This board game wants to spark a dialogue on arranged marriages

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Nashra Balagamwala’s board game ‘Arranged’ takes a fun approach to get people discussing on the ordeal of arranged marriages that many girls go through. 

Nashra Balagamwala

An experiential designer based in New York, Nashra Balagamwala frequently takes controversial and sensitive cultural topics and transforms them into unique games, designs and illustrations.

Hailing from Pakistan, prior to working in New York, Nashra attended the Rhode Island School of Design and worked at Hasbro Inc.

With arranged marriages still prevalent among the South-Asian society, many girls are forced, or even emotionally blackmailed, into marrying someone their family chooses. Having gone through the ordeal herself, Nashra decided to turn her experience into a light-hearted game called ‘Árranged!’.

“The inspiration behind creating ‘Arranged’ was my own journey and struggle to avoid getting into an arranged marriage, as well as watching my friends get forced into loveless marriages with strangers their family picked for them,” says Nashra.

It is a lot easier to get people to play a game rather than sit them down and talk about such issues, she adds. While participants begin ‘Arranged’ as just another game, the deeper issue at hand leads to conversations and discussions.

“I started facing pressure to get married on the day of my elder sister's wedding, and I was only 18 at the time. I was not ready to even think about such a serious commitment at that age. Throughout the years, I've always been asked to meet potential suitors, and I've spent my time coming up with creative ways to avoid it,” says Nashra, behind the motivation for the game.

The game involves a matchmaker (referred to as the ‘rishta aunty’) chasing around teenage girls, and trying to get them married off to any boy she can find, while the girls try to come up with creative ways to avoid her. They can do so by explaining about having a career, or wanting to pursue higher education.

Arranged! board game

The game also references other issues such as the pressures that lead girls to go for skin whitening, topics like dowry and secret boyfriends.

At some point during the game, the ‘rishta aunty’ comes across the Golden Boy, or the Mr Right, who all girls want. At that point, there's a shift in the game dynamic as the girls need to approach the rishta aunty. The girls also have a chance to come across someone they would happily marry, but the chances of that are slim, because the game wanted it to be an accurate reflection of Pakistani culture, says Nashra.

The game ends when all the girls are married, either to someone of their own choice, or to someone the matchmaker has chosen for them.

Nashra raised funding for production for the game on Kickstarter, raising $21,788 against a $6,000 goal. She has been conducting play-tests for several months now, and the board game is finally ready for production. Printing begins next week, and Nashra hopes to get the game out by the beginning of December.

“Arranged! provides a platform for people to discuss a very serious topic in a light-hearted setting. This game is intended for everyone! Several South-Asian girls want to play it with their parents so that it can be a conversation starter. When men have played it, they usually respond with something like "This is what you go through to marry one of us? We're so sorry!" It also serves as an educational experience for people in the West,” says Nashra on what she sees as the objective of the board game.