This week, media outlet Slate decided to get retroactively offended by an award-winning video game from 2013 because:
1. Pewdiepie played it
2. It reminded them of Trump
Papers Please is a 2013 Video Game in which you are an immigration inspector at a border checkpoint for the fictional country of Arstotzka in the 1980s. The game gives you multiple tasks and challenges to complete in a day 30 period which gives you as many as 20 endings for the game. When 3909 LLC released this game six years ago, it was showered with universal praise from critics and gamers alike. CBC News’ Jonathan Ore called Papers, Please:
“Nerve-racking sleuthing game with relentless pacing and dozens of compelling characters all from a desk job”.
Simon Parkin writing for The New Yorker blog declared Papers Please the top video game of 2013. He wrote:
“Grim yet affecting, it’s a game that may change your attitude the next time you’re in line at the airport.”
Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of The Escapist’s series Zero Punctuation lauded the game for being a truly unique game and even made it one of his top five games for that year. He cited the game’s morality as his reasoning by explaining that
“Papers, Please presents us constant moral choices, but makes it really hard to be a good person…while you could waive the rules to reunite a couple, you do it at the expense of your own family… You have to decide if you want to create a better world or just look after you and yours.”
That was 2013, now it’s 2019 and the game is problematic because of Trump. Eva-Marie Quinones of Slate took exception to the recent let’s play of popular YouTubers PewDiePie and Jacksepticeye because of it’s “problematic” scenarios. Quinones sets the tones by comparing the game to the Trump Administration:
Since its release, Papers, Please has been praised as an “empathy game” that is designed to cultivate compassion in players. But empathy didn’t appear to be a consideration during several recent, highly watched YouTube playthroughs of the game that coincided with renewed outrage over the Trump administration’s policies at the border. Not long after we learned of lice-ridden children sleeping on the floor of a windowless, overcrowded facility in Clint, Texas.
She then begins to attack Pewdiepie for the lack of empathy he displayed…in a video game:
Felix Kjellberg—aka PewDiePie, one of the biggest YouTubers in the world—put on a Soviet visor hat, considered the case of a documented husband and undocumented wife, and promptly rejected the wife, saying, “Boohoo—don’t waste my time!”
She continues by attacking Jacksepticeye for his gameplay as well:
If one point of Papers, Please is to force the player to reflect on the dehumanizing aspects of immigration systems, these videos miss it. Kjellberg and McLoughlin are not only inhabiting a role many view as cruel; they embrace as fun the act of turning away migrants fleeing violence and enduring hardship for a chance at a better life. Violence may be a fact of gaming, but there is something deeply unsettling about inflicting video game cruelty on those that closely mirror the downtrodden in real life, whether it be punching a homeless man in Grand Theft Auto or shooting civilians in a war zone in Call of Duty.If these populations are already the butt of some unforgiving cosmic joke, it seems unfair to gain further entertainment from their suffering via gaming. Especially if entertainment ends up being the only point.
Quinones concludes by attacking both players personalities as well as their lack of understanding of the real-life plight of children at the border…while they are playing a fictional award-winning video game:
Critics of Kjellberg may find this lack of empathy toward immigrants unsurprising, given his history of making anti-Semitic comments and repeated flirtations with the far right, but McLoughlin has marked his career with extensive philanthropy and led a “Positive Mental Attitude” campaign to encourage positivity online.He comes across as a good guy.
That he could turn away asylum-seekers in a video game, seemingly without further thought of this act’s socio-political implications,suggests that it is not enough to attribute the brutality of the Trump administration’s border policies to a cruel ideology and malicious class of agents. Rather, that we can dismiss the excesses of these policies as administratively necessary suggests a familiar banality of evil.