June 17, 2015

Papers, Please: An excerpt from DEATH BY VIDEO GAME


papers-please-04-700x393My job as the immigration inspector at the Grestin Border Checkpoint is not to weigh the truth or worth of these stories. Rather, it is to check that each person’s papers are in order and, ideally, to find them lacking and deny entry. It pays to make snap decisions: the more people I process in a day, the more money I take home to my family.

But the bureaucracy is chaotic: every day a fresh set of rules and checks is sent from the capital, new knots in the red tape designed to make access that much harder for the asylum seekers at the gates.

Mistakes are costly: my pay is docked for each person I let through in error. My wages do not cover the food, heating and medicine I need to feed, clothe and heal my family, so the more mistakes that are made, the starker my choices become. When there’s a limited amount of money in the pot, you must decide which loved ones to care for. Who will spend today panged with sickness or hunger?

The man’s papers are in order.

Read the rest in Death By Video Game—available for purchase here, at your neighborhood independent bookstore, at Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.

Simon Parkin is a journalist whose writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, the Guardian, ESPN, and a number of other publications. DEATH BY VIDEO GAME is his first book.