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  • Writer's pictureZack

I Taught Papers, Please

Updated: Jan 24, 2021

What's going on everyone?

For a final project, my students will be choosing a piece of legislation from United States history and discussing how it brought about social, economic, or political change. One of the options to choose from was the Immigration Act of 1924 which placed massive restrictions on immigration to the United States. It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I remembered about the game Papers, Please, from the Lucas Pope. Lucas Pope also created The Republia Times, another game I taught with my students.

So I went about making a lesson for Papers, Please because I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my students actually engaging with different types of immigration restrictions. The game tasks you with observing documentation of incoming migrants and deciding whether or not they are legally entering the country. You can follow the rules, or you can begin letting in people who are not legally allowed to enter. You make real choices that will have lasting effects throughout the game. Do you turn away everyone, including refugees, or do you show compassion for those who need entry? Doing so, however, will put you and your family at risk.

You can see a student sample from my class here. Remember that English is not the native language for any of my students, although this was one of the stronger students in my class.

They were really entertained and interested in the game and loved that they were given choices instead of just following the rules. Almost across the board, however, my students were following the rules provided to them because they were afraid of being caught. I did have one girl, however who made a point to let every women enter the country.

You can see that the game also got them thinking about what realities they saw in the game despite it being completely fictional. More importantly, the game got the class talking about the challenges of immigration relating to issues that they have studied in class and to experiences that all of my students lived first hand as they emigrated to the United States.

Papers, Please is a non-threatening medium to get students discussing and interacting with these issues. While I used it to further cement the immigration restrictions created by the Immigration Act of 1924, the lesson can easily be modified to fit a number of different topics. One teacher already mentioned to me that they would love to use the game when teaching about various refugee crises.

I definitely recommend this game. It went really well in my class and a couple of my students even went and bought the game for themselves. There is a free beta of the game here if you don't want to purchase the whole game. I believe the beta has the first eight levels which is more than enough gameplay. Let me know if any of you get around to teaching with it.

Thanks for reading,


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