Few jobs are more soul-sucking than sitting at a cramped desk and shuffling paperwork for hours on end. Now imagine doing that in an Eastern Bloc country during the height of the Cold War, with low pay, bleak conditions and the constant threat of being fired or worse if you screw up.Tedious, boring and stressful. Ideal subject matter for a video game, no?And yet Papers, Please is an unforgettable experience. It's been dubbed a "paperwork simulator" and that's not entirely inaccurate - but it's truly a game about freedom, power and how fleeting and illusory each can be.Papers, Please is an independent game designed by former Naughty Dog programmer Lucas Pope and it casts players as a border checkpoint officer in the fictional communist country of Arstotzka. Your job is simple, at least in concept: examine the documents of people who are trying to get into the country, and determine whether they're eligible for entry or should be turned away.At first it's as easy as checking criteria like passport expiry dates, and rejecting paperwork that's invalid or forged. But before long, Papers, Please becomes a tension-filled juggling act, as you're cross-referencing work permits with identity cards, making sure the applicant's weight matches the value on their entry papers, checking fingerprint records and sometimes doing full-body scans for drugs and weapons.Every new day adds new rules to follow and new layers of complexity, from making sure applicants' vaccinations are up to date to applying a draconian extra level of inspection for citizens of a rival nation. And every time you let mess up, you lose the money you'd have earned for properly processing that batch of paperwork.To give the game a sense of grim consequence, your wages are tallied up at the end of each day, from which you must pay for rent, food, heat and medicine for your family. There's almost never enough money for everything... do you let your family go hungry in order to keep the heat on? When both your wife and son are sick and you can only afford medicine for one, who gets it?Despite the retro-flavoured visuals, the act of shuffling virtual papers is actually surprisingly tactile, and spotting a discrepancy and slamming the "denied" stamp down on a person's passport imparts an odd thrill of power.But not all decisions are clear-cut, and the game has 20 different endings depending on how things unfold. Do you let a man's pleading wife into the country, even though her paperwork isn't valid and the money it will cost you may mean you can't feed your family that night? Do you deny passage to the man who you suspect is a human trafficker, even though all his documents are in order? Who is behind the enigmatic organization that wants to overthrow the government, and do you dare get involved with their cause?With a deluge of big-budget, high-profile games on the horizon, it might be easy to overlook a quiet, unusual game like Papers, Please. But don't do that, comrade. The consequences would be dire.