After spending hours playing both games, I noticed different reactions to the screen in front of me, as well as different levels of immersion, and I’d like to talk about them here. And nt necessarily just comparing the two plotlines, but what we see, as players, on the screens of both games.
In the game Papers, Please, besides a few black screens with text, all the player gets is the image of a desk and what looks like a bird’s eye view of the checkpoint, potentially a camera or something. Now, while playing the game, despite using the mouse as a tool to flip through the book, pick up passports, and potentially detain people, the desk seems terrifyingly realistic, especially after hours of playing. Sure, it’s all composed by pixels, but I found myself looking at more than just the art of the game, but how it influenced me. This little screen, with it’s desk and walls, barely allowed me to look outside. In fact, it felt very closed in, which reflected the ambiance of the entire game. Not only is Arstotzka a heavily policed state, but the very environment demonstrated shows this at all moments. We, as players, are never allowed to look past the wall of our humble little shack (unless you count the camera view as much of a view of something beyond the checkpoint). Closed in, we are forced to do our job until we trigger one of the 20 endings.
However, Assassin’s Creed provides such an open world that exploring is one of the best things to do in there. Vivid colors characterize the game, open spaces, as well as enclosed ones, and the character frequently has to move from one location to the other, and not just move in the space that is seen on the screen. Despite the seemingly open spaces, there are certain tasks that are vital to accomplish, so is this feeling of freedom just an illusion?
Either way, I found myself having different reactions to both Papers, Please and Assassin’s Creed. Strange as it might seem, I am tempted to say that Papers, Please was more immersive than Assassin’s Creed was. In Papers, Please, I myself was the inspector, checking passports for faults and details; while in Assassin’s Creed, I could play the character and saw him moving on the screen as I directed him by pressing the different keys on my keyboard. Never while playing Assassin’s Creed did I confuse myself with the main character, while in Papers, Please, there even came a moment when I found myself responding to the people who were coming in for myself, almost as if I, the player, was having the conversation with the virtual person, rather than my character. Sure, Papers, Please might have less “freedom” than Assassin’s Creed, but somehow it was more immersive in the fact that the main character isn’t seen being controlled, and the only reminders that occasionally arise as to the player not being the character are the screens at the end of each day which show the family’s stats. I’m not saying that Assassin’s Creed isn’t immersive, I’m just saying that somehow Papers, Please beat it in my book.