Today we have in profile a super talented experiential designer, Nashra Balagamwala. Currently based in New York, she has worked extensively on game design projects, including some with Hasbro. Her recent project, Paltering Politicians, is a very intriguing take on our often quite perplexing politics.
In her own words: "Its about all the absolutely ridiculous things Pakistani Politicians do (and get away with). It's a game of moral dilemmas and uses examples from actual incidents (such as forging documents in Calibri, saying "corruption is our right" or "a degree is a degree whether fake or real." I've realized that because they say/do so many unbelievable things, people are outraged for some time, and then forget about it when the next crazy incident occurs. The point of the game is to take all these incidents and put them together so you're forced to remember all of it."
Because this project is so interesting and timely, we decided to interview Nashra. Here goes:
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I'm Nashra Balagamwala. I'm an Experiential Designer working in the game and event industry in New York City. I moved to America 5 years ago, to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, where I started pursuing Game Design. I've designed games independently as well as worked with a bunch of companies, including Hasbro.
Tell us about your project Paltering Politicians?
Paltering Politicians is a game of moral dilemmas that uses examples from actual incidents, such as forging documents in Calibri, saying "corruption is our right" or "a degree is a degree whether fake or real" The goal of the game is to either prove yourself to be the hero that Pakistan needs, or the reason for its demise.
What inspired you?
For a while now, all of the horrible things that Pakistani Politicians do, and get away with have been bothering me. It's baffling to see how they can do all the crap they do, and still get elected. I needed an outlet for my frustration, so I used the medium of a board game to create a fun and engaging experience.
I wanted to eternalise all the unbelievable things these Pakistani Politicians have done, so I started by gathering examples of everything I could think of. Once I had everything together, I tried to turn it into an immersive experience, and that is how it became a role playing game. I then started creating paper prototypes and play-testing it with a couple of volunteers. Once I was happy with the gameplay, I started to work on the logo and overall look and feel. Inspired by the State Emblem of Pakistan; a symbol of peace and prosperity, I subtly changed all of it to be more violent (the plants turn into guns, the leaves turn into a strike/riot, wheat turns into bribing, flowers turn into a bomb etc) to show what these politicians have done to our country that was formed on the basis of peace and purity. As for the rest of the game, I wanted it to look similar to an election, which is where the inspiration for the ballot boxes and thumbprint stamp came from.
What's your vision for this project?
I've noticed that any time an incident related to politics occurs, everyone is extremely rattled up for a couple of days, and then, when the next crazy thing happens, they move on to that and forget about the previous incidents. I hope that this game serves as a reminder of all the horrible things that have happened, and provides us with a platform to learn from our mistakes!
What’s the best thing about being a creative?
Being able to express yourself and your ideas visually! People tend to understand things better with a visual aid, and it reaches a wider audience. Having the ability to make an image that also speaks as a political statement is pretty great!
Your favorite designers, artists and works?
Dale Chihuly is one of my favourites! Any and everything he makes is stunning. Brenda Brathwaite is also extremely inspiring. She uses the medium of game design to convey important topics, and challenge ideas. And last but not the least, David Stark – David has a knack for turning the mundane into the magical and I'm so lucky to have had the pleasure of working with him.
Is a formal training or education in your field important?
Is it worth the time and monetary investment? There are designers from some of the best schools in the world who are doing nothing with their formal education, and there are self-taught artists/designers who are making it big. So I think it's all about your personal motivation and how much you're willing to put in to succeed. If you think you need a professor to be there for you every step of the way, then sure, go for it. But if you're motivated enough to watch tutorials and spend the time working on something till you get it right, you'll be fine without a formal education.
Tell us about your work habits. Do you like deadlines? Are you easy to work with? Are you self-disciplined?
I think I work well with deadlines in a professional environment. If I know something needs to be completed by a certain day/time I'll stay awake for days to make sure it's done, and it's done right. However, if it's a personal project, I try to set a deadline and stay within it, but if I'm not happy with the results, I like having the freedom to give myself more time to work on it. As far as I've heard from my coworkers, I'm pretty easy to work with!
How do you keep yourself energized, motivated and at your productive best?
I keep myself energised by snacking on apples; as weird as it sounds, it really works! I also make sure I'm getting enough rest at all times and do whatever it takes to make sure I'm not too stressed out. If i'm working on a computer, I make sure to follow the 20:20:20 rule. (Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away) I keep myself motivated by looking at the work of all the creatives around me. Its so inspiring!
Have you noticed any remarkable talent or project in the design/creative field coming out of Pakistan?
I think several fine artists in Pakistan are doing a wonderful job. Shahzia Sikander is one of greatest artists, and I feel so happy to be associated with the same college as her! However, I do have to say that I'm a little tired of hundreds of people becoming self-proclaimed Fashion Designers and Makeup Artists. I guess I wouldn't be so bothered by it if the work was original, but I've seen several examples of overpriced plagiarised designs.
View more of Nashra's work at her website.