Issue 9

Papers, Please

A critically acclaimed indie game by Lucas Pope, Papers, Please offers a unique insight into the conflicts that arise between national allegiance and morality. 

Players are assigned the role of a border inspector in the fictional nation of Arstotzka – and are tasked with approving the entry of legal citizens of the country, as well as visitors from neighbouring nations with valid visas. 

With each passing day, increasingly stringent rules and regulations are placed upon the player, as the state of affairs between Arstotzka and its neighbours rapidly deteriorates. They encounter a variety of moral quandaries – such as having to decide whether to allow illegal migrants fleeing their home country in fear for their lives, or in search of their long-lost families. To add to the weight of the players’ dilemmas – each time they allow someone into the country incorrectly, their income and their family’s food rations are slashed. Thus, players must make important decisions each day – with their family’s life and their nation’s fate hanging in the balance. 

Papers, Please offers a uniquely accurate insight into modern insider-outsider narratives, the use of calls to ‘nationalism’ for masking State supported oppression, as well as the moral  dilemmas that emerge as a result of the same.

Picture Credits: Steam 

Issue 7

The Beginner’s Guide

Conventional notions of the intentional meaning behind creativity is challenged in The Beginner’s Guide. An interactive, narrative-based game developed and narrated by Davey Wreden, it follows the player exploring a series of short games developed by an individual named Coda. However, it isn’t Coda who introduces the player to their creations, but a narrator, named ‘Wreden’ after the game’s developer, who was once Coda’s close friend. The game follows the tumultuous journey of Coda’s creativity, depicted in the games they built before their sudden disappearance from Wreden’s life. 

Wreden walks the player through a variety of Coda’s games, highlighting signs of Coda’s deteriorating mental health due to doubts about their abilities and dissatisfaction with their ideas through recurring symbols and subtle allusions. Coda’s games provide elusive messages to the player to piece together the cause of their disappearance. The games represent Coda’s creative range and usage of his games as a means of communication with others. Through inescapable prison sequences, endless staircases that becomes progressively difficult to climb, and a cabin in the middle of nowhere that requires repeated cleaning with no sight in end, it becomes apparent that Coda’s games mean more than just creative expression to him. 

Davey Wreden’s games are best experienced without much explanation–they are always more than what they seem. At its core, The Beginner’s Guide effectively makes its players reevaluate what creativity truly entails, and understand the consequences of an insatiable desire for searching for meaning in creative products, even when there isn’t any. 

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