Homo ludens on the digital platform
An “auteur” player on the stage of digital games: Kerem Yavuz Demirbaş
All internet might be a stage. And all the men and women merely players…
Yet here is what Kerem Yavuz Demirbaş, an “auteur” player on the stage of digital games and an energetic researcher in the field of game studies whose blog http://kafaayari.wordpress.com/ is a great source of information on games with a critical edge, thinks about it.
Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
I am a researcher in the field of game studies in Turkey. Currently I am writing my PhD in Marmara University, Department of Communication, where I am also working as research assistant. I started with studying game aesthetics, later I focused on digital games and generally on play as a cultural and social element. My PhD project is on constitution of player reality in digital games. Recently I am putting effort to establish collaboration with other game researches in Turkey. Although I am not a professional designer there are a few games I designed.
How would you define the relationship of your generation to digital platform and digital games?
I think that our generation is composed of bloggers, players, Youtube stars etc. Media use has changed after digital platforms and mobile technologies transformed citizens to network users. In my view the driving force of this development is not social but commercial interests. We can say that after internet regulations and formalization of social relations, utopia of a free information society has dissolved. In this respect social media is not the start but the end of an era. Despite of emergent social movements organized on Twitter or Facebook, these platforms are in contrast to playful creative environments of Internet Relay Chat servers, Multi User Dungeons, Bulletin Board Services etc. Since my first encounter with video games, play element in digital culture has transformed from challenging fundamentals of society into a more docile form of action. Play is never only a simple pastime activity, but we need to think it as a free, constitutive social relation. Now we witness control and reformation on gamer culture, which is organizing fan culture as a part of game production process. We think that games are cultural artifacts we play, but it is equally true to say players are products of game industry.
Do you reckon there is a particular strategy in Turkey for the development of digital games?
In parallel to my former argument I should say that the current strategy in Turkey is developing in a top-down perspective. There are recent debates about regulation of internet cafés and rating system which basically means censorship. Most of the game companies are working in Technocities which is a result of industry-university partnership as a part of privatization and commercialization of education generally. Current strategy has an emphasis on development of Turkish game industry, but it overlooks the necessity of game research and education.
What sort of difficulties do you encounter working in Turkey? Or are there any advantages?
The primary issue concerning game researches in Turkey regards the recognition of game studies as an independent field that has certain peculiarities. Digital games should not only be treated as object of cultural criticism, textual analysis or as ethnographic field of study that prioritizes the player’s experience of the game. Rather, I argue, that playing activity should be thought from a critical perspective that is developed as a result of simultaneous utilization of interdisciplinary works.
Therefore game researchers have problems about finding funds for projects. There are recent developments such as Game Jams for indie game designers or programmers to show their talent, but again same funding problem exists in this area. Current level of game research is not enough to distinguish between dedicated work and temporary interest. Anyone from any academic discipline can start working on digital games, yet a few researchers are following the current debates in the field of game studies. There are no journals or conferences on game studies in Turkey, as both a difficulty and advantage, we should work internationally. So we have the problems of being frontiers.
What attributes would an ideal game-player have in your opinion?
Your question reminds me the concept of ideal reader, but I don’t think that there is a single definition of an ideal game-player. There are different player types who have different aims and strategies while playing different games. First we can distinguish between casual and hardcore players, but as a hardcore player I cannot say that how I play is ideal in any sense. If we think in concepts of Richard Bartle, there are socializer, killer, achiever and explorer player types. Espen Aarseth has an additional category called cheaters. I also suggest a new player type called “auteur” player: Players who play, configure or redesign the game for critical thinking. That is what I have at hand close to an ideal player.