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|Release date(s)||August 8, 2013|
|Release date(s)||August 8, 2013|
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. The game was released on August 8, 2013 for Microsoft Windows and OS X.
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.
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.
Papers, Please was developed by Lucas Pope beginning in November, 2012 using the Haxe programming language and the NME framework, both open-source. 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. 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.
Papers, Please has been praised for the sense of immersion provided by the game mechanics, and the intense emotional reaction. 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". 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."
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."