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SHASN: Designer Interview

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Shasn is Sanskrit for governance or regime. In the game Shasn you take on the role of a politician running for office. During the game you build coalitions and gerrymander your voters until you become the winner. As you draw cards on your turn you will be posed questions about political choices. Depending on how you answer the question, you will gain power in one of four political ideologies.

"I am a voracious gamer. I play everything on every platform." - Zain Memon

There will be a more in depth review of the game after I unbox the game (it arrived as I was working on this post.) Shasn was created by Zain Memon. Zain is "a game designer, story-teller, media-tech specialist, futurist and Media-Producer based out of Mumbai, India." he is also one of the co-founders and COO and CTO of Memesys. The Shasn kickstarter was put out there mid 2019 and 4,209 backers successfully pledged $339,045 to help bring this project to life. All the stretch goals were unlocked. I was able to connect with Zain Memon the creator of Shasn and ask a few questions.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Zain: I have been creating media for around a decade. I have been creating Virtual Reality, been producing and writing for films and television for a while now. This is the first time I have gone and created something interactive. So this is not my first media piece, but it is the first game I have made.

What is your favorite game(s) to play (aside from SHASN)? Zain: I am a voracious gamer. I play everything on every platform. In the last few years, I have really enjoyed digital games like ‘Baba Is You’, the ‘Hitman’ series and more recently ‘Valheim’. Among board games, I enjoy everything from ‘Splendor’ to ‘Lords of Waterdeep’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Everdell’ , ‘Diplomacy’ ‘Twilight Imperium’ and ‘Twilight Struggle’.

Since the kickstarter ended, the political environment has been nothing short of wild globally. Is there anything that you wish that you could add now? Zain: I think every generation thinks that they are living through the most important times. People in the 70’s thought that, people in the 80’s thought that, and we think that. Yes, we are standing at many inflection points - inflection points of climate changes, inflection points of fascism, in the world right now. I think there’s a lot to be added to the conversation on an ongoing basis. SHASN has been designed in such a way that it is modular and can be updated. We will continue to update the game, its mechanics and the topics it deals with as often as we can.

"...the only rule I have learnt to follow while creating a media product is - would I consume this myself?"

What did you find was the most difficult part of the design process and do you have any advice for up and coming designers? Zain: There were two things that were difficult. The first was the self doubt; there are not many political games and that makes you think - why is that? Do people not want to engage with political games? And as creators, one always ends up second guessing the audience. I think the only rule I have learnt to follow while creating a media product is - would I consume this myself? And if the answer to that is yes, then I must realize that I am not unique and there must be a million people like me out there, who want to consume similar content. So in the end, create content that excites you as a consumer. Content you wished existed in the world. I think coming to this realization was the most difficult part for me during SHASN.

On the mechanics front, I think the most difficult part was trying to create a mood and experience that was dramatic and held highs, while still giving players a reasonable amount of freedom and not letting the game feel linear. So the trade off between having a very structured exciting experience versus an experience that gave too many options was something I took a lot time trying to balance. That is something that was a great learning experience for me. What is your favorite mechanism you put in the game? Zain: Gerrymandering is my favorite mechanism of the game. It pumps up the spatial thinking in SHASN and makes you think about each vote and how capturing majorities can make you change the landscape of the board. Gerrymandering allows the game to be dynamic from the first turn to the last.

Do you think you will continue on designing games? Zain: I think SHASN is the start of a conversation for me with the players out there who would like to engage with meaningful games at large. We have a few games lined up in the coming years. I will be designing games but I will also be producing and publishing games by other creators. I think it’s very important for a more diverse set of voices to be amplified in all industries including table-top gaming. I also think there is a very strong need to create stories which are important and encouraging, and to use the medium of table-top games to touch upon topics that affect our lives and the world we live in.

What are the next steps for SHASN, will there be sequels, expansions will there be sales in stores after the successful launch? Zain: We are not planning to have a long retail run for SHASN, but we are going to be having a sequel. It’s not exactly an expansion, it is a follow up to SHASN that takes us to pivotal moments in politics and helps us understand what happened there. It’s a much more narrative experience and we have added rules and layers which make the game far more modular and exciting. We’ll be announcing this sequel to SHASN in a couple of months.



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