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Papers, Please

BEFORE YOU START

Play the game by going to the Papers, Please website, where you can purchase the full version, or visit developer Lucas Pope’s website and download the free beta version.

This video shows how the game is played:

LESSON PLAN

Aims: for students to think deeply about the nature of their job, or a job they know well, and compare it with the job of the character in the game, for students to reflect on in-game decisions using should/shouldn’t + have + past participle, and for students to discuss work-related issues within the game
Resources: Papers, Please game, one computer with Adobe Flash player per 2-3 students, worksheet
Age: 15-18, Adult
Level: B2+
Time: 30 minutes plus optional extension

PROCEDURE

Before the lesson

  1. Play Papers, Please and note down some of the main duties and responsibilities of the main character, the immigration official.
  2. Use this to prepare a worksheet. You could use this example:
    my job his job
    I walk to work every morning.
    I work alone.
    I have plenty of space at my desk to get things done.
    In my job it’s very important to pay attention to detail.
    I need to make a lot of moral and ethical decisions in my job.
    I work flexitime.
    I’m paid based on how well I perform in my job.
    If I make mistakes my pay is docked.
    I have to pay for improvements to my office out of my own pocket.
    I meet a lot of interesting people in my job.
    My boss is very sympathetic and approachable.
    I feel secure in my job.

During the lesson

  1. Introduce the game by telling students they are going to do a different job for one month. Hand out the worksheet and ask them to complete the ‘my job’ column by ticking all statements that apply to their job, or a job they know well. Students compare answers in small groups. Get feedback from one or two groups, focusing on any interesting differences between students or what they have in common.
  2. Invite students to predict what the job might be like for the immigration inspector, but do not confirm answers at this stage. Tell students they are going to find out by playing the game.
  3. Students play the game in new pairs, where student A plays the role of the inspector and B must help A decide whether to admit or deny each person. Once day 1 is over, ask students to discuss the decisions they made using should/shouldn’t + have + past participle, e.g. ‘I feel we should’ve worked faster’ or ‘Perhaps we should’ve been more careful’. Students should then agree on how to spend their income. This will become more difficult as the game goes on!
  4. Before day 2 begins, check which sentences on the worksheet are true for the game character and why. If any answers are not yet obvious, ask students to wait until they have completed more of the game.
  5. Students change roles and continue playing through, repeating step 3 at the end of each day and changing roles before the next day begins.
  6. Once students have died, lost their job or successfully completed the game, ask them to work in new groups to discuss some of the issues in the game, focusing on the most difficult decisions they had to make.
  7. Return to the worksheet and ask students to decide if they and the game character have anything in common in terms of their job.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Depending on your students and the time available, you could:

  • give students a list of ‘What if …’ sentences before the game, e.g. ‘If someone offered you a bribe in order to pass through without the right documents, would you accept it?’ or ‘If somebody said their life was in danger, would you let them through without the correct papers?’, and tell them to play and find out
  • invite students to play the game outside the classroom and then discuss it in the next lesson
  • tell students to write a resignation letter to their supervisor, from the perspective of the game character, or a letter of application for the post
  • ask students to role play a performance meeting between the inspector and his supervisor
  • have students role play an evening meal, where the inspector tells his family about the issues he faces at work
  • invite students to evaluate the game, saying what they learned from it, what they liked about it and how they would improve it.

OVER TO YOU

Do you feel you could use this lesson idea with your students? If so, how would you integrate it into your curriculum? How would you make sure your students used English?

Can you think of any other ways of using Papers, Please in the classroom?

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Discussion

7 thoughts on “Papers, Please

  1. Thank you very much for this useful information; My name is Mary and I want you to help me in my research paper of Master in English, the subject is digital game-based learning of English I want a ready topic to guide me in the work as soon as possible.

    Posted by meriem | February 25, 2016, 12:39 am
  2. This game could be used to teach ethics at work.Pondering on what is right /wrong will help them make the right decisions later.

    Posted by lalitha | May 9, 2016, 7:23 am
  3. This looks very interesting, I’d definitely like to use this material. It would probably be better used in European a European context. I am currently teaching in the Middle East and so this topic could be a bit sensitive for many of my students who come from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Jordan and Kenya (to mention just a few). Even the search section of the lady in her underwear could be tricky as many of my learners are Muslim. Lots of my students are hoping to emigrate to Canada and Australia and require high IELTS scores so the theme could touch a nerve and, if used in the wrong way, students may feel a little stigmatised. I worked 10 years in Europe and would definitely us this lesson with my students there. I think it would raise awareness of the plight of many people around the world. Really interesting stuff, thanks Dave! Look forward to finding more stuff.

    Posted by Stephen | May 21, 2016, 8:52 am
    • Thanks a lot for your comment, Stephen! I agree, you need to think carefully about whether particular games are appropriate for different groups of learners – if this one isn’t, I recommend Stop Disasters! and Spent, which are both free to play online. If you try them out, let me know how you get on!

      Posted by davegatrell | May 21, 2016, 9:32 am
  4. Cheers Dave, I’ll definitely be using those games in class. I’m in Qatar and I think many of my more well off students could do with playing Spent. Also the Stop Disasters! game would help with vocabulary for my IELTS students. Much appreciated,
    Stephen

    Posted by Stephen | May 21, 2016, 10:19 am

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