A new board game takes on real political intrigues. This is how Lebanon is playfully dealing with corruption in the country. A visit to an unusual game night.
The rampant corruption in Lebanon is the subject of many discussions. Now game developers from Beirut have taken on the topic.
You have developed a political board game that deals with corruption. The aim of the game is to become President of the country, honest or dishonest.
Suddenly a district is stolen
It’s late at night in Beirut’s popular nightlife district of Gemmayzeh. The houses here are still scarred by the harbor explosion almost three years ago.
Nevertheless: The mood of the Lebanese and Lebanese will not spoil. In a smoky bar, a group of young men sit tensely bent over a coffee table. The ashtray shows that they have been sitting here for a long time. In the middle, on the table, is the map of Lebanon, with the different electoral districts.
Suddenly, an outcry goes through the group. A district was stolen by one of the comrades-in-arms. Similar to a judge, one of the men hits the table with a mallet and tells the group to keep calm.
It’s useless! A heated discussion ensues. It is hotly debated, but they only get serious about the game, jokes the man with the hammer in his hand: “Board games are just our passion,” says Jean-Michel Chemaly, who helped develop the board game Machrou Rais .
“Translated, the game means Project President, but in Lebanese slang it means: You have the potential to become President,” explains Chemaly.
The corrupt pass balls to each other
That’s not necessarily a compliment in Lebanon. Because the political elite is considered highly corrupt. Only those who play their cards right will make it to the presidency.
That’s how it is in the game, says Chemaly: “You’re either in the camp of the activists or in the camp of the corrupt elite. The aim of the activists is to identify and disempower the corrupt players. The aim of the elite: to continue to enrich themselves as undetected as possible. Just like in Lebanese politics, »says Jean-Michel Chemaly with a smile.
In the bar, the game enters a new round, the ashtray overflows, new alliances are forged, others fall apart. The activists at the table ask themselves which of the players is corrupt and who isn’t. The corrupt players know about each other and pass balls to each other.
What is truth, what is lie?
Chemaly came up with the idea for the game during the 2019 protest movement in Lebanon, when hundreds of thousands of activists took to the streets against corruption in the country.
“People just had enough, even then. They felt betrayed by politics. We wanted to capture exactly this feeling and show what game the politicians were playing with us,” says Chemaly. A game in which you can hardly distinguish between truth and lies. “In the end you’re at a loss and don’t know who to trust anymore,” says the game developer.
People just had enough.
Meanwhile, the game in the bar in Gemmayzeh has taken its course. The activists failed to identify the corrupt players and formed coalitions with them. It is the corrupt elite that wins the presidency game.
Who in fact will be the new President of Lebanon is still in the stars.