Papers, Please (2013)
First released in 2013, Papers, Please puts players in a position of authority in a dystopian police state whereby they are forced to negotiate their own ethics and morals while trying to survive. In this strategy simulation video game, the player is in the shoes of an immigration officer stationed in a country bordered by hostile neighbors. Using a limited number of tools, the player must accurately recognize potential threats or deal with the consequences of getting wages garnished by superiors. With little time to review and process documents, the player must make fast-paced decisions to determine who can cross the border. And with each wrong decision, the consequences can be dire, resulting in life or death stakes for your family who are dependent on your earnings.
Created by the game developer Lucas Pope and released across multiple gaming platforms, Papers, Please took over 9 months to complete. Using an open source programming language, Pope leveraged its potential to create a clever balance of randomness in the branching strategy. With over twenty unique endings, the choice driven narrative was thoughtfully designed to deliver a valuable and meaningful experience.
Papers, Please compels players to confront their own perception bias and to grapple with the real world choices between collecting a salary from an authoritarian state for survival or perpetuating a human rights violation. An impact forward game with commercial appeal Papers, Please breaks away from the traditional tropes of kill or be killed but instead focuses on the ever-present complex, intricate, and personal choices resulting from geopolitical forces. With its simple design and gut-wrenching choices centered on real world issues of immigration, the stunningly poignant Papers, Please continues to deliver as revelatory an experience as ever; for this, it wins a Peabody Award.