Game Reviews

Papers, Please Beta: Reviewing the Life of a 1982 Immigration Inspector


I haven’t had a chance to do much other than writing academic papers, but I did manage to try out the Papers, Please Beta. You can buy the full game on Steam for $10.

One could imagine an academic parody titled, “Dissertation, Please.”

According to, the game was created by Lucas Pope:

A Dystopian Document Thriller.

The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin.

Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.


The beta is available for Mac and Windows, which only shows the tip of the iceberg for great avenues of storytelling. It reminds me of those times I sit in a traffic jam, wondering about the lives of all the others stuck with me. We are all coming and going somewhere. The gameplay is straightforward and conceptually simple, but the narrative exploits our curiosities of the lives of strangers.


Before playing, it helped to watch some youtube reviews of the game. Nerd3 captured the experience well, giving a play-through of the first three days on the job– each day a new round. You control the fate of these people, while expected to provide for your family. Everyone has a story to tell.


Nerd3 also made a great comparison with the mechanics and themes of the Phoenix Wright series. Papers, Please uses some standard detective mechanics, giving you puzzles to reason through while racing against the clock.

Personally, I like it for the way it connects people together. Storytelling is a powerful tool.

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