Toto, We're Not In Dystopia Anymore

A 2013 videogame about border control brings the immigration ban to life.

The interactive nature of Papers, Please gives players a window into how fascism manifests itself in bureaucracy. The brilliance of the game’s paperwork gameplay is that it makes the player complicit in the projection of state power. The player takes personal responsibility for the validity of each document that gets handed to them. If the player is wrong — if they forget to check a visa’s expiration date; or forget that the official MOA seal was changed from an X to a slash; or admit an immigrant with the wrong stamp on their work permit; or forget that Arstotzka, since this morning, has been in engaged in a dispute with neighboring Kolechia, whose various diplomatic seals are variations on an asterisk shape; or forget to check the most-wanted list — then they might be responsible for admitting a terrorist into the country. Each piece of paper that the player checks represents a tacit agreement with state policy. The flip side is that each layer of bureaucracy is an opportunity to resist.

Over at The Ringer, Jason Concepcion (whom I have trouble thinking of as anything but “netw-three-rk”) has an excellent diary about playing the indie game “Papers, Please” in Trump’s America. What was once probably an allegory about the threat of fascism is now depressingly realistic. You can play it here.

‘Papers, Please’ Is a Disturbing Video Game About Immigration