Playing Politics

This ‘thrilling’ board game that simulates real-world politics, has gained popularity this election year with even the likes of well-known comedians Kunal Kamra and Rohan Joshi giving it a shout-out
Playing Politics

BENGALURU: As the country awaits the all-important results of the 18th Lok Sabha election today, which will set the tone for the nation’s governance for the next five years, there is palpable tension in the air.

Amidst the frenzy of exit polls and the hype surrounding counting day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty. If you’re looking to take your mind off the real-world frenzy and engage in a positive exploration of the political process, SHASN (Rs 4,199), a ‘thriller’ of a board game that transports players into the tumultuous world of electioneering, could be an option.

A Political Escape

“The game immerses players in the daily life of a politician during an election campaign. Players answer policy questions, with each question offering two possible answers. The choices players make shape their political ideologies or manifestos, which include four distinct types: Capitalist, Idealist, Supremo, and Showstopper.

The resources in the game – funds, trust, clout, and media – are crucial. Players use these resources to sway voters, and the player with the majority of voters at the end of the game wins,” explains Zain Memon, the Goa-based creator of SHASN. “The academic foundation underpins the game, but the gameplay experience is akin to being a character in a political thriller like House of Cards or Game of Thrones.

It’s a visceral, aggressive pursuit of power, where every turn involves influencing voters, capturing majorities, and engaging in conspiracies and alliances. The game is designed to be an action-packed, emotional experience, not just a meditative academic one.”

SHASN, meaning governance, is based on the learnings of Memon and the team behind the critically-acclaimed documentary An Insignificant Man, which chronicled the rise of a third front during the 2015 Delhi elections. The documentary’s success inspired Memon to create a more interactive experience that allows players to experience the nuances and pressures of political decisions firsthand.

Originally launched in 2019, the game has found popularity across the world, but more so in Bengaluru, with regular play nights organised by various pubs and restaurants in the city. Furthermore, social media personalities like Rohan Joshi, and Kunal Kamra, have also shared their love for the game. “Play sessions are regularly organised by the community itself, with turnouts numbering upto 200. The word-of-mouth effect has been substantial.”

Realpolitik

The game’s structure reflects an abstraction of the first-past-the-post system, emphasising the dynamics of majoritarian politics. “Regardless of the election outcome, a significant portion of the population may feel unrepresented, as the winning party or coalition will likely secure no more than 30-40 per cent of the vote share.

SHASN provides a platform for discussing policy issues constructively, regardless of political affiliation,” Memon says, adding, “It fosters healthy political conversations, even among people with differing views, making these discussions engaging and less daunting. This is crucial for understanding and improving the political system.”

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The New Indian Express
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