Okay, so I have been deep inside the Study Caves ™ and Work Mines ™ for the last few weeks and have, sadly, been unable to have a fun night on the town for a long time. Still, in between chapters, I’ve been distracting myself from my studies by doing pseudo work at the immigration counter on the Arstozkan border in East Grestin.
Papers, Please is a surprisingly fun border-immigration-checkpoint simulator made by Dukope and is easily available in downloadable form for the low, low price of $9.99. I caught wind of this game when it was still sitting in the Steam Greenlight community and have wholeheartedly backed its creation. This game has been the darling of reviewers and critics this season and my favourite Canadian geek comedy group, Loading Ready Run, even made a parody video of it.
The story of the game is simple. You have been chosen to work the immigration counter on the Arstozkan border in East Grestin. Each day, you read the newspaper, then trudge through the cold snow to your tiny little immigration booth where you must decide whether to let people through the border based on the rules and the papers that they give you. Your family is counting on you to process as many people per day as possible. The more people you process, the more credits you earn, which allows you to pay for things such as food, heat, medicine and better living quarters.
This sounds simple enough, but as time wears on, paperwork starts to build up as different Ministries give you different instructions. The Ministry of Information wants you to confiscate passports and pass on secret documentation, the Ministry of Justice wants you to identify and detain possible criminals, the Ministry of Health needs you to check everyone for proof of vaccinations and so on and so forth. Failure to comply with ANY of these demands will result in the receipt of a citation, which charges a fine for the mistakes you’ve made. This coupled with the cramped workplace you are given, and the dwindling resources you have in your booth results in you having to shuffle papers back and forth as you compare dates, examine document seals and scrutinise everything. At the peak of paperwork in the game, I was looking at up to eight documents on my little desk at a time.
Dukope has a genius way of bringing the cold atmosphere of the heartless bureaucratic world that you live in through the gray tones of the game, but also through simple storytelling. Some immigrants will tell you sob stories in order to get past the border, some will bluster at you and some may attempt bribery.
Despite your family being represented by little grey circles at the end of each day, you genuinely come to care for them and want them all to show an OK signal. Simple touches like your son drawing a picture of you in crayon makes you want to ensure their safety. This makes visits from the Ministry of Information all the more dangerous, since they always seem to imply that this family will be put in danger should you get caught helping others get over the border.
The game is surprisingly addictive and extremely fun. It’s definitely a good example of what one can produce on a shoestring budget. This game will improve your life.
All Glory to Arstozka.