Swipe Left to Detain by I. K. Derk — Journal of Games Criticism
End Facebook Pixel Code --> order": 2}, On Day 8 of Papers, Please, a hooded messenger working for EZIC the crux of its narrative focused on the relationship between Tish and Fonny. Most of the key moments in their unfolding relationship took place in periods . There are twenty distinct endings to Papers, Please dependent on If the player did enough favors for the EZIC Order, they may send a letter to. By letting at least one through, you get a gift from the Order. You are given a poison and some instructions by a member of the Order. You can.
This deceptively simple game centers on a middle-aged, male player-character who lives and supports his impoverished family in the dystopian country of Arstotska in ; he is an unwilling government employee staffing a border checkpoint, tasked with sifting the paperwork of would-be emigrants for discrepancies as seen in fig.
The atmosphere of Papers, Please, as established through its minimalistic visuals, presents a bleak picture which is belied by sudden tonal changes. The color palette of the game is pale and warm, saturated with greys and browns, and non-player characters are muddy, impressionistic figures built of splotchy pixel art fig.
What seems on the surface, then, to be a design choice geared toward evocation of boredom actually manages to heighten the tension and difficulty of the task at hand. Further, the established order of the monotonous, endless grey line of emigrants is disrupted by the bright explosions and blood of terrorist attacks at the checkpoint, occurring around once per in-game week fig.
These character-driven leitmotifs and violent caesuras punctuate with pathos and shock a tempo which seems superficially to be droll and predictable. In this way, the game is poetic; its basic structure resembles that of a poem, with the 31 in-game days across which its events unfold functioning like 31 lines of poetry, full of variations on and interruptions to a discernible rhythm. A detail of the upper right quadrant of the typical field of play in Papers, Please shown in figure 1right when the guards blue have shot a terrorist blackjust after the latter lobbed an explosive The Sounds of Papers, Please: And even then, the music is a spare, languid, lightly accompanied beat of one note moving one octave up and one octave down in martial determination ad infinitum.
The lack of music also stresses efficiency and propriety over emotion and egalitarian ethics. The player-character himself seems somehow mechanical, making machine-like noises and attempting to arbitrate according to given algorithms.
Inspection Booth or Iron Cage? Summarizing the Weberian perspective, Collins describes the essence of modern bureaucracy as "organization by rules and regulations, which is to say by formal paperwork"p.
In turn, as a so-called "dystopian document thriller", formal paperwork serves as the driving ludonarrative force behind Papers, Please. The similarities between the repetitive grind of the game's unnamed inspector and Weber's understanding of bureaucratic order extend beyond the shuffling of official documents.
For instance, in Economy and Society, Weber identifies six characteristics of modern bureaucracies: Bureaucratic agencies operate within fixed jurisdictional areas, governed by laws and administrative regulations.
Furthermore, he notes, "The authority to give the commands required for the discharge of these duties is distributed in a stable way and is strictly delimited by rules concerning the coercive means Bureaucratic duties are carried out based on principles of office hierarchy; that is, there is a clearly established chain of command in which there is supervision of the lower offices by the higher ones Weber,p.
The management of bureaucratic agencies is based upon written documents, or simply "the files" Weber,p. Office management usually presupposes thorough and specialized training of the officer. Bureaucratic activity demands the full working capacity of the official, even though his or her "obligatory working hours" in the office may be firmly limited Weber,p.
The bureaucratic office follows general rules, "which are more or less stable, more or less exhaustive, and which can be learned" Weber,p.
In turn, the officer is expected to exercise his or her authority impersonally; rules are not "bent" on a case-by-case basis.
In turn, applying these characteristics to the Arstotzkan border checkpoint depicted in Papers, Please reveals a number of close parallels. The game's border checkpoint undoubtedly meets Weber's first criterion. Specifically, it operates within a clearly delineated jurisdiction -- processing entrants attempting to cross the East Grestin border into Arstotzka -- and discharges these duties based on a handbook of clearly defined rules and regulations Figure 1 provided by the Ministry of Admission M.
In terms of coercive means of enforcing these rules, the M. Later in the game, however, the inspector is provided first with a tranquillizer gun and later a sniper rifle to defend the checkpoint against any direct assaults. Papers, Please Furthermore, as repeated references to the Ministry of Admission suggest, a bureaucratic hierarchy is in place to govern Arstotzkan immigration policy.
papers please - How can I help the EZIC organization? - Arqade
Designer Lucas Pope accurately describes the hierarchical authority depicted in the game as "some kind of bureaucracy where the rules just come down from the top and boom, that's your job" Cullen, Weber's fourth characteristic of rational bureaucratic order underscores the importance of paperwork, or simply "the files" Weber,p.
