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November 29, 2020
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Breaking biases through games

by Ayten Yesim Semchenko on 07/22/19 10:49:00 am

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This blog post was originally published in: Kabuk Games

We have been developing a visual novel walking you through the traditions of arranged marriages in Turkey. Like most others, you might be curious where this interest came from. I am Turkish, and my research focuses on human mating. (I am a Ph.D. candidate in Charles University, Czechia).  I conducted several interviews and a qualitative survey regarding relationship types in Turkey. The data I collected influenced me, and along with our observations, I wanted to share it with the rest of the world. Without sugarcoating or shaming. 

We have been attending to game conferences in Europe to receive feedback. First of all, I want to thank you to everyone who stopped by and gave feedback. Here, though, I will take your attention to a specific kind of feedback that we received. The ones that include biases. 

Here are some of them:

1.Why do your game characters look so happy? Arranged marriage is a sad event. Arranged marriage = forced marriage.  

Not necessarily. There are two types of arranged marriages in Turkey. With or without consent. The most common form of arranged marriage is the one with consent. In fact, according to the Turkish Statistics Institute (2016), 47.8% of the first marriages were arranged marriages with consent. 12.1% of them were arranged marriages without consent. You might be wondering what does arranged marriage with a consent mean? To exemplify, imagine that your mother or aunt or someone from your family approaches you, and tell you about this great man/woman. And they ask if you would be interested in meeting him/her (with the intention of getting married). You might or might not agree to meet him/her. If you agree to meet him/her, you do not necessarily have to get married. Maybe, you will realize that you did not like him/her at all. But your intention will be to judge the suitability of him/her as a potential groom/bride. Some call this serious dating. In the visual novel that we have been developing, we included both paths (arranged marriage with and without consent). 

2.Elif (the main character) does not wear a headscarf. Why?

Not every woman in Turkey wears a headscarf. According to one newspaper poll (Hurriyet), 58% of women in Turkey wear a headscarf in public places. However, this percentage might change from region to region.

3.Elif does not look Turkish. Her skin is white and her eyes are green.

Some Westerners tend to imagine Turks as having darker skin. There are people with white skin and blue or green eyes in Turkey. There are blonde and even red-headed Turks. And then there are Turks with darker skin and brown eyes. Or with white skin and brown eyes. In Turkey, you can see any combination you can think of. 

4.This house does not look oriental enough. It looks almost American.

There are certainly oriental houses/flats in Turkey. But this is not the case for many. In fact, construction has been a booming industry in Turkey for a long time. So, lots of new houses and flats in the country.


These were the most frequent biases we came across, but we know that there are many more. After all, we live in a world full of heuristics and biases. 

Let us know in the comments if you realize that you also have biases/questions pertaining to Turkey or arranged marriages.

You can find us on Twitter and Facebook!

Arranged will be released in September on PC, Mac, Linux, Android and IOS. Don’t forget to add it to your wishlist!

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