Whether you’re playing with friends
or getting lost for hours at a time within a sprawling RPG, video games are a
fantastic source of entertainment that have created countless genre-defining moments over the decades.
As exhilarating as slaying your first
dragon in Skyrim is, though, not all gaming moments are supposed to be fun. More so in recent years, games have become more refined at weaving emotionally complex stories with themes and plot points intended
to resonate deeply.
Developers have likewise got better at using the interactivity of games to convey the rawness of
these gut-punch moments to players. Unlike in films or television where we
simply watch characters go through the motions, players have a tangible part
in the action as it unfolds.
These moments are the most effective when developers hold absolutely nothing back, whether through devastating plot twists or
ingenious feats of game design.
These moments aren’t supposed to be
enjoyable. In fact, the entire point is that we’re supposed to hate them. That’s
what makes them work so brilliantly.
Beware of massive spoilers ahead.
Please, players take on the role of a checkpoint worker in the fictional totalitarian
country of Arstotzka. It’s the player’s job to decide which of the people who
appear in front of their meagre desk are allowed to enter, and who
get turned away.
However, this isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
The rules for entry
become more convoluted each day, which consequently makes the required checks
more time consuming with mistakes becoming easier. The more mistakes are made, the less money players are awarded at the end of each shift.
Over time you can come away with less money than you started with, and things get worse when players must also decide whether to use earnings to pay for essentials like food and heat, or life-saving medicine for their family. Given how difficult the job becomes, though, this soon feels like an un-winnable task.
As well as serving as a commentary on authoritarian regimes, Papers, Please likewise highlights the soul crushing realities of working a thankless, low paying job.