Three questions for Kübra Aksay
Ah, Freiburg! Local tourist guides and managers could tell you one or two stories about it. The city is known „for its medieval minster and Renaissance university, and is situated in the heart of the major Baden wine-growing region. It serves as the primary tourist entry point to the scenic beauty of the Black Forest.“ But…gaming and game research? Well, we are about to find out more...
Rudolf Inderst (RI): Hi Kübra, thanks for joining our three-questions-format. Would you please introduce yourself to our readers. You also might want to add what it is you are doing in Freiburg?
Kübra Aksay (KA): Thanks for inviting me! My name is Kübra Aksay, I am a researcher, lecturer, and doctoral candidate in American Studies at the Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg. My dissertation project focuses on performative aspects of video games. Coming from literary and cultural studies, I am interested in the in-depth analysis of games in order to explore how video game narratives work, how games can put us in another person’s shoes and into another world.
At the same time, I understand games as a very diverse medium, and I believe it is very difficult to speak of particular categories or genres of games, let alone making general statements about all video games. I remember that during one of the conferences I presented at, I received a question, which was in fact more of a comment, about how the commenter disliked video games because their son could not stop playing them. This comment had not much to do with the game I talked about at the confence, but I heard similar remarks in other contexts as well, and I can understand where they come from.
Nonetheless, I think these kinds of reactions show us that although Game Studies has been gaining increasing academic interest, it is still seen as somewhat insignificant in American Studies, Cultural Studies, or similar fields, at least in Germany. I think analyses of recent video games are especially important for these fields because there are a lot of new and experiential things these games are doing.
RI: Let’s talk about your ‚Reading Games‘ project – it seems like you do not gamify the act of reading, I suppose?
KA: I started Reading Games, what I call a “video game book club” in 2019 as a discussion group at the English Department of the University of Freiburg. It works like a book club because we choose a game each month, everyone plays it, and we have a discussion about the selected game in our monthly meetings. My aim has always been to avoid making this project a group of ‘gamers’ only. I always like to see people who study/research other narrative media but keep their distance from video games end up joining us.
I am trying to make sure the games we choose for the monthly discussions are not too long and are available on a variety of platforms so that more people are able to play them. Our meetings used to take place at the department, but since we (temporarily) switched to a digital format, students from other places and other disciplines have joined some of our meetings, which has made the discussions more interesting.
RI: And there’s also a game research conference in the making, I’ve heard?
KA: Yes, the conference is titled Culture at Play: Spaces — Colors — Stories in