Practica: Arranged!

Arranged! – The Arranged Marriage Board Game, created by Nashra Balagamwala

Last Friday the post brought us our eagerly awaited copy of the marriage game Arranged!, giving us the opportunity to try it out over the weekend. The first (cultural?) surprise was that the package from Pakistan containing the game was made of sewed-on cloth, something I had not seen since my childhood.

When our team (4 different countries represented) sat down to play Arranged!, roles were distributed: Teresa became the “Rishta Aunty” (i.e., the matchmaker), while Victor, Kati and myself were the eligible girls seeking to avoid Aunty's clutches and to find the right guy, "the golden boy". The game continues until all the girls are married off, for better or for worse.

For our team, arranged marriage seems far off and exotic, yet playing the game with its exposé of concrete daily strategies that may be part of a young woman's attempt to find the future she desires, husband or not, was enlightening at a gut level. Nashra Balagamwala, creator of the game gives a brief but very effective presentation of its rationale. While our eagerness to play was generated by our intercultural competence interests, it was immediately obvious how this game would raise awareness and issues in the native culture itself. Below are a few comments from our team after playing the game:

  • A fun way to explore perspectives about alien marriage customs and attitudes, though, to be honest, we could see some of the elements in the unconscious corners of our own gender relationships.
  • Learning about Pakistani customs of marriage and ways of seeing a woman, e.g., her position on the scale of skin whiteness as an important beauty quality.
  • Surprising for a man to be in a role where he discovers the feelings, habits and behaviors that would make a woman desirable or not in another culture.
  • It's a fun game that deals with serious issues at the same time. What made it more interesting was interacting with each other and our spontaneous comments, such as as "I'm going to catch you!", "You found a boy!", or, "You stole my boy!".
  • Interesting to see the reactions of my fellow players to the unfamiliar behaviors their pieces were called upon to perform and situations they were thrust into.

We are passionate about the potential social and cultural impact of games and simulations, and eager to develop more. If you haven't seen them, have a look at the Caritas game, On the Road with Migrants promoted by our colleague Catherine Roignan, as well as at our own diversophy® games for migrant acculturation. We have learned to see how safe game spaces enable us to see, discuss and understand the dynamics and power of cultural norms as acted out willy-nilly in our daily life.

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