I’m back!

Since a few months, I was waiting for an amnesty for ex-PhD students.  Yesterday the law regarding the amnesty passed through the turkish parliament. This means that I’ll be allowed to return to my old PhD program… after a break of almost 10 years!

A lot of things changed meanwhile. Back in 1998 I prepared myself to write a thesis on film. I had an advisor at that time that was an expert on turkish cinema. She wanted me to write a dissertation that revolves around the concept “turkish film” and “democracy”. But that was not exactly what I wanted. I wanted to write a thesis on the “political horizon” that was depicted in popular turkish films of the 1990s and what their discourse tells us about the future of turkish society. I wanted to make a “projective” analyses of contemporary turkish film based on approaches taken from Sigfried Kracauer’s From Caligari to Hitler and D.M. Thomas’ novel The White Hotel. My position would have been somewhere between Marxism, Anarchism and Deconstruction. I planned to build each chapter around a binary opposition: folk-intellectuals, civilian-soldier, man-woman, west-southeast, anatolia-metropolis, decadence-substance etc and wanted to look at films in regard to how they use these binary oppositions to describe the ideal society they envision… from here I wanted to re-draw the general picture of society that popular turkish films idealized and ask myself which social classes and groups are ignored in this picture (or rendered obsolete)? Who were the ones that should fear about their future if our society doesn’t get away from this “hate culture” that marked it so dangerously?

My advisor didn’t like this subject. She found it too complex and wanted me to stick to the topic “the concept of democracy in turkish film”. This her wish, however, took away my last bits of motivation. A year later or so, I resigned from my former position at the Ankara University and did not follow any longer my interest into the PhD program I was part of. Instead I moved to Cyprus and started to work as an instructor. A year later I devoted myself completely to the dream topic of my childhood: video games! I entered a completely new and different learning process. I wrote my last article on turkish film in 2003. After that, I never ever got back to the topic.

Now I’m back!… But not to cinema. I’m back in order to write a PhD on video games! I wanted to do this under an architecture department… but now, after the amnesty, I’ll do it under a communication studies department. But it will not really matter. I’m more than ready to write it. I can’t wait to get it finished!

Oh, and I’ll have a new advisor ;)

Game Idea #15

I know, I know, it’s too early to post a game idea, but my schedule is very busy so I’ll do anything to gain time ;) Posting this game idea will save me until the start of November. I’ll be back at that time with game idea #16.

The idea that I feature today came in my mind during Guita’s industrial product design class. One of the problems that students had to come up with a solution for was the design of a chocolate product.

The idea with which I was playing so far was to create a chocolate brand based on Luis Bunuel’s concept “image choc”, originally being a french word which means “shocking image” and belongs to the theory of surrealist cinema. I wanted to go for a wordplay and use “choc” in its english sense, meanwhile maintaining the connection to cinema. Maybe it would have been possible to use wrapped chocolate pieces as mosaic tesellations for reproductions of film posters or unforgettable moments in film history. Anyway, the fact was that I didn’t really give it a thought beyond that.

However, today I saw a student coming up with a chess game idea in which both, the board and the tokens were made of bitter and white chocolate. If your opponent loses a piece during play, you would have the right to eat that piece. This made me think of other games in the form of chocolate. And suddenly there was the magic word: Chocemon! Somehow it sounded fun to me. So I decided to write the idea down. Well, here is…

Game Idea #15

Chocemon

Chocemon is a collectible card game (CCG) based on a monster theme in which the cards are made of chocolate and wrapped into colored aluminium foils. Players might play, trade and, if desired, eat their choco game cards (or those of their opponents!).

The Chocemons will come in three different choco “races”: Bitter, Cacao, White. Each race will feature dozens of unique Chocemons with different ingredients and flavor (and character skill sets!).

Chocemon’s unique battle system will ensure that gameplay is fun. And winning a battle will be more rewarding than ever: You will be able to devour the beaten monsters of your opponent.. Bon appetite!!

 And this time I also have a little poll for you. Enjoy! ;)

Game Idea #14

It is time for the submission of a new game idea! So, here comes…

 

Game Idea #14

Veggie’s

Veggie’s is a small business simulation which you start as the owner of a little fruit and vegetable shop in Beverly Hills. Your goal is to create a stable customer base, expand the interior, hire workers, invest into storage technologies, unlock new exotic fruits and vegetables for the more sophisticated customers and eventually become the #1 destination of VIP vegetarian and vegans from Hollywood!

mmmm... vegetables taste so good!

mmmm... vegetables taste so good!