Likewise, in his introduction to Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Collins describes organization by formal paperwork as "the essence of bureaucracy"p. As a game dubbed by at least one reviewer as a "paperwork simulator" Tilly,Papers, Please undoubtedly embodies this trait of modern bureaucracy. While I will explore the game's mechanics in more detail below, gameplay in Papers, Please consists almost entirely of shuffling an ever-expanding array of documents -- the M.
Moreover, the player's advancement in the game depends on his or her successful management of this onslaught of official government documents and forms. The inspector's workspace, cluttered with paperwork Source: Papers, Please Turning to Weber's fifth point, managing this heap of paperwork and executing the duties of the office -- that is, either approving visas or denying entrance to Arstotzka -- demand the full working capacity of the inspector.
In fact, much of the ludic tension in Papers, Please derives from the player's efforts to process as many visas as possible before the workday comes to an end; very little time is afforded by the game to other activities unrelated to the job .
Despite these fundamental similarities, the fictional border checkpoint depicted in Papers, Please is not an exact match for Weber's ideal bureaucracy. For example, Weber suggests that the management of a modern bureaucratic office presupposes specialized, expert training. The background of the unnamed inspector in Papers, Please -- including any training he may or may not have received -- is left ambiguous. All the player knows based on the game's brief introduction is that the inspector "won" his posting in the October Labor Lottery .
The application of Weber's sixth characteristic concerning stable, exhaustive rules is also slightly problematic in the case of Papers, Please. While a comprehensive system of rules is codified in the M. Bulletin with updated regulations, Day 3 Source: Papers, Please For instance, the daily M. Therefore, while the rules that govern the border checkpoint are arguably exhaustive in that they also serve as the basic ruleset that governs gameplay in Papers, Please, they are also frequently in a state of flux.
That said, I would argue that the inspector's presumed lack of specialized training and Arstotzka's "evolving" immigration policies alone do not preclude the M.
One final point of comparison between Papers, Please and Weber's understanding of bureaucracy merits attention. Weber contends that the complexity of modern capitalist society demands that "the official business of public administration be discharged precisely, unambiguously, continuously, and with as much speed as possible"p.
Without question, speed and precision are key gameplay components in Papers, Please. The inspector earns five credits the in-game currency for each entrant that is correctly processed at the checkpoint -- that is, admitted if his or her paperwork is in order and dismissed if it is not.
For every entrant erroneously admitted or turned away, the inspector faces a potential fine. Therefore, the player has an incentive to work quickly to process as many entrants as possible the protagonist has a family to feedbut also to work carefully and avoid mistakes. While Papers, Please accurately reproduces many of the defining traits of a Weberian bureaucracy in videogame form, it is worth noting a realistic portrayal of bureaucratic work was not necessarily designer Lucas Pope's goal.
As Pope stated in a interview with Pixel Enemy, "A few people with similar jobs have told me that the mechanics in the game are close to what they do. If that's true, it's just me getting lucky. Once I started considering the concept, the gameplay mechanics and story grew from what I thought would make a fun game" Khan, Yet, as many game reviewers have noted, the simulated grind of bureaucratic paperwork in Papers, Please favours drudgery over fun.
Are We Having Fun Yet? Most players would likely agree that a day or month in the life of a border inspector is not the most obvious starting point for a videogame. After all, as designer Lucas Pope observes in a interview, popular media is far more likely to portray the dashing secret agent sneaking through border checkpoints than the official examining immigration documents on the other side of the Plexiglas window.
Pope argues that Papers, Please offers an alternative: I contend that not only does the protagonist subvert our narrative expectations, but that the game's purposefully drab visuals, oppressive sound effects, and repetitious gameplay simulate a work experience that emphasizes tedium over fun. What makes a game fun?
Koster argues, "Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension"p. This potential for mastery certainly exists in Papers, Please; the player grows more adept at shuffling through paperwork and spotting discrepancies over time, and this progress does create a certain sense of satisfaction.
To minimize burnout and mask the work-like nature of the genre, MMORPGs like most games rely on "the timing and layering of reward mechanisms" to ensure that players "derive pleasure from the work that is being done" Yeep. While rewards in the single-player Papers, Please are not as flashy as a magical sword or a new suit of power armour, progress does advance the narrative and introduce minor tweaks to the basic gameplay mechanics -- both of which might offer relief from the game's calculated tedium.
