Politics at play

Published: Jul 17, 2019, 07:00 IST | Shunashir Sen |

A brand new board game turns players into political candidates who need to acquire the most territory to defeat opponents

The coins that represent public reserves that players have access to. 
Pics/Nimesh Dave
The coins that represent public reserves that players have access to. Pics/Nimesh Dave

The problem with politicians in a democracy is that they are constantly in conflict with their sense of ethics and self-preservation. Do you take a certain decision based on what the right thing to do is? Or, do you base it on something that will help you stay in power? The latter seems like the easier option for many leaders, though that comes at an obvious cost to citizens. Their well-being is compromised. Democracy is weakened. And the dispensation at the top continues to play with a nation's future like a puppeteer at a show for children.

What needs to be done in such a scenario is for voters to engage more deeply with the whole political process. Read the news and party manifestos. Get inside the mind of a politician. Understand what makes them tick. And then make them more accountable, reaping the fruits of a more robust democratic structure in the process. That's essentially what a brand new board game called Shasn — launched yesterday — sets out to do. Zain Memon and filmmaker Anand Gandhi, who co-founded new media studio Memesys Culture Lab, are the people behind it. And the idea is for ordinary citizens to get in the shoes of politicians, helping them draw that fine line between ethics and self-preservation.

Anand Gandhi

Memon gives us the outline. He sa­ys, "Each player is a po­litician in the middle of an election campaign and has to go through the process of bu­i­lding a decade-long political career wi­thin two hours. But unlike other bo­ard games, where you have to roll di­ce and things depend on chance, he­re, nothing is left to fate. Ev­e­rything depends on how go­od your political acumen is. You're asked a question at ea­ch turn about global political issues and there are two po­ssible answers. Picking the right one helps you encroach on your opponents' territories and at the end of the game, when all the ground has been captured, the pe­rson with the most territory wins."

Zain Memon 

He adds that there are four versions that people can choose from. These are the Indian elections, the American polls in 2020, the fall of the Roman Empire in 33 BC, and the future of humanity in 2040. The questions cover the entire gamut of political subjects, ranging from economical issues, to women and LGBTQi+ rights, to medical emergencies. How you play the game and the sort of decision-making you display decides which one out of four political types — The Capitalist, The Supremo, The Showman and The Idealist — you fit the best. Gandhi sums up the end result when he tells us, "The typical Shasn player undergoes an emotional, visceral experience that spans the highs and lows of a politician's journey. The faithful simulation of a political campaign often translates to a greater understanding of and involvement with our real-world power systems. The game forces you to put yourself in the mind of a politician, and when you step out of it, you start seeing through the smoke and mirrors of modern politics."

The cards with the different political types players embody

He adds that what he learnt from the process of directing his 2017 film on the Aam Aadmi Party, The Insignificant Man, played a large part in creating the game. "Years of on-ground research provided us with insights that we continuously refined and distilled into the game mechanics," he says. So, it's commendable that he and Memon, who was also involved in the film, extracted one political endeavour out of another in order to inform citizens about the people who rule over them. But the ball is always in our court. The steps we take as responsible citizens help keep our leaders in check, and it's up to us to ensure we don't falter while taking decisions. Play games like Shasn towards that end. Invest more in learning about policies that parties make. Ask questions. And most importantly, don't be a puppet in a children's show where a politician is having the last laugh making you dance while tied to a string.

Gamers at the mid-day office try outwitting each other. Pic/Ashish Rane

Log on to kickstarter.com to order SHASN
Cost Rs 4,100

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