Weekly: Nothing Changes On New Year’s Day

Do you have a song which makes your skin crawl? Do you feel a confusing mixture of emotions when listening to it? Here, let me share one of such songs with you.

All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you
Be with you, night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it’s true, it’s true
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

“New Year’s Day” was written and recorded by the former rock rebels and current rock celebrities in U2 in 1983 as a commentary on the political and social situation in Poland after the introduction of martial law. Luckily, I was born too late to remember that period, but collective memory is a harsh mistress and the song still fills me with dread and sadness every time I hear it. Now, I have it stuck in my head because I decided to celebrate the first week of the new year by returning to Papers, Please.

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Winter in the glorious country of Arstotzka has the grey colour of armed concrete. I’m sitting in the inspector’s booth, scanning some innocent soul’s passport for the tiniest discrepancies and quietly wondering what is my worst fear: my superiors, the so-called resistance which keeps blowing my colleagues into tiny pieces, or simply not having enough money to feed my family. Suddenly, I discover that there’s a tiny typo in the passport. “Darżewski”, it says, while the ID tells me that he’s called “Durżewski”. With a silent sigh, I reach for the big red stamp. Entry denied. Sorry, my friend, you’re not coming in today. No, I don’t care about your wife waiting behind the barbed wire.

Perhaps this should be my greatest fear: that one day I will begin to think that this is okay and my life isn’t that bad.

When one of my Polish friends asked me to describe Papers, Please in one sentence, I answered: “It is a very wise game”. That’s right, Lucas Pope didn’t receive all the applause and rewards for simply making a satire on Eastern European communism. As simple as it may appear at the first sight, this game is incredibly profound and offers a unique experience, especially for someone living in the former Soviet Bloc. Actually, I finished it a few years ago, reaching most of the game endings, but when I saw it on the Steam sale in the last days of December, I simply couldn’t resist buying. Maybe I should write a longer post and explain why I consider it a masterpiece. Before that happen (and if it ever happens), I’m planning to revive my Soundtrack tag and make a list of songs which make playing games with dystopian theme more immersive. So, now I have a goal for this week.

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