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Papers, Please: A Dystopian Document Thriller is a puzzle video game created by indie game developer Lucas Pope, developed and published through his company, 3909. The game was released on August 8, 2013, for Microsoft Windows and OS X, for Linux on February 12, 2014, and for the iPad on December 12, 2014. A port for the PlayStation Vita was announced in August 2014.
Papers, Please has the player take the role of a border crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern Bloc-like country of Arstotzka, which has been and continues to be at political hostilities with its neighboring countries. As the officer, the player must review each immigrant and returning citizen's passports and other supporting paperwork against a list of ever-increasing rules using a number of tools and guides, allowing in only those with the proper paperwork, rejecting those without all proper forms, and at times detaining those with falsified information. The player is rewarded in their daily salary for how many people they have processed correctly in that day, while being fined for making mistakes; the salary is used to help provide shelter, food, and heat for the player's in-game family. In some cases, the player will be presented with moral decisions, such as approving entry of a pleading spouse of a citizen despite the lack of proper paperwork, knowing this will affect their salary. In addition to a story mode which follows several scripted events that occur within Arstotzka, the game includes an endless mode that challenges the player to process as many immigrants as possible.
Pope came upon the idea of passport-checking as a gameplay mechanic after witnessing the behavior of immigration officers through his own international travels. He coupled this with a narrative inspired by spy thriller films, having the immigration officer be one to challenge spies trying to move in or out of countries with fake travel documents. He was able to build on principles and concepts from some of his earlier games, including his The Republia Times from which he also borrowed the setting of Arstotzka. Pope publicly shared details of the game's development from its onset, leading to high interest in the title and encouraging him to put more effort into it; though he initially planned to only spend a few weeks, Pope ended up spending about nine months on the game.
Papers, Please was positively received on its release, and it has come to be seen as an example of an empathy game and a demonstration of video games as an art form. The game was recognized with various awards and nominations from the Independent Games Festival, Game Developers Choice Awards, and BAFTA Video Games Awards, and was named by Wired and The New Yorker as one of the top games of 2013. Pope reported that by 2016, more than 1.8 million copies of the title had been sold.