Before taking this class, I thought of play as needing to follow the set guidelines and boundaries within a game’s narrative to fully enjoy the game. If I were playing Super Smash Bros on the Wii with my friends, I absolutely had to dedicate all of the actions I made to fighting the other characters and grabbing any items to gain an advantage in winning the fights. In my mind, there was no time to dawdle around the arena not fighting, and if I did not win at least once, then there was no purpose in my playing the game. My past self felt this need to follow and be constricted by the rules and goals of the game in order to have a fulfilling experience playing through it.
Then I was introduced to Papers, Please in this class. This game is set in a dystopian Communistic country where the player is a border control officer who must analyze travel papers thoroughly and decide whether to let a traveler into the country or not. As the player progresses through the game, more specific rules are applied when checking that papers are all in order, and penalties are given should the decision violate these rules. All the while, the player has an in-game family to support, and income is based on work performance. Playing this game on a PC, the controls mainly rely on moving, clicking, and dragging the mouse, although later features include upgrades to toggle the stamp panel or inspection machine using keys on the keyboard.
When first playing Papers, Please, I followed along with my previous notion of play and kept to the rules given to me, taking on the role of a good border control officer in the eyes of the country I worked for. However, the more I played, the more that circumstances were working against my morals, and I found that I became very reluctant to continue following the border patrol rules. After going along with the secret rebellion and letting their agents in, I was surprised that I could get away with breaking the rules and only receiving a penalty note for it. The way I played this game changed after this occurrence; I was still strict about which characters I let in past the border, lest I become penalized and make my in-game family suffer due to inadequate income, but was more open to carefully choosing who to sneak in and acting more on my moral compass than I did before. The way this game prompted me to work within the system in order to change the system broadened my definition of play, because while I was still mainly following the set rules for border inspection, I was also free to forgo these rules if my judgment deemed it so, and this showed me that it is not necessary to always follow the game rules to gain a sense of fulfillment from the gameplay.