THE TRADITION OF GAMES
If a “game” can be considered as a re-enactment of an event through imitation, it is possible to trace back the origins of the Turkish game playing culture to the shaman tradition of Central Asian Turks. In accordance with their polytheistic shaman beliefs, during ritual magic and sacrifice ceremonies, the Turks of Central Asia played various games that involved wearing disguises and playing roles. These games of imitation are collective acts. First a conflict is created in order to generate excitement, and then the group is subjected to a particular kind of tension. This is followed by a period of recreation and festivity. It is still possible to find traces of this culture in Anatolian village spectator games. Held at specific times of the year, these games are closely connected with the beliefs of the past. In Anatolia, a game called ï¿½?ile is played during the month of February, while tradition requires the Köse game to be played on a different day each year. The Köse game involves selecting a shah or emir to symbolize the old year. For a while, all of his wishes are granted, yet when his time is up, he is ridiculed and driven away. This symbolizes the dismissal of the old year and the consolidation of the new one. In Anatolia, it is possible to find similar games that involve creating a conflict which is then turned into catharsis, just as it is in the Köse game. Similar dramatic structures can be observed in Turkish children’s games; just as in shaman or Anatolian rituals, one may see the clash of two separate or opposing forces in children’s games. The game that initiates with this struggle ends with the defeat of one of the teams. The gain of the conflict overlaps with the delight of a ritual magic.
Due to the influence of Central Asian and Anatolian traditions, Turkish culture is quite rich in terms of children’s games. Even in contemporary Turkey, each region, each village has games that are still played everyday, or at designated times of the year. It is possible to categorize these games as guessing games, tricking games, mute games, picture games, tongue twister games, singing games, sports games, village spectator games, games about animals, games involving masks and disguise, games involving manual skills, games requiring creativity and imagination, games requiring motor skills, games requiring timing skills, etc. Because the list can be extensive, only a few Turkish children’s games have been outlined below.
Akkoç Karakoç Game The game players split into two teams known as the Akkoç and Karakoç (“the white rams” and “the black rams”). An object is selected and thrown as far away as possible. Following this, everyone starts searching for the object. When one of the players, say one of the Akkoç team, finds the object, he yells out “Akkoç team! I found it, grab them!” This is the prompt for the Karakoç team to run away and for the Akkoç to chase them. When the Akkoç players manage to catch one of the Karakoç players, the Akkoç get to ride on the back of the Karakoç. Finally, the Karakoç players have to carry the Akkoç players on their backs, all the way to the place where the object is located.
Guessing GameA dark rock, a light colored rock and a piece of glass is picked. The person who is “it” hides one of these three items in his palm; the other players do not know which. The player who guesses correctly becomes “it”. If the player’s guess is wrong, he is penalized. The person who is “it” covers the eyes of the penalized player as two other players hide. The person who is “it” asks the blindfolded player where the others are hiding. If the player guesses the location of the hiders correctly, he is relieved from the penalty. If his guess in inaccurate, as a penalty, the hiding players get to ride on his back.
Halak Bozmaci The players are divided up into a tagging team and a searching team. The tagging team members announce that “the game is on!” and allow the opposing team some time to hide. Each hiding player draws a line on the ground. The aim of the tagging team is not to find the players but the lines that have been drawn on the ground. At the end of the game, the lines that the tagging team members have found are counted. If number of the lines found is larger than those not found, the other team becomes the tagging team.
Wind, Rain, Snow Game A leader is selected from among the players. The players line up side-by-side and the leader stands facing them. When the leader says, “wind” the players clap their hands; when he says, “rain” they beat their chests; and when he says, “snow” they hit their knees. As the game picks up speed, the leader does his best to try to trick the players. The players who carry out the wrong move are out of the game. The last player becomes the new leader.
Circle GameThe person who is “it” takes the ball and stands in center position. The other players draw circles around themselves and take position around the person who is “it.” The person who is “it” throws the ball towards the players, who then try to throw the ball back without letting it land into their own circles. However, while trying to do this, they are not allowed to use their hands or their arms; they can only touch the ball with their feet and heads. If the ball ends up inside the circle of one of the players, then that person becomes “it.”
Wet Feet Two long and wavy lines are drawn on the ground. The area between the two lines is supposed to be the river. The players start the game by jumping over the river in the location where the lines are closest to each other. The players who step on the lines or on the middle section while jumping have entered the river, and they have gotten their feet wet. The game gets more and more difficult, and continues until the place where the lines are farthest from each other.
References: 1. Metin And, “Oyun ve Bügü“, Yapi Kredi Yayinlari, 2002. 2. Arda, Itir, and Deniz, Seyran. “Her Güne Bir Oyun” Yapi Kredi Yayinlari, 2004. 3.Yesim Gokce (Bilkent University)/Turkish Cultural Foundation
Some selected examples (please click on pictures to enlarge):