues.
Sound off in the comments below about what you think about the game (if you have played it) and if you haven’t played it yet, does the idea sound interesting enough to pull you in?