This Board Game Wants To Shift Cultural Norms In Pakistan

This Board Game Wants To Shift Cultural Norms In Pakistan
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In 'Arranged!,' players try to avoid an unwanted marriage

Matt Vitone
  • 14 august 2017

Designer Nashra Balagamwala left her native Pakistan at age 19 to pursue a college degree in the U.S., leaving behind a family that had expected her to enter into an arranged marriage. Five years later, Balagamwala is graduating and has created a board game partially inspired by her experience that seeks to shed light on the culture of arranged marriages in Pakistan.

In ‘Arranged!,’ up to four people can play as one of three female protagonists and one “Rishta Aunty” (i.e, the matchmaker), whose goal it is to marry off the girls. As she moves closer to each of the girls on the board, she learns more about them, such as their ability to cook, the amount of dowry they’ll bring in and whether or not they have “child bearing hips.” The game takes many cues from Pakistani culture. The girls, for instance, can try to avoid getting married by talking about their career, gaining weight or being seen at the mall with boys, all of which are seen as shameful for a woman in Pakistani society.

“I think the first step to fixing any problem is to acknowledge that there is a problem to begin with, and to have a conversation about it,” the designer wrote in a blog post. “‘Arranged!’ masks the darkness of this topic, and provides a platform for people to be able to discuss these issues in a very lighthearted setting.”

As the game progresses, the dynamics shift when the Aunty comes across “the Golden Boy,” a stereotype of a desirable Pakistani male described as a “green-eyed, light skinned, CEO of a business with a foreign passport.” It is at this point when the girls start to chase the aunty, flaunting good qualities like how they “pray 5 times a day” or “only have female friends.”

“Only one girl makes it in time to marry this Golden Boy, and the rest are hitched off to the mama’s boys and womanisers who believe that they’re God’s gift to humanity,” explains Balagamwala, who says she created the game for all the women in abusive or loveless marriages.

In Pakistan, many women do not have options other than getting married at a young age. It is Balagamwala’s hope that the game opens discussions both in and out of Pakistan about arranged marriages, and can act as a potential first step towards changing cultural norms.

“Although a game cannot change the world… I believe that this game will provide women with creative ways to avoid their own arranged marriages as well as empower them to not be afraid to pursue things such as an education, a career or a love marriage,” she said.

‘Arranged!’ is currently up for funding on Kickstarter, where it has raised about half of its goal. If successful, the game will start shipping in December.

Nashra Balagamwala | Arranged!

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