Something to Play: Papers Please


The purpose of Something to Play is typically to suggest, well, you get the drift. And I went into Papers, Please with high hopes. Who doesn’t approach a “dystopian document thriller” with anticipation?

But it’s utter drudgery. It’s the most amazing example of mentally-taxing-work-as-a-game (not just sorting, like Candy Crush) and a real grind.

You play a border security guard in a quasi-Soviet republic who’s got to administer dozens of arcane rules about entry to the republic while admitting or turning away would-be entrants. Every day, your hits and misses are tallied up, your pay is docked accordingly, you decide how much to spend on heat or medicine for your sick kid and the criteria that you have to check against gets harder.

Behind all this are various sub-plots involving corruption, human trafficking, joining a rebel group, getting laid, etc., meant to mimic the character of this sort of system (i.e. the only way to win is to cheat, play both sides or become corrupt) but you’ve got to process an entire day’s worth of people, scrutinizing every tiny detail, to get to the narrative.

It’s out for iPad, if this particular brand of masochism sounds up your alley. I hated myself for getting hooked on it and following it into a dark simulacrum every evening.