Publisher: Lucas Pope
Year Released: 2013
Platforms: PC, iOS (iPad), Mac, Linux
Price: PC - $9.99, Apple Store - $7.99
Content Areas: Social Studies, English
Suggested Age Level: Upper High School
Warnings: M Rating - Strong Language and Sexual Themes (Nudity can be turned on/off in settings)
Play Length: 5 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Hard
So many games give the player the chance to take on the role of a soldier in a heated border battle, but Papers, Please gives a unique perspective on the aftermath of conflict. In the game, available on both PC/Mac/Linux and iPads, the player assumes the role of a border document inspector tasked with deciding who enters the Grestin checkpoint into the nation of Arstotzka. Armed with a daily bulletin, rulebook, and your trusty “Accept” or “Decline” stamps, the player’s mission mission is simple: Collect immigrants’ and nationals’ documents, hear their stories, and review the rules and regulations to determine if their information and rationale add up. If not, they get sent back to the Kolechian side of Grestin until they come back with the right documentation. That is, unless you’ve had them detained, arrested, or worse…
While Papers, Please nails the tense atmosphere, variety of moral decisions, and simple yet elegant controls, some aspects of its content and gameplay are not as conducive to the classroom. For instance, Papers, Please features very adult content, ranging from swearing, references to sexual topics such as a strip club, “nude” searches, and much more. On the iOS version of the game, nudity can be turned off, but a clever student can easily find this option and override the teacher’s say in the matter. In addition, the game ramps up the challenge very quickly - by day three or four, students must really be quick and find the little details on documents, otherwise they will rack up costly “citations” for denying or letting through people incorrectly, which costs money and their families’ well being.
All negatives aside, Papers, Please has vast potential in the Social Studies or English classroom, and also could serve an even greater purpose in teaching students the value of empathy and moral choices. In Social Studies, any discussion about immigration laws and reforms, as well as looking at conflict regarding the aftermath of war, could be greatly enhanced by a playthrough of Papers, Please. The game excels at giving students a new perspective of the person forced to enforce the oft-unfair rules that govern everyday people struggling to do all they can for themselves and who they care about.
In an English classroom, Papers, Please is a great complement to a dystopian literature unit, as well as a prime opportunity to discuss perspective and storytelling in a new way. In a more subtle manner, Papers, Please also teaches the art of close reading, proofreading work, and paying attention to the little details, as many of the erroneous documents the player must catch require cross-referencing, looking up information, and very minor misprints.
Papers, Please deserves all of the acclaim it has received by gamers and the press alike, but it is best served to an older audience who can appreciate its mix of morality, maturity, and mind-bending decisions.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 7/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)
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