The official short film adaptation of Papers, Please; The award winning 2013 independent game by Lucas Pope is out now and free to watch.
Papers, Please takes place in the fictional Eastern European country of Arstotzka, in the year 1982, after a six-year long war with neighbouring country Kolechia resulting in continued political hostilities. The player assumes the role of an immigration inspector who must review the provided paper work of each immigrant and returning citizen, then decide who will be granted entry to Arstotzka, who will be denied entry and who will be detained based on whether or not all the required paperwork is presented and in working order.
The premise may sound dull but it’s the moral dilemmas that the game throws at you that makes it so engaging and powerful; as travellers will make their plea for you to let them through despite not having the correct papers. Too many mistakes by you may result in consequences, such as reduced income affecting your ability to provide for your family or even the loss of your job. You’ll sympathise with more people than you can save.
The film adaptation does a great job of capturing the look, feel, sound and tone of the game. The high production values and attention to detail helps to recreate the authenticity of the inspection booth and its surroundings. Even the stamping, scanning and printing sounds add a lot to the authenticity. Nothing in the film reminded me more of the game than the game’s marching rhythmic soundtrack making an appearance. In my opinion, I’ve found it to be one of the more successful game-to-film adaptations.
Whilst did I enjoy the film, it did get me thinking about the major difference between games and films; the way emotions are conveyed. In the film, the emotion that you feel as the viewer is through empathy of the characters on-screen, your watching other people’s story unfold. In the game, you generate your own emotional responses as the player and the game receives and processes them through its mechanics, you make your own story. What’s makes it all the more impressive is that few games manage to achieve this as well as Papers, Please.