As you might already know, there are some big protests and riots going down in Istanbul at the moment, with what’s emerging as the “Occupy Gezi” movement clashing with police over President Tayyip Erdogan’s aggressive development policies in the historic city.
You can read a great primer piece on the riots at Gawker.
To those of us on the outside looking in, it’s a scene of tear gas, riot shields and masses of angry people.
On the ground, though, things are a little different. And, in some ways, a little more light-hearted than the coverage you’ll see on the BBC.
Can Sugur, a reader taking part in the protests, emailed us today to tell an interesting story: how a generation’s love of video games is helping them not only cope with the tension and unrest, but create a rallying cry for the movement.
“Most of the protesters are apolitical, mildly liberal young adults and teens like you and me, like most of the gamers around the world”, he says. “These people have been gaming on their consoles, on MMOs and now it shows! People have been organising and communicating through Twitter and Facebook, but the language some of us are using, that’s the real story.”
He says the language of games is providing further common ground for the protesters, dominating the jokes and cultural touchstones that are spreading not just in the city, but online as well.
He says people are referring to the process of learning how to use new equipment and techniques – like gas masks and bandaging wounds – as “levelling”, and that the long hours involved manning barricades or “sitting in” is “grinding”.
The most popular gaming term being used, though, is the co-opting of “GTA” into a slogan, which is being plastered all over walls and barricades. The series has a particular resonance with the young generation rioting because 2002’s Vice City was one of the biggest games in Turkish history, in part because it was quickly modified into something called Kurtlar Vadisi Vice City, a localised version (based on a Turkish TV show) popular in internet cafes.
Which is why, in response to the heavy-handed police actions taking against protesters, comparisons were quickly made to the violent crackdowns players experience in Grand Theft Auto games. And a catchcry was born.
The slogan you see above – “Gta’da polis döven nesile sataştın” – has become an unofficial rallying cry for the movement (check out its Twitter usage), and it roughly translates to “You are messing with youth who grew up attacking police in GTA”. OK, so yeah, it’s not so catchy in English.
It’s not the most savoury slogan they could have come up with in terms of a public image, maybe, but that’s not the point. The point that it makes, Can says, is that “This generation trust their games more then they trust the TV or the newspaper. While our parents turn to the TV to learn what’s going on, we look at Twitter. Games, game writers and designers helped shaped who we are. Quests, factions, alignments and morality scales helped this generation form their ideas about the world.”
Which might sound insane, but is it any better or worse than previous generations who grew up doing the same based on TV shows, or comic books?
“If Turkey’s generation Y is fighting by using gaming lingo, it’s because this is the language we trust”. To the people responsible for making those games, he says “Keep doing what you are doing, keep teaching the kids who to trust and what to fight for. And wish good luck to us all! Who knows, maybe it will give us a +10% dodge chance against water cannons!”
[top image by pelitogu]