Right, before we begin I feel I need to address the issue that I may have said something offensive to the transgender community in last week's video. For a while I was confused over what, specifically, was causing offense. 'Cos some people said it was the image shown in the video thumbnail of the booth from Papers, Please with a sign over it saying "No trannies". But that was a reference to the game mechanics - you are literally required to turn away people who look like one gender when their passport says another, because you work for an evil and very politically incorrect dictatorship. The image was taken out of context. I appreciate that 'trannies' is a pejorative word, but I hasten to reiterate that it was written on a sign erected by a fictional evil dictatorship. I am hopeful that this world is not so mindlessly knee-jerk that one is condemned solely for the utterance of a Forbidden Word, regardless of context or intent, because I don't see how that helps. It's like forcing a public figure to resign because they used the word 'niggardly'.
I suspect, though, that the image was latched onto because it was more visible, and the actual problematic remark was one from earlier in the video along the lines of "'Co-op single player' is like saying 'I'm not gay, I only suck off pre-op transsexuals'". And that one I do regret, in retrospect. It was supposed to be a joke about cognitive dissonance, that a man in denial about being gay would seek out things with penises attached that aren't necessarily men, but I realise now that this was a poor choice of words, because some people who identify as female have cocks. Lord knows I have nothing to gain from enforcing gender roles, 'cos I don't like cars OR football. I should probably have gone for something like 'I'm not gay, I only suck off pantomime dames.'
So I apologise for my lazy wording. I regret the fact that it got in the way of the intended message, which was that Papers, Please is really neat and you should check it out, however transphobic its fictional evil dictatorship may be.
Has Papers, Please created an entire new genre: the bureaucracy-em-up? I wonder about that. If it could be said to belong to an existing genre, then it would probably be whatever genre Trauma Center is. They're both about going through a procedure in a professional setting with massive pressure being put on you by a time limit and the context of what you're doing. And come to think of it, both of them have a bomb disposal sequence out of nowhere. Huh. Strange parallel.
The difference is that the paperwork sorting in Papers, Please isn't actually the meat of the experience. It's the context of the rest of the game that makes it for me. The gameplay itself is deliberately soul-crushingly banal. The notion that your decisions have the power to make or break the lives of these desperate innocents lining up for hours in the freezing cold - not to mention the dire consequences that await you if you displease the state - creates an underlying tension that fuels the face-pulling tantrums every time a citation comes up. I would argue that the core, essential gameplay may not be the document checking itself, but the moments when the routine breaks and you are pressured into deciding whether to stick to the rules or try to do the right thing.
So yes, it's pretty involving stuff. And particularly important because it's a solo project by developer Lucas Pope, inspired by events in his own life. The usual argument against games being art is that they're made by far too many people to be considered auteur-driven (a similar argument was made against films in the past, but I digress), in which case, solo developed games must be pretty cut and dry as far as counter-examples go.