Furthermore, as Stevens suggests, the distinction between work and play is arguably a false dichotomy in the first place. Play can be worklike, just as work can be fun Nardip. Fun in a videogame like Papers, Please might also derive from immersion. McMahan notes that immersion means that "the player is caught up in the world of the game's story the diegetic levelbut it also refers to the player's love of the game and the strategy that goes into it the nondiegetic level "p.
Again, it is not difficult to imagine a player getting caught up in the inspector's story, especially as the intrigue intensifies later in the narrative. Similarly, players might find themselves "in the zone", so to speak, so immersed in the act of processing paperwork that they enter into a transcendent state of "deep play" McMahan,p.
That said, Papers, Please does not go out of its way to cultivate an overt sense of fun in its gameplay, graphics, or sound design; rather, it favours the soul-crushing actions and aesthetics we so often associate with "real world" bureaucracies.
GameFront asserts that it is a game "pretty much designed to make you feel anxious all the time" Hornshaw, The Telegraph refers to Papers, Please as a "bleak, oppressive" game that "dares take you to the brink of boredom" Hoggins, Eurogamer compares it to a digital version of the infamous Milgram experiment Whitehead, Polygon raves that Papers, Please is an "exercise in misery" McElroy, Finally, GameSpot notes, "Papers, Please will stress you out.
At times it may even make you hate yourself" Peele, Yet, all of the critics quoted above ultimately awarded Papers, Please with overwhelmingly positive reviews. In fact, the game was met with near-universal critical praise, earning an 85 out of on Metacritic, a review aggregation site. After all, as Sicart observes, "play is not necessarily fun"p.
It is pleasurable, but the pleasures it creates are not always submissive to enjoyment, happiness, or positive traits. Play can be pleasurable when it hurts, offends, challenges us and teases us, and even when we are not playing. Let's not talk about play as fun but as pleasurable, opening us to the immense variations of pleasure in this world.
In presenting an interactive environment in which the narrative setting of a bureaucratic office and the repetitious gameplay of processing paperwork mutually reinforce one another, Papers, Please achieves a satisfying experience without necessarily relying on fun to maintain the player's attention.
Each "day" of gameplay in Papers, Please follows the same pattern. The inspector arrives at his booth, calls over the loudspeaker for the first prospective entrant into Arstotzka to step forward. The entrant approaches the booth, presents his or her documents, and the inspector verifies the documents, searching for any discrepancies -- an expired visa or missing entry ticket, for instance.
Following the verification process, the inspector stamps the entrant's visa as either "Approved" or "Denied", returns it along with any other documents, and finally calls for the next entrant over the loudspeaker. This cycle continues until the end of the workday, at which point the booth closes, the inspector returns home, goes to sleep, and starts anew the following day.
Clearly, the game is attempting to capture the dreary repetitiveness of bureaucratic work in its gameplay, and it does so quite successfully. McElroy describes the gameplay as follows: The bulk of the game, the main mechanic, if you will, is reviewing documents, consulting a rulebook, rearranging papers for a better view of all the information. After the hundredth time or so, double and triple checking, it can get very, very boring. But that boredom, that tedium, is the key to the game. In A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Koster proposes that we, as human beings, "dislike tedium, sure, but the fact is that we crave predictability"p.
Yet, the intentionally tedious gameplay in Papers, Please effectively serves to reinforce the game's oppressively wearisome narrative setting -- the grey interior of an Arstotzkan inspection booth.
The work of a bureaucrat is dull, even in simulation. The art style and sound design in Papers, Please further bolster the game's drab depiction of bureaucratic order. The graphics, for instance, are purposefully primitive -- looking in many instances as if they would be more at home on a Commodore 64 than a modern gaming system Figure 4 . Game reviewers variously describe the graphical style as "bland" Vineaux,"depressing" Lee,"lo-fi" Hoggins,and "8-bit" McElroy, In an early development log, the game's designer identified the game's style as "mid-res pixel art" with many backgrounds and items rendered in a limited three-shade colour palette Pope, Low-resolution character portrait with limited colour palette Source: Papers, Please The music and sound effects in Papers, Please similarly strive for an oppressive, totalitarian ambiance.
Papers, Please: Exploring a hopeless dystopia through the mundanity of mechanics.
The soundtrack consists of a single song: The repetitive sound effects, from the thunk of the "Denied" stamp to the garbled voice of the inspector calling for the next hopeful entrant to step forward, provide a steady rhythm that lends itself to the mindless shuffling of paperwork. To summarize, I argue that the game mechanics and bleak aesthetics of Papers, Please mutually reinforce one another to effectively simulate an interactive version of Weber's iron cage of rational bureaucracy.
For instance, Weber describes life inside the iron cage as follows: In the great majority of cases, he is only a small cog in a ceaselessly moving mechanism which prescribes to him an essentially fixed route of march. Even attempts to decorate the inspection booth with a family photograph can result in a fine from the M.
In reducing the player to little more than a wearied, dehumanized cog in a massive bureaucratic machine -- bolstered through the game's gameplay, visuals, and sound -- Papers, Please creates a ludic environment that eschews fun in favour of an often uneasy sense of immersion and engagement.
How does a videogame steeped in negative emotions draw players in and actually keep them playing? It is perhaps the final category, suffering, that best explains the satisfaction a player might experience while playing Papers, Please.
Kubovy's final category, suffering, finds its mundane realizations in the paradoxical nature of player motivations, that is, the player's willingness to play even in the face of potentially suffering loss or experiencing negative emotions. This paradox has been explained in psychological theory with the concept of "metamood". The term accounts for a mental process where individuals experience unpleasant emotions on the object level, but also positive emotions and enjoyment on the meta-emotional level.
This is perhaps at no point more apparent than on Day 7, when the game introduces a body-scanning mechanic that projects pixelated nude images of prospective entrants on screen, underscoring the invasive nature of the job . In turn, I suggest that by alternating between these extremes of boredom and anxiety, Papers, Please provides a strangely pleasurable interactive model of Weber's iron cage -- a claim that I would argue is borne out by the game's overwhelmingly positive reviews. Escaping the Iron Cage: Is There a Happy Ending?
Papers, Please is not content to merely simulate the "iron cage" experience; rather, as the game progresses, it offers players opportunities not only to challenge the bureaucratic regulations of the Ministry of Admission, but indeed the entire Arstotzkan regime. As Weber repeatedly notes, modern bureaucracies are quintessentially rational institutions. He refers to the "cool 'matter-of-factness'" of bureaucratic administration Weber,p.
There is very little room in the iron cage for moral quandaries or other special exceptions. Yet, Papers, Please introduces such complications as early as Day 4 of its Story Mode, when a woman without proper documentation approaches the booth seeking admission to Arstotzka. When questioned about the purpose of her visit, she states that she hopes to see her son for the first time since the border closed six years earlier. This presents the inspector -- and, by extension, the player -- with a dilemma: Similar situations later in the game include a husband and wife, only one of whom has the necessary documentation to cross the border Day 5a man lacking proper paperwork who needs to visit Arstotzka for a surgical procedure that is illegal in his home country Day 16and an entrant who is unable to afford medical care and therefore does not have the certificate of vaccination required for admission Day In turn, these decision points and others like them force the player to choose between dispassionately executing his or her duties by the book or violating regulations to help people in need .
As the game progresses, however, the moral choices laid before the inspector expand from tales of individual hardship to decisions that impact the future of the Arstotzkan regime itself. Soon thereafter, the player learns that EZIC is a shadowy organization intent on overthrowing the corrupt government of Arstotzka Figure 5.
Papers, Please The player is given the opportunity to assist EZIC by carrying out a series of tasks ranging from allowing its agents cross the border unmolested to poisoning a particular individual who poses a threat to the organization. Alternatively, the player can choose to remain loyal to the Arstotzkan regime and instead work to eliminate the EZIC threat. These decisions ultimately shape which of the game's twenty possible endings -- some good, others not so good -- the player will experience.
What are the costs of pursuing morality over rational obedience in Papers, Please? After two warning citations, the M. At the end of each day, the player is presented with a summary of the inspector's finances after paying for rent, food, and heat Figure 6. The daily summary of the inspector's finances Source: Papers, Please If the inspector does not bring home a sufficient wage due to slow performance or accruing too many fines, the health of his family begins to deteriorate -- potentially resulting in the death of individual family members.
At various points in the game, including branching story paths that involve assisting EZIC, the inspector has the option to accept bribes in order to support his family.
If the inspector accepts too many bribes, however, his neighbours grow suspicious and report him to the authorities, resulting in his imprisonment. Among the game's twenty possible outcomes, twelve involve the arrest and imprisonment of the inspector for such charges as poor performance, violating orders, associating with EZIC, or accepting bribes Figure 7. In four of these cases, the inspector is found guilty and executed; in four others, he is sentenced to forced labor for his alleged crimes against the regime.
Ultimately, the inspector is alive and free in only six of the game's twenty endings although his family dies in one of those "winning" scenarios. The message seems clear: