Game media have long participated in projects of nation building by remediating historical, political, and social relations in ways that reinforce affective processes of national belonging. The genre of border games in particular is well-known for staging the discursive and symbolic value of national boundaries through the deployment of specific gameplay mechanics and storytelling elements. However, as this essay argues, border games do more than merely represent borders in games; they reflect how borders themselves might be experienced as games within the cultural logic of gamification. Through an analysis of Lucas Pope’s independently produced American video game Papers, Please (2013), this article interrogates gamification as a rhetorical process that communicates how play dynamics sustain the procedural logics of border security and citizenship. Such logics, the game suggests, are marked by the installment of a series of rule-based interactions that modulate affect within the sociotechnical mechanics of state-sanctioned racism to enable the proper flow of both play and mobility. However, through failure, the game also reveals gamification to be an incomplete diagram of control, one where the priming of affect rubs up against the sociopolitical frictions that shape individual play experiences. Ultimately, this article argues that border games like Papers, Please enable players to experiment with the forms of national belonging that subtend our experiences of gamification.

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