Welcome to the first of a series of posts where I briefly analyze the archetypes and design choices of video game characters. In this installment we will examine some of the characters from Papers, Please.
Protagonist: The Inspector
Archetype: Anti-hero and Everyman
While there are several factions the player can have the Inspector side side with, at the end of the day he will be acting in his own self-interest. The Inspector is a simple bureaucrat whose just trying to make a living and not get on the wrong side of the government. He’s not actively trying to do good, he’s just following orders. Even though his actions can have larger implications, the Inspector is still just a regular human, lacking any special powers and unprepared for what’s to come.
We do not see many images of the Inspector, but in the ones we do he comes across as a bland ordinary citizen. There is nothing remarkable about him and his only power is to approve or deny entry for people crossing the border. He is a blank slate visually, only being shown as a hulking shadow sitting down at their desk and once as a highly pixelated grey image. This allows the different choices the player makes on his behalf while playing the game more believable, as there is not much visual pre-establishment of what he would do if not being controlled by the player.
Antagonists: M. Vonel and Dimitri
Archetypes: Superior and Opposing
Both M. Vonel and Dimitri fall into the superior and opposing antagonist archetypes. Although they do not belong to the same government agency, M. Vonel and Dimitri rank higher then the Inspector in the internal government pecking order. It is also the job of each of them, albeit by different means, to monitor the Inspector. This can lead to them acting as opposition to the Inspector if the player’s goals do not align with theirs.
The colors used for M. Vonel are blue and black. This creates the interesting effect of being scared (black), while also feeling an uneasy calm (blue). His presence becomes further intimidating by not being able to see his eyes, as they are blocked by glasses. His attire and mustache also remind the player of a Nazi, adding to his terrifying yet authoritatively serene demeanor as a special investigator for the Ministry of Information.
Unlike M. Vonel, Dimitri initially has a warmer, more inviting style. However, soon after the player first interacts with Dimitri it is clear that he is not there to be your friend. The true meaning of what his red attire is meant to convey becomes clear: not warmth, but anger and danger. As the protagonists’ supervisor, Dimitri has the power to reduce his salary or terminate his employment.
Although most of the characters encountered in Papers, Please are randomly generated, the ones that are consciously designed display choices that are intended to reflect their role and influence the mood of the player.
If enjoyed this post, consider checking out my review of Papers, Please.
Papers, Please is available on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/239030/Papers_Please/
Papers Please. Lucas Pope, 2013.