The Occupation: An Interview with White Paper Games

The assemblage of politics and video games has been a delicate and difficult domain to tackle. With White Paper Games’ second title The Occupation planning to focus on just this, we sat down with audio designer Nathaniel Apostol to discuss its story, and how they plan to approach these themes through a video game medium.

How did the idea of The Occupation come into conception?

NA: After our first project, which was Either One, we sat down and decided what the next progression of the company would be, based on things we thought worked really well within our first title. One of the things we did like was the mechanics of the game, so we decided instantly that the next game would include the same. Theme wise, we all sat down during our lunch breaks and discussed politics. We argued, shouted, and had our fair share of disagreements. Just naturally through trying to create a narrative subject that was interesting, we couldn’t help but land on very current affairs. Topics like immigration…we started discussing this like, “what do certain people think about it? What’s not represented in the media? What is over-represented in the media”.

That’s a particularly interesting subject, especially regarding the current state of American immigration laws…

NA: That’s the funny thing. We came up with this idea three years ago and we’ve been slowing developing into it, and we’ve been in full-scale production now for probably 18 months or so. And the immigration fiscal with Trump has just recently been brought up in the media, and now the subject has become more relevant as we’ve gone on.

I presume this topic would have been motivating for you as developers?

NA: Yes. It doesn’t let you know you’re on the right path, but it lets you know we’re on the right subject. But then when everything started happening in the media recently, it only confirms to you how relevant this is. It makes you feel comfortable that you’re hopefully going to release a title that people can care about.

It’s interesting how you are touching upon these themes, especially in a video game medium. Could you tell me a little bit more about the story in The Occupation?

NA: The main character you will play is a journalist called Harvey Miller. He’s just like any other journalist who is just trying to create a story. He’s trying to get a creative story – an interesting story – and trying to keep his editor happy. He has a series of interviews set up in a company called Bowman Carson, and they are kind of spearheading a lot of the propaganda for the policies that the government are using. As he’s going around doing these interviews for the day, someone beforehand had sent Harvey an anonymous email warning that this company is up to something suspicious that I think the country needs to know about, and what they are doing is illegal. Being a journalist, Harvey has to automatically play along. Whilst you’re in this facility it is your choice completely whether you choose to believe this person and investigate them, by going through their emails to find out whether this case is true.

So there is the option of player choice?

NA: It is multiple choice in the sense that there is a vast majority, but what we don’t do is say press A for choice one, press B for choice two, the choices might not even be apparent. For example, you might have been following someone without them knowing for ten minutes, or half an hour to an hour and you’ve heard them talking about something really bad, and then just by reading a document before you’re about to go to that interview – something is connected somehow, and you piece together this information. Or, I can just choose to pursue the interview, without engaging in any investigatory work.

It sounds like there is player leniency in that respect…

NA: Absolutely. It really is absolute freedom.

What are your plans for The Occupation in the future? Do you see this as a potential project that leads onto other things? Or would you like to see the franchise continue? 

NA: I think what we’ve always done is try to write a compelling story on its own as a standalone franchise, and I wouldn’t say our focus is to create a big franchise out of this one. However, if people loved it, and said to us we’d love to see more, we’ll listen, and then yeah, why not – we’ll carry on. What we try to do is focus on creating a new experience right now that people are going to be able to love and dig into, and take something away from it.

Any news on a potential release date for The Occupation?

NA: That’s a naughty question! But, we’re hoping at the end of this year. Anything over that will simply be due to the game being polished, to enable the best experience for our players.

We would like to thank Nathaniel and the team for sitting down with us to talk about the project. The Occupation will be available to download for PC and PS4, and we look forward to hearing more soon. Be sure to check out White Paper Games for more updates, and follow our Facebook and Twitter page for more interviews alike.

Gabriella Petty

Gabriella is a journalism student from Bath, England. When she isn’t talking about video games, you’ll find her stalking Neil Druckmann’s Twitter page for news on The Last of Us: Part II.

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