GeziJAM: Making games to protest
The Gezi Park resistance was a one of a kind experience for most of us here in Turkey. It was not organized, not ideology-driven, not a worldwide conspiracy like some officials claim nowadays, but a pure and sincere gut-reaction to the creeping oppression by the state within the last couple of years; and the next weeks for most of us was a thrilling adventure of hope, fear, rage and pure joy. Check out the last part if you haven't heard of it, or would like to know more.
In the midst of this turbulence, we at the Game Developers @Turkey group decided to show our support to the resistance and add to the dizzying array of arts, crafts and creations surrounding these events, so we did only thing we could: we made games.
GeziJAM was at first a week-long jam, if I recall correctly, but between joining the protests in the streets, helping each other and following the news, the deadline was moved forward more than a couple of times. At the end it had been a little less than two weeks when we decided to wrap things up. All in all there are 12 games containing trademark characters and groups of this last month such as the Lady in Red, çArşı, Necati Sasmaz and others. You can view the presskit here or just check the games out here.
The Jam was featured in a number of Turkish and foreign gaming portals such as IndieStatik, Indiegames.com, Oyungezer and Urfa Bulteni. The IndieStatik feature also includes some more words by me, who had the honors of answering a couple of questions with millions of words, so don't hesitate to skip that one (I'm joking of course, it's actually a great piece).
Click Read more for a list of publications that have mentioned GeziJAM, and samples from my work in it.
List of websites that have featured GeziJAM (or at least the ones I could find):
A summary of what I've done for and during GeziJAM:
And finally, an explanation for those who don't know what the hell this is all about:
A peaceful sit-in of about hundred people to prevent Gezi Park, one of the last green spaces in the middle of Istanbul, from being destroyed and turned into a mall was subject to use of disproportionate force by the police. This triggered a hundreds of thousands-strong country-wide protest against the authoritarian policies of the government, and there have been many clashes and police attacks since. Currently the clashes have ended, but the "Gezi spirit" as it is called by many people now, is still alive. District forums are held in parks every day, and the silent citizens of our country is now louder than ever, filled with feelings of solidarity and a burning desire for democracy. To have an idea about the nature of the protests and why this is very, very important and transformative for our society, I urge you to read these three articles by an awesome Turkish academic from Princeton, Zeynep Tüfekçi:
Is there a Social-Media Fueled Protest Style? An Analysis From #jan25 to #geziparki - June 1
What do #occupygezi Protesters Want? My Observations from Gezi Park - June 12
“Come, Come, Whoever You Are.” As a Pluralist Movement Emerges from Gezi Park in Turkey - June 30
If you are too lazy to read them all, on the other hand, you could just take a look at the photo gallery we had prepared for the IndieStatik interview, here.
Even though I pointed you to more credible and talented sources for knowledge, I can't say the Gezi Park movement didn't give me some interesting perspective of my own, too. I am a game design enthusiast, even though I haven't designed a game to completion yet, and parallel to that my favorite part of studying sociology is the personal experience perspective. Videogames is the only medium capable of putting its intended receiver - the player - literally inside an experience. And the fact that the hundreds of people gathering in the streets on the 31st of May did so out of their own volition, with no prior organization other than social media and friends, makes me think that this new, "apolitical" generation actually works very much on the basis of personal experiences, rather than social or societal. The individualistic culture of the internet, and by extension the online generation, amplifies the effects of personal experiences and muffles the potential of collectivist mobilization - it is much harder to make us get our asses off the chair by left-wing talk about worker's rights and abuses of neoliberalism, than by experiencing an actual fear of losing control of our lives and future.
I might write about this at length, very non-academically of course, and probably in Turkish. But the logic of this last chain of thought is so, so close to actual game design logic (think of the relation between game mechanics and player actions for example), I may just have to chew my hands off from excitement.
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