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"Papers, Please": Why It's Important, Part 1
by Shay Pierce on 08/15/13 01:00:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This is part 1 of a series of blog posts in which I'll talk about why I think "Papers, Please" is one of the most important games released in a while.

To start, I'm going to give a quick high-level overview of my reasons; I hope it's enough to encourage folks to take note of the game. In future posts I'll dive into these thoughts in more depth. Note that this is spoiler-free.

"Papers, Please" is a "sophisticated game"; and when I say that, I don't mean what that phrase has often meant in the past, which is "a game with sophisticated graphics or technology."

But as a quick aside, the game's technology is quite sophisticated: the excellent challenge-generation algorithms, and their seamless interweaving with scripted challenges, are - trust me - very difficult to do well, and something that many designers and coders would either not try at all, or screw up badly. (I wish these kinds of elegant solutions to the problems presented by innovative gameplay had some forum of public acknowledgement.)

Instead what I mean by "sophisticated" here is the real artistic sense of the word: this game has real "literary value", if we have to call it that. But it's an actual game: it's not trying to ape some other art form, it embraces its game-ness, and by so doing so, it does and says things that could not be done or said in any other artistic medium.

The game is also pushing one important and difficult threshold: it makes no pretense of limiting (or even focusing) its emotional palette to the emotions of "fun". Personally, I do find myself having fun playing it, sometimes in surprising ways; but this feels optional, and almost beside the point.

This game has bigger fish to fry than just "fun"; and it fries them all equally well. If, while playing your role in this stark world of bureaucracy and fear, you find yourself having fun, you'll probably feel as I did: a bit guilty. Though the game never takes itself too seriously, you can't help but take it seriously; when you find yourself having mere "fun", it feels either irreverent, or irrelevant. There's a broader canvas being painted-on, here.

More to come! In the meantime, I (obviously) recommend that you play the game.

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Hussain Patel
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I would like to second the recommendation to play 'Papers, Please'. You couldn't have explained it better when talking about the balance between having fun and it's seriousness, the fact the player feels this conflict in emotions and might actually stop and think "what's going on here" is brilliant. Of course you might cover this later but personally (as with most games of course) the amount of choice given and each choices implications are outstanding and perfectly executed in this game.

Michael Joseph
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Visit the link provided in the article, it's just a quick 12.3 meg windows zip download, no install program.

Andrew Syfret
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There are many ways you could view Papers Please, as a challenging matching game, an interactive story with puzzle elements, etc. But the real reason it hit me so hard is because aside from the hyper-real conspiracy parts of it, the things that happened in this literally happened and are happening right now to millions of people around the globe.

If you don't play this game and feel even a pang of empathy, you probably should turn in your human card.
By the end, I truly cared about what happened to me and my family, not because I cared about my wife, who was never even named in game, but because I cared about the real people who had done the exact same thing and fled a pending investigation by a shadowy ministry, imprisoned a friend, lost a child because they couldn't afford food.