“Papers, Please” is one of the most depressing games I’ve ever played. Period. I say this, and yet, I can’t stop playing. You play the role of an immigration inspector, at the border of Arstotzka in 1982. You pretty much just make sure that whoever is crossing the border, has all their paperwork accounted for. This is done mainly to keep criminals, smugglers, and terrorists out of the country. Still with me? Cool.
While you’re scoping out the paperwork, you’ll need to consult your rule book whenever you discover any discrepancies (incorrect birthdate, passport number, and yes, even gender at times) to determine what the next course of action needs to be. Do you need to interrogate the suspect? Detain them? Search them? These are all things that you’ll need to think about during the course of your work day, and the amount of things you’ll need to inspect only increases.
Of course, since you’re not under enough pressure, you need to learn to be as efficient as possible, since your daily pay depends on it. The quicker the line moves, the more money you make, the slower it moves, well, you get the idea. At the end of each day you’ll need to divide up how the money is spent, so that you can keep your family alive. No joke.
So again, seriously, what’s the appeal? Honestly, I don’t know. But I’m completely captivated by the monotony of the daily routine, and the unique situations that I find myself in. For example, I got a note requesting that I deny a certain person from crossing the border due to a crime that this person could potentially commit. Now here I’m faced with a dilemma. I don’t want to allow a hardened criminal across the border into my country, but on the other hand, if all his paperwork adds up, and I don’t let him cross, I’ll be penalized by having money taken away. And that is where the game settles into a groove, you just have to keep going, just to see what happens.
“Papers, Please” isn’t going to be for everybody. In fact, as far as indie games having a reputation of being pretentious goes, this one might take the cake. However, that shouldn’t sway you from at least giving the game a try. I’ve honestly never really experienced a game like this, but I’m glad that I have, and I would encourage anyone out there to do the same.