As your customers come and go, you will notice how VIP’s ask for more exotic and expensive fruits and vegetables. However these VIP veggies require special storage devices. You will only be able to store these vegetables if you have the required storage facilities. On the other, all fruits and vegetables have their own character: how quick they start to rot away, what sort of treatment they require… if you do not care about the condition of your fruits and vegetables, your customers will return the goods or file complaints against you. Eventually your reputation will suffer and you will lose customers. This could even lead to bankruptcy!

Veggie’s is a colorful and fun game from which you can even learn a thing or two about fruits and vegetables. More than that, isn’t it great to proudly say that Britney and Keanu prefer your papayas? And that Arnold eats only your spinach?

One moment Mrs. Minogue, your veggie sandwich is almost ready

One moment, Miss Minogue; your veggie-mite sandwich is almost ready

New Article at Kafa Ayarı

My latest turkish article is up at Kafa Ayari.

The article is a brief discussion on the meaning of Johan Huizinga’s famous sentence “play is older than culture”. My argument is that this sentence is prone to misunderstanding if one looks at it from a game-centric perspective. This would miss the whole point of Homo Ludens: it is in first stance a book about culture, not games.

The sentence is not about reminding us of a chronological order and thereby putting games on top of a hierarchy. It is a way to help ask ourselves where the hell culture came from and what it did to us since it appeared. In that sense, the play-culture dichotomy in Huizinga is a way to defamiliarize from our way of seeing culture and to approach it with a fresh perspective: as something that could have never happened.  When seen from this angle, the famous sentence will be understood as the motto of Huizinga’s episteme in his attempt to understand culture, and not as a sentence that is in favor of games (or as some ludologist might like to think, ludology).

Design Studio 101 (to 401, all in one!)

A friend of mine, Guita, is a teacher at the Department of Industrial Products Design at our university. It’s been quite a while now that I was looking for a chance to join her weekly design studio classes. Since “Design Studio” is a 8-hours-a-week course, I usually couldn’t join it because there were clashes with the courses that I had to teach at my own faculty. But after two semesters of waiting for the right time, finally lady luck smiled at me: There is no course clash this semester; I can join all 8 hours of her classes!

Today was the first day at the design studio and I must say that it was incredibly nice to be present there. I got up really very early with some big excitement, carefully prepared the stuff that I would need to use during conceptualisation and prototyping, and I was waiting ready in front of the studio gates at exactly 8.30. And then the big moment came: We entered the studio, took seats and the design lectures began.

We were a group of around 25 people: 3 teachers, me, and the rest were arichitecture, industrial design and interior design students. Some assignments had been given out mid-week and today we came with the ideas and concepts that we were asked to show up with. At the beginning the teachers held a brief lecture which was then followed by a brief general discussion. Then we stepped over into a brief discussion in which individual problems were addressed and help had been offered to those wo had suffered from “design block” during the week. And after that we were finally ready for the design work of the day and turned to our workdesks.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly… people would walk around freely, listen to the music they like, use their laptops etc, chat, doodle on the boards etc… it all looked very different from the classes that I am used from our faculty (were people usually sit and listen with serious faces) but actually you could see how the minds of the students where busy in the background with the design problem that was posed at them. It was nice to obverve: a student who walks around for a few minutes with her walkman, then would go and talk to someone else for two minutes, then would go an do a quick search on a lap top, and at some point this person would suddenly sit at the workdesk, quickly take some notes or start drawing a three-dimensional object. She would then go around for some feedback or for a bit more brainstorming.

While these individual processes would go on everywhere, at another corner, you would see a group holding a brief discussion round,  or talking to the teachers. People were free in both, being individuals or being members of groups. It was a wonderful atmosphere.

One of the nice things was that the studio was open to students from all years. New and old students were mixed and they knew each other from the studio works in previous years. In other words, everyone, from Design Studio 101 to 401 was there! This was actually a very nice way to keep the students connected to each other, have them discuss, exchange ideas and help each other out. The more experienced students would sometimes lend some of their know-how and give the newbies enough help to keep them on track. It also helped to maintain a relaxed informal atmosphere which had always room for some little jokes and funny conversations.

