A “Let’s play” video for the game “Papers, Please” by YouTube king from Sweden PewDiePie has garnered not only 6.5 million views on the platform, but also accusations that the social media star has a lack of empathy. While the vlog post has received about 6,000 dislikes, as opposed to 400k “thumbs ups”, commenter Eva-Marie Quinones has lashed out at him and another blogger, Jacksepticeye (Sean McLoughlin), who also played the game, in a column for the popular website Slate.
The Swede, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, posted his take on the game at the end of June. In the clip, PewDiePie, who put on a Soviet visor hat for the special occasion and tried to imitate a Russian accent, took up the job of a border guard in a fictional Eastern bloc country called Arstotzka in the 1980s, as the 2013 game suggests. He was meant to examine the documents and stories of those wishing to enter, deciding whom he wants to admit or deny, while facing all kinds of penalties for unwise decisions.
The Slate author blamed him for not only taking up a role that “many view as cruel”, but also for embracing “as fun the act of turning away migrants fleeing violence and enduring hardship for a chance at a better life”.
She pointed out that although the creator of the game, Lucas Pope, had earlier insisted that he hoped players would be able to consider the moral dilemmas that immigration officers have to face, as well as to recognise “the fallout from both too-tight and too-loose security”, these apparently noble intentions didn’t seem to register with the blogger.
The commenter suggested that Pewds and his fellow YouTuber had imposed “their own values on the game”. For example, she mentions PewDiePie’s response to the trafficking victim: “I don’t have time”, letting a potential human trafficker into Arstotzka.
“The gamers presumably exaggerated their reactions for the camera, but their choices betray a disturbing level of callousness toward immigrants”, the author concluded, also pointing to the scandals about PewDiePie’s alleged anti-Semitic “jokes”.