It’s Raining Games in Istanbul

Jenny Beth Aloys
February 15, 2023

Rain, rain, and more rain was the forecast for the first ever TechCamp focused on Gaming, held in Istanbul, Turkiye in late February 2022 – not that the weather mattered much as 65 young gamers were turning up the heat inside Bahçeşehir University Game Lab (BUG Lab). There, the participants collaborated to implement newly learned strategies and create prototypes of new “Games for Change.”

During the three-day TechCamp, participants had the opportunity to attend training sessions and receive mentoring from 19 experts on topics such as “Changing Hearts and Minds through Gameplay” by keynote speaker Prof. Lindsay Grace Knight, andDr. Tirşe Erbaysal Filibeli’s session “Digital Threats to Democracy and Human Rights in the Age of Digital Inequalities.” The goal was to create games that effectively addressed the policy priority topics of addressing the climate challenge, countering disinformation, and empowering women. The TechCamp combined a dynamic mix of trainers with backgrounds in these three fields as well as experts on game design, and participants worked together in groups and ideated 16 games. After feedback and tweaking, six of these games (two games from each category) were selected to receive funding to continue development.

The completion of the six games was celebrated at a capstone event in October 2022. The games can be found on their respective pages:

  • Days Of Future Past – uses VR technology to increase sensitivity with a character that time travels to prevent future environmental problems
  • Project Harmony – a card game where, as the leader of the country you must make choices that impact your environment and community
  • Another – follows the journey of a little girl, striving to bring awareness to the issues of the child bride
  • The Missing part – is a story about a young detective trying to solve the story of a missing woman with the aim of promoting empathy and showing the injustices in women’s lives
  • Editor Newbie – a high school student who works in the school’s newspaper and tries to verify information to make legit news
  • Los Problemos – a game that only uses emojis to disseminate information and explores the intricacies of language and misinformation

In addition to the TechCamp and the six games that were created, the TechCamp launched a ‘Game-Friendly Teacher Course’ in September, 2022, through a workshop that convened middle and high school teachers. The teachers received training in basic game design and featured the six TechCamp-produced games for use in school curricula. Both BugLab and the U.S. Embassy hope to continue working with educators and civil society advocates to continue making progress on the ‘Games for Change’ model.

Screencap from the TechCamp Istanbul-created game, “Project Harmony”.