The Indie Cafe: Papers, Please
Dig it, you crazy cats and kittens. You have entered the Indie Café, back from the dead and just as counter cultural as ever. You are here because you know games like Grand Theft Auto V are all hype and no substance. So each week, we give the mic to your art house games, your retro titles and anything else created by gifted brothers and sisters tolling hard behind garage doors. So snap your fingers to the beat, plant yourself in a seat and lend your ear to these cool characters from the down low.
Papers, Please is an indie game in its purest form. It was developed by only one person, Lucas Pope, and was inspired by his encounters with immigration officers. Pope is an American who lives in Japan and through his travels has had to deal with immigration several times. He found the experiences “tense” and thought a game could be made out of that situation. He started the game in November of 2012 and had it ready for Steam Greenlight by April of this year.
The game may not have had to take very long to make but sometimes, a good idea is all you need. In Papers, Please, you are a newly hired immigration officer for the fictitious country of Arstotzka, a country based on communist Russia in the early 1980s. Your job as immigration officer is to approve and reject those coming from neighboring countries, inspired by countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and other countries part of the Eastern Bloc.
The game is mostly played with the mouse and has you checking paperwork and interrogating immigrants. You need to check and make sure their paperwork is in order by making sure the expiration date on their passport is valid, their personal information matches them, and they have a work permit or entry ticket or whatever extra information they need. You see, the rules for entry change each day as events progress and either attacks or increases in crime happen. So you’ll need to stay on top of all of the new policies each day you go to work.
What’s more is you’re doing this for your family at home, who live in horrible conditions. You need to provide food, heat and medicine if one of them is sick as well as pay rent and you get paid roughly $5 a person you see. This makes you want to go through immigrants quicker but this can lead to mistakes, which will dock your pay. Making matters even more tense is there’s other extraneous circumstances, such as terrorist organizations wanting your help, spies trying to get in or moral issues such as rejecting the spouse of someone already permitted to enter the country due to the lack of proper paperwork. Papers, Please is available for PC on Steam, and GOG.com for $10 and is well worth the purchase.
Can you snap your fingers to celebrate the wonders of the little known game deserving of undercover fame? Step into the Indie Café to hear about the best of independently made video games. If you know about a groovy but little known title made by an independent studio, send me a tweet @Colorwind with the hash tag #IndieCafe and I’ll spread the wealth. Until next time, creep out like the shadow, cats and kittens.