It was peaceful and creative. I liked it a lot. And I thought that we at the Faculty of Communication need to create similar environments that give students more freedom and chance for creative exchange.

I’m very happy to be part of the design studio this semester. I believe that until late January I will learn a lot from this experience (also as a teacher who is looking for new, more engaging teaching methods in his courses). Also the many assignments will keep me busy and I will stay in touch with some excellent teachers that know their branch very well. I believe that industrial design’s focus on usability and its way to approach the “product”, will contribute a lot to my individual goal to become a great game designer.

IGDA Design SIG Wiki up and running

In the past few months, veteran game developer Dino Dini (the person behind the infamous Kick-Off series) worked towards establishing a Design SIG at IGDA. After a lot of debate and discussion, the SIG finally “kicked off” with a Wiki being set up yesterday (October 7).

The current workgroup is limited to 20 people who will work on finishing the Design SIG proposal that will be later forwarded to the IGDA administration for approval.

I’m glad to be part of the initial group of volunteers and I’m looking forward to contribute to the development of an acceptable SIG framework.

It seems like there is a very fruitful semester ahead of me!

Ready for Frankfurt!

As you might remember, one of the things that kept me busy in recent weeks was a book that I was translating into German: Turkish Cypriot Poetry Today. It features around 100 poems from 20 contemporary turkish-cypriot poets such as Neşe Yaşın, Rıza Ali, Tamer Öncül, Gür Genç and Jenan Selçuk.

The compilation had been printed and published in Turkey by the literary critique journal Yasak Meyve (The Forbidden Fruit) just in 2008. The Union of Turkish Cypriot Artists and Writer’s wanted this book to be translated into German so that it could be brought in front of the public at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, which will be held in mid-October.

Yasak Meyve, a literaty criticism journal has been the publisher of the original book.

Yasak Meyve, a literary criticism journal has been the publisher of the original book.

Doing the translation of a compilation of poems meant a lot of work for me, and also some thorough wrestling beetween languages. I really don’t know what to say about the result. At some parts I did a pretty good job I think. At some parts however there will be a lot of dispute and criticism. In the aftermath I think that I should see my work as a first step to make this poetry known to a broader public. I hope that in the coming years people with much better command of both languages will make this a better book.

What really counts for me is that I finally could pay tribute to this island that came to my aid in a very critical stage in my life. Had I spent these 7 years somewhere else I probably would have gone mad. This little sanity that I managed to keep with me, I own it this island for sure. 

There were times where I thought I’ll never be able to finish it. But the book is ready for the Frankfurt Book Fair. It’s exciting, isn’t it?

A Blog on Game Studies in the Turkish language: Kafa Ayarı

A few weeks ago I mentioned here on my blog my desire and plan to run a game studies blog in the turkish language. Recently I was lucky enough to toss at the turkish Blog Kafa Ayarı, who already had started to do some work into a direction I imagined would be similar with the type of blog that I had in mind. After some initial e-mail exchanges and conversation with the people from Kafa Ayarı, we soon agreed that I could contribute with my writings to their already existing endeavour. In other words, instead of starting my own game studies blog in turkish, I will publish my turkish articles at Kafa Ayarı.

A little note on Kafa Ayarı: It is a collaborative blog founded by Kerem Yavuz Demirbaş, who wrote his MA on Auteurship in Game Design at the IT Kopenhagen with Espen Arseth. It is the only active turkish game studies blog to my knowledge. I’m glad being able to contribute it from now on.

Two of my articles are already up. One of them is a brief note on the broader meaning of the word Paidea in Ancient Greece. It points at a potential to approach genres like serious games, edutainment, or state-run games like America’s Army from a different, more critical perspective.

The other article is about one of the most important “old-school” game researchers in Turkey, Metin And, whom we have unfortunatley lost last week at the age of 82. While being a hommage to this great researcher, this article also gives a brief overview of the game studies tradition in Turkey and points at the possibilities that it bears for the video game-centric game studies of the newer generations.

As I said already, both articles are in turkish (for now). Taking this chance, I want to thank the people at Kafa Ayarı again for their kindness to accept me as a writer into their collaborative blog.

Game Idea #13

Game Idea #13 should have been normally published on October 13. But since I will have a busy week because of the opening lessons for this semester, I decided to put the idea up early on. The meaning of all this is: Game Idea #14 will be up on October 20 and not, as some might mistakenly expect, on October 13.

Reaching Game Idea #13 has a special meaning too: One quarter of my self-imposed challenge, in other words, three months of it are behind now! I didn’t think I could bring it this far. This is definitely something to celebrate!

 

Game Idea #13

Your Athlete Next Door (YAND)

YAND is a series of sports simulations designed in order to aid those who are in search for something to motivate them in their individual training and fitness programs. It aims to provide home-sportlers with a virtual environment that serves them with the right mix of effort, challenge, competition, motivation, achievement and fun. It is a series of software that is compatible with typical home-exercise tools such as walk-bands and exercise-bikes.

With the help of YAND, the player will complete his exercise programs in a virtual world that consists of certain parts of famous competitions such as the London Marathon or the Tour-de-France. Based on the selected fitness program and the intensity schedules, the in-game opponents will challenge the players to increase their performance in important sequences of the race or in the “last few meters” of the competition. Players that answer the challenges will earn unlockables, power-ups, and virtual medails. In other words, their rather boring programs will be placed into the setting of an epic competition in which they will jog or cycle along the biggest athletes on the globe. 

Players will be able to adjust at any time the difficulty of the etappes and the opponents that they are competing in/against. This will allow for gradual intensificiation or de-intensification of programs according to individual needs and performance levels.

An important factor of motivation for the players will be the virtual supporter along the tracks that will cheer the her in her attempt to answer the challenges of the virtual opponents. They will be always loyal and cheerful to her, regardless of the results she achieves. A customizable virtual coach will make the more “serious” comments and suggestions.  

YAND will give players both a fun challenge and great assistance in their individual fitness programs. Multiplayer options will allow people to train in pairs, which gives YAND also a family appeal. As a last option, YAND could be played just for fun, solely for the sake of  slipping into the role of such famous athletes as for example cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Game Idea #12

Game Idea #11 came two days late. Game Idea #12 comes two days early. Once more we’re fit I guess ;)

Anyway, this week’s idea has been again inspired by a game design challenge at Game Career Guide. This time their challenge is titled “Guitar’s the Word” and asks people to come up with a game idea in which the guitar controller of the bestseller game “Guitar Hero” is used in a non-music related way. While I was thinking what a guitar shaped controller with a strum bar, whammy bar and lots of colored buttons could be useful for, I suddenly had a vision of Courtney Love riding her guitar like a flying broom and throwing around with bolts. Now wasn’t that an idea  worth further examination?

Game Idea #12’s focus is not based on a particular game concept, but on a certain type of game controller: The flying broom. This week’s concept sees the flying broom controller as something that could inspire a palette of  interesting video games.

 

Game Idea #12

Flying Broom Games (FBG)

A FBG is any game with a suitable story that features air battle, flight simulations or sports that could (or should) be played with a flying broom controller.  

The flying broom controller aims basically at the Nintendo Wii. An already existing IP for which game and toy developers produced flying broom type controllers is the Harry Potter series. However, newer versions of this controller aiming at online quidditch tournaments could be an option to explore.

Also magic, witchcraft or vampire hunting games could make use of this controller. Sci-Fi games based on light-weight invididual air vehicles or the fantasy genre could make use of this contoller too: What about Hexen Elfs fighting flying Orcs in a LOTR-type universe??

Possible keys/controls and their assignments (mostly inherited from the guitar controller of Guitar Hero, but not limited to these):

  • Strum bar: A means to control machine gun-like weapons. Spinning the strum -the way it is often done in table football games- would determine the fire rate.
  • Whammy bar: A means to alter pace (like if it were a hand brake or a gear lever)
  • Color Buttons: Single button use or combos for acrobatic air moves
  • Extra Buttons: Fire missiles, drop or collect items, activate protection shields
  • Wii-mote: Detects the direction into which we point with the broomstick.

To summarize the concept: Flying on a broom is fun. Shooting on things while flying on a broom is funnier. Playing virtual quidditch is funniest.