Papers, Please

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Papers, Please
Papers Please - Title Logo.png
Developer(s)Lucas Pope
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s)August 8, 2013
Genre(s)Puzzle, simulation
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Papers, Please
Papers Please - Title Logo.png
Developer(s)Lucas Pope
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s)August 8, 2013
Genre(s)Puzzle, simulation

Papers, Please is a puzzle video game developed by indie game developer Lucas Pope, focusing on the emotional toll of working as an immigration officer, deciding whom to let in and whom to exclude from entering the fictional communist country of Arstotzka.[1] The game was released on August 8, 2013 for Microsoft Windows and OS X.[2][3]


The gameplay of Papers, Please focuses on the work life of an immigration inspector at a border checkpoint for the fictitious country of Arstotzka. The player inspects would-be immigrants' documents and uses a sparse array of tools to determine whether the papers are in order for the purpose of keeping spies, smugglers and other unwanted individuals out of the country. When discrepancies are discovered, the player can interrogate the applicant about the discrepancy, and demand further information, such as fingerprints or a full body scan. If further discrepancies are discovered, the player can have the applicant arrested, or the applicant can attempt to bribe the inspector.

The player's immigration checkpoint workstation in Papers, Please show the current immigrant (left center), the various paperwork that the player is currently processing (bottom right), and the current state of the checkpoint (top half). In the current case, the player has discovered an illegal weapon on the immigrant after a body scan.

At the end of each in-game day, the player earns money based on how many immigrants they processed and bribes collected, less any penalties for mistakes, and then must decide on a simple budget to spend that money on rent, food, heat, and other necessities in low-class housing for themselves and their family. As relations between Arstotzka and nearby countries deteriorate due to multiple terrorist attacks, each day introduces a new set of rules for immigration based on the game's story, such as denying citizens of specific countries or demanding more exacting identification from citizens. The player may be challenged with moral dilemmas as the game progresses; such as allowing the supposed spouse of one immigrant through despite them lacking complete papers, even though they may be planning to attack your fellow guards. The game uses a mix of randomly generated entrants, along with some special encounters. Pre-made templates are used to generate characters.

A mysterious anti-government organization known as EZIC also appears, with several of its members appearing in the checkpoint, giving the inspector orders on what to do in order to help the organization bring down the government and establish a new one; the player can choose whether or not to help this organization.

The game has a scripted story mode with multiple possible endings depending on the player's previous actions, as well as an unlockable, randomized endless-play mode.[2][3]


Papers, Please was developed by Lucas Pope beginning in November, 2012 using the Haxe programming language and the NME framework, both open-source.[4] As an American living in Japan, Pope dealt with immigration in his international travels and thought the experience, which he describes as "tense", could be made into a fun game.[1][3] Before release, Pope had set up a name submission form for the public, where people could submit their own names to be randomly assigned to scripted characters in the game. Papers, Please was submitted to Steam Greenlight on April 11, 2013 and was greenlit on May 1.[4][5]


Aggregate scores
Review scores
PC Gamer UK87/100[12]

Papers, Please has been praised for the sense of immersion provided by the game mechanics, and the intense emotional reaction.[14] CBC News' Jonathan Ore called Papers, Please a "nerve-racking sleuthing game with relentless pacing and dozens of compelling characters - all from a desk job".[15] Simon Parkin writing for The New Yorker blog declared Papers, Please the top video game of 2013. He wrote: "Grim yet affecting, it’s a game that may change your attitude the next time you’re in line at the airport."[16]

Some critics however reacted against the paperwork gameplay. Stephanie Bendixsen from the ABC's game review show Good Game found the game "tedious", commenting "while I found the issues that arose from the decisions you are forced to make quite interesting, I was just so bored that I just struggled to go from one day to the next. I was torn between wanting to find out more, and just wanting it all to stop."[17]


  1. ^ a b Costantini, Cristina (May 8, 2013). "New 'Papers Please' Video Game May Surprise You". Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Games created by Lucas Pope". Lucas Pope. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Gwaltney, Javy (April 14, 2013). "Glory To Arstotzka: Papers, Please And An Interview With Its Creator". Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Papers, Please [Greenlight]". November 14, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ Sarkar, Samat (May 1, 2013). "Papers, Please and two other games added to Steam Greenlight". Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Papers, Please for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Papers, Please". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Papers, Please review". Edge (magazine). Future plc. August 21, 2013. Retrieved December 31, 2013. 
  9. ^ Whitehead, Dan (August 9, 2013). "Papers, Please review". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  10. ^ Peele, Britton (August 13, 2013). "Papers, Please Review". Gamespot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Corbett, Richard (August 12, 2013). "Papers, Please Review: Stamp of Quality". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved August 15, 2013. 
  12. ^ Lahti, Evan (August 9, 2013). "Papers, Please review". PC Gamer. Future plc. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ McElroy, Justin (August 9, 2013). "Papers, Please Review: Mundane tyranny". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ Sam Machkovech. "Papers, Please Review: Paper trail of tears". Ars Technica. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  15. ^ Ore, Jonathan (August 15, 2013). "Papers, Please is a nerve-racking game about a desk job". CBC News. CBC. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  16. ^ Simon Parkin. "The Best Video Games of 2013". The New Yorker. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "Papers, Please (review)". Good Game. ABC. September 17, 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 

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