So what amazing game play does Papers Please use? You check a person's passport for discrepancies. No really, that's it. Well I suppose that isn't everything. You also have to check their ID or entry permit against their passport. Later you you get nude pictures of the people trying to get into your country to determine if they have contraband or weapons on them. Think airport security scanners. The nudity is handled incredibly well. It isn't sexualized in the least, it isn't even interesting from a sexual stand point. The people are just everyday people, men and women with all of the body types you can think of. I will admit I was a bit shocked the first time I had to do it, I didn't expect nudity in a game like this. It didn't seem necessary. Which is exactly why it is so effective. It dehumanizes both my character in the game and the person of whom the pictures are being taken for me to review. Which is exactly the point I'm getting from the game. Beautifully done.
The game is essentially set in a soviet style country opening up just a little for the first time. Your character won the "Labor Lottery" to get the job. If you make a mistake you lose money. Losing money is a big deal because you're trying to keep your family alive. Keeping your family alive isn't easy because you need money to buy food and heat the house, to get medicine for them when they get sick. How much money you earn depends on how many people you can get through customs in a day. This encourages the player to try to go as fast as possible while still being accurate. However, the game play is designed around being slow. You want to hurry but you just can't. Not really.
The player is reminded constantly of the consequences of their choices, people die if you let a terrorist through. People claim to be trying to get through to visit their son they haven't seen in years, since the boarder was closed. A woman claims that she is worried about someone who is coming through after her will steal her passport once she gets to where she is to be working and she will be forced into sex slavery and would you please help her by not letting the man through.
I didn't let him through. I lost 5 dollars. I couldn't by medicine for my son because I didn't have those 5 dollars. My son died..
This game is not 'fun' in any way. Fun isn't the point, no more then fun is the point of Schindler's List. It is, however, absolutely engaging. I've only played for about an hour, really 30 minutes first in the demo then another 30 in the full version. My choices feel important and let me examine who I am, what sacrifices am I willing to make to help people. If I worked in bureaucracy would I become just as uncaring as the stereotypical bureaucrat. Would I really be willing to risk the health and welfare of my family to do whats right, or would I just be a cog in the machine.
I haven't played too far in the game, maybe I'll be disappointed later, but this is everything that video games as art should be. Forcing users to examine themselves, their world with a new understanding based on the choices that they make within the world.
This game is not fun and it is all the better for it.