I play a lot of Indie Games but it's very rare that one makes a big impression on me, being both great fun to play and to actually making me think. This is especially true as I really require a strong theme to my games, I dislike ones based on flashing lights and abstract ideas, I demand people, personalities, some kind of reality.
So, last night I came across something that ticked all of my boxes and more, a beta of a game called Papers, Please. Now to try and distill why it's so brilliant into a few words, why I'll be buying it as soon as it comes out and why it's the only game I've ever bothered opening steam green light for.
You play as a government official at a border check point and the guts of the game consist of you processing peoples papers, checking for inconsistencies which would indicate a forgery. You get paid per person accepted or denied and there is pressure to process as many people as possible as you need to feed your family at the end of every day.
As a puzzle game, that's all you'd really need. I'd happily play something like that to completion as a nice mind exercise with a fantastic theme but the game isn't content with that. It goes further.
Here, above any other game I've played recently, any game full stop, I've found personalities. Husband and wife trying to get through the checkpoint together, wanted people attempting to evade detection and the dark specter of human trafficking seen through eyes helpless to stop it.
Or, the game asks. Are you that helpless? After all, you make mistakes every day. Mistakes are so expected in your line of work that you are permitted to make two without incurring a penalty, what if say, you could help somebody out by making one of these mistakes. Who would know. How much is one of these mistakes worth to a smuggler for example? Is it so wrong to sell it so that you may feed your family.
And these are the questions you find yourself asking, all under a time limit, all under the brewing cloud of this oppressive bureaucracy and terrorist attacks. Who is making the decisions?
This game is addictive, poignant and my mother could play it. Check it out.