Bomb scare inspires gstanbullite to finish political-themed board game

When 26-year-old research assistant Tunca Zeki Berkkurt began conceiving of ihtilal (The Revolution), his board game centered on Turkish political mechanics, he never could have guessed that the game would be blown up by police and that he would eventually be interrogated by the Istanbul Anti-Terrorism Unit (TEM). Berkkurt mistakenly left his green backpack — which held ihtilal’s prototype materials — near a bus stop in the central Istanbul quarter of Kabatai in November 2013. The backpack was quickly discovered by police, who suspected it was a bomb. The area was sealed off and a bomb squad blew up Berkkurt’s backpack, upon which the prototype game cards, emblazoned in political party logos, fluttered out of the incinerated satchel. Prior to this incident, the game was a mere pipe dream for Berkkurt and his friends, who were testing it in their local gaming club. But the bomb scare kicked things into high gear. “When they found the cards, the chips and the boards, TEM got involved and the fun began. That’s entirely another story of mine. But after this incident, me and my friends were totally persuaded to publish this game,” Berkkurt told Sunday’s Zaman in an email. “The Revolution is a two player strategy board game where the objective is to hold power over the people and the institutions,” reads a description of the game from a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that Berkkurt launched to raise scratch for printing up the game. “The players try to manage independent political organizations, infiltrate institutions such as the army and the police and make place for themselves on the board as well, which represents various cities and regions,” the synopsis continues. The Kickstarter fundraiser ended with resounding success. Berkkurt aimed to collect 450 pounds but ended up raising more than five times that amount, coming away with 2,330 pounds by the time the campaign ended last Sunday. Berkkurt attributes this success to ihtilal’s originality. “Turkish political history promises many rewards to a purposeful game designer. It has seen a very active, long period and produced enough material to make a good game. But since there are no major game producers in Turkey, no one dared to design such a game,” he said. ihtilal is set beginning in 1950, when Adnan Menderes’ Democrat Party (DP) became the first party to take the reins of power from the founding Republican People’s Party (CHP), which had ruled the country up until that point. The game comes to an end in the aftermath of 1980, when a brutal military coup stopped the country in its tracks, arresting hundreds of thousands, banning all political parties on the scene and imposing a regressive constitution that is still in place today. The coup set the stage for a neoliberal reconfiguration of the economy as well as the Turkish-Islamic synthesis, an amalgamation of nationalism and Islam disseminated by the military in order to subvert the popularity of leftist ideologies. The time period of the game is significant, says Berkkurt, because as the introduction of competitive party politics brought one era of the republic to an end, so did the traumatic 1980 coup. The initial impetus for the game was rooted in avid board game enthusiast Berkkurt’s desire to create a Turkish version of the classic Cold-War era board game “Twilight Struggle.” That game is one of several played by Berkkurt and his friends at the Istanbul Boardgame Enthusiasts club, a local gaming network. ihtilal was a collaborative effort, as Berkkurt’s friend, illustrator Sinan Atamer, designed the board, chips and cards while graphic designer Mehmet Ali Kalaci designed the game era-specific promotional material on its Kickstarter and Facebook pages. The friends are putting the finishing touches on ihtilal, which is expected to go to print later this month. It has already attracted attention from retail stores, said Berkkurt. “Some gaming stores have already given orders. But I think it will spread very quickly through out the country, since it is appealing to the non-gamer community as well,” he said. It could very well catch on among casual board game players in Turkey, as college students and retirees can be found in cafeacutes nationwide hunched over games of the immensely popular backgammon and Okey, in between reading papers and musing over the tangled, messy developments of the country’s current political climate. Board game enthusiasts and connoisseurs of Turkish politics alike can be thankful that Berkkurt drew inspiration — rather than fear — from the explosive incident that charred much of ihtilal’s prototype and aroused suspicion from anti-terrorism police.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman