I don't know about you, but I view traveling as an opportunity to delve into games I haven't tried yet. Hence why I opened up Papers, Please on my iPad as I winged my way toward New Orleans last week.
I'm aware that I'm distinctly late to the party on this front - there's been plenty written about Papers, Please around the Internet since its arrival back in 2013 - but that's the life of a game journalist. Sometimes a game will just sit in your backlog for ages, even really good ones like Papers, Please.
In any case, with nothing better to do, I opened up Papers, Please, which immediately drew the attention of my partner, who was sitting next to me.
"What's this?" She asked me.
I explained that it's a game where you run a border checkpoint for a small communist nation, then stamped a fictional passport. It was obvious that she was hooked. For the rest of the flight, we sat huddled over the iPad processing travelers as quickly as possible, her finger occasionally darting in to flip the rulebook to the right page while I scanned passports and entry permits for discrepancies.
The fun of Papers, Please is that you're dealing with constantly shifting requirements. At first, you just have to keep foreigners out of the country; but as time passes, you have to deal with entry permits, tickets, falsified documents, escaped killers, and the odd terrorist attack. You have to cross-reference a lot of information in a short amount of time, and with the clock ticking and your family dependent on your earnings, those moments when you're flipping through a dozen documents can get tense. It made me think of the song from Futurama where Hermes sings about his love of being a bureacrat.
"He forgot it's not supposed to be about the badges and rank / It's supposed to be about the filing!"
At one point, I jokingly referred to it as co-op bureacracy to my partner, who was still hovering over my shoulder. She replied, "It's just like a real bureacracy. You have a boss who is hovering over your shoulder and micromanaging everything you do." Then she hit the horn to call for the next applicant.
I laughed because she was right in suggesting that her presence added to the game, but not in the way she was thinking. We wound up being a pretty good team, her sharp eye for discrepancies allowing me to quickly get through my paperwork and keep the line moving. When we made it through a day with enough money for food and heat, we would do a little fist pump and a cheer together. Papers, Please isn't meant to be a co-op game - on the contrary, it's meant to make you feel like you're struggling alone in the crushing jaws of an authoritarian state - but it's surprising how gratifying it can be when played with a friend. How appropriate for a game set in a communist state.
So what did you play this weeekend?