Game designer inspires children in Turkish villages to make games
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Simay Dinc is a first generation game designer in Turkey, and she wants to teach the next generation to learn how to make games, code and also embrace technology and science.
For example, Dinc, co-founder of Recontact Games and founder of Women in Games Turkey, started a program to teach children in a small village to appreciate interactive arts. The program is called CATS of Small Village, where CATS stands for Culture, Art, Technology and Science. It was a creativity camp for children.
Turkey has seen a gaming boom with big companies like Zynga getting set to acquire companies like Peak Games (bought for $ 1.8 billion) and Rollic (bought for $ 168 million). Dream Games, an Istanbul-based casual game maker, recently raised $ 155 million. All of these deals have kicked off a big boost for mobile game companies in Turkey. But while 47% of gamers in Turkey are women, Dinc said, there aren’t enough female game developers.
Dinc, whose company has created successful mobile video games such as Recontact: Istanbul and Recontact: London, has brought together various groups to teach a multidisciplinary approach to games, culture, art, technology and science to experienced lecturers.
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“This is our new social impact project located in a small village,” Dinc said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We wanted to remind people that games are both a culture and an art. Gaming is not just a coding industry. It’s a part of the creative industry, and we wanted to share that mindset. We brought in speakers from cultural studies, arts, technology and science.
She organized the first event in Ayvalik village in Turkey from September 17th to 19th. It was supported by Recontact Games and Women in Games Turkey. And she brought college professors on board to talk about culture, arts, technology and science. The participants came from Women in Games Turkey, United Nations SDNS, United States Consulate, etc.
The target age for the program was around 10 to 14 years old.
“We are running this project in rural areas so that children have the opportunity to be exposed to technology and science,” she said.
The idea was to introduce video game development not just as writing code, but as an interactive work of art. The aim of the ‘CATS of Small Village’ is to raise awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals through play. The team used gamification techniques to transform children’s ideas into real game designs.
The project aims to reach village children in rural areas who generally do not have the opportunity to experience the new professions of the future. By offering courses and case studies on the creative industries taught by university professors and professionals, the group hopes to inspire children and broaden their vision of what is possible. Over time, Dinc hopes to expand CATS to other rural areas of the world.
“My passion and my goal is to educate people on how the gaming industry is enriched by people from different disciplines and backgrounds,” said Dinc. “Far from the stereotypes often shown in the media – the emphasis being on gambling, violence and drug addiction – the online gaming community encompasses people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, nationalities and perspectives, and is therefore without arguably one of the most diverse and diverse inclusive industry in the digital technology sector.
Because of this diversity, Dinc believes that games have multidisciplinary power to overcome differences, change the world, and empower the younger generation.
Dinc has been an avid gamer since the age of seven. She was charmed by Prince of Persia, the 8-bit PC game. She also frequented art galleries and museums.
“My childhood was divided between art galleries and arcades,” she said.
When she visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013, she found that the art community did not respond well to the idea of hanging Pac-Man next to works by Picasso.
“The exhibit made me realize and remember that video games are a multi-billion dollar art form, culture and industry,” she said.
As a former filmmaker, she co-founded Recontact with her brother Eray and they went on to create games that combine cinema and games in mobile games. Recontact: Istanbul was launched in 2015, and it was made with both a cinema department and a games team. Now the company is adding Steam as a platform for its games in addition to mobile. A total of 31 people contribute to the company, both as full-time employees and as contractors. The company’s games have seen over a million downloads.
Women in the Games Turkey
Dinc also started the Women in Games Turkey group in 2015, as she saw how rare women were in the growing Turkish games industry. And she’s traveled all over Turkey and collaborated with 40 universities to get more women involved in game development. She believes there are now thousands of women in the pipeline. And with the CATS program, she wants to impact further down the pipeline while the boys and girls are still in their formative years. Eray Dinc helped with university recruiting because he was an academician.
The Women in Games Turkey group provided mentors for the children. The CATS program started this summer. Dinc wanted to start earlier, but the pandemic forced her to wait longer. The event was a relatively small group, in part because of concerns about COVID.
“We would like to expand to other villages and towns over time,” Dinc said.
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