Home > Articles

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Papers, Please

As a college professor and administrator, a large part of my day-to-day activities involves reading paperwork, ensuring its accuracy, and forwarding it to the appropriate bureaucratic entity. On its surface, Lucas Pope’s 2013 independent hit Papers, Please doesn’t seem like it would provide any kind of escape from the menial aspects of my ordinary life.

In it, you play as a low-level border guard in the 1980s for the fictional Warsaw Pact-like country of Arstotzka. Your job is to check the paperwork of those who cross the border for inconsistencies, scan them for contraband, and be on the lookout for persons of interest. You are incentivized by payment for shuffling people through the checkpoint quickly (see Figure 11.2) but are penalized for letting people through who should not be let through. That payment can be used to provide for your family’s needs at the end of each day, but the payment is never enough to cover all of the needs, so it becomes tempting to take bribes and shortcuts to let more people through the checkpoint.

Figure 11.2

Figure 11.2 Papers, Please

Papers, Please is surprisingly fun. The narrative takes some interesting turns depending on your actions, some characters are quite memorable, and the mechanics are slightly tweaked from day to day, changing the novelty of an otherwise mundane set of tasks. Critics lauded the game. It won the Seamus McNally Grand Prize, independent gaming’s highest award, at the 2014 Independent Games Festival. It was also named the Game of the Year from publications like The New Yorker, PC World, and Wired.

The entire aesthetic nails the sense of duty, drudgery, and desperation that must have been part and parcel of living life in Eastern European dictatorships of the 1980s. Or at least it measures up to the aesthetic suggested by popular literature and film about the time.

At some point in the game, you may be presented with a possible entrant to Arstotzka who does not have the needed paperwork. When you highlight the discrepancy, he will plead with you that he is only bringing needed medicine to a relative and if he cannot get the right paperwork in time, she will die. You can choose to let that person through and receive a penalty (although he may return later to reward you, hopefully), or you can do your duty and press the element that locks the booth down. When you do, pixelated representations of armed guards come in and carry the illegal entrant off screen while he pleads for leniency. What happens to him then? Who knows, you have more people in line to serve.

As a game element, this feels like a true meaningful decision. From the game design perspective purely, it should provide at least a moment of uncertainty because there are multiple desirable paths forward. But the game design perspective can only examine the situation in a vacuum. We subconsciously (or often consciously) use our perspective that we have honed from a lifetime of social and cultural cues to interpret complex events. As someone who grew up in safety and wealth in comparison to someone living through 1980s Hungary, I have the luxury of examining the game design of Papers, Please from a relative distance. Imagine how different the above scenario would feel if you grew up in a dictatorial country where you had relatives killed by the regime for trying to import medicine illicitly? Imagine how that decision would feel if you or your family were once a refugee and an immigration inspection was what saved your family’s life or damned other relatives to being trapped in poverty? Now the game feels cruel.

Pope puts players in no-win situations to advance the story and, for most players, it creates a compelling combination of mechanics and narrative. Consequences are low for most players when playing Papers, Please. Getting a revolutionary killed or not is based on narrative preference at that point. Do you believe that supporting the revolutionaries in Papers, Please will direct the narrative in a better direction than obeying the central authority? That is how most players will make their calculus. But if someone’s family trajectory was defined by someone else making that choice in the real world, that choice becomes obvious and likely loses its aesthetic sheen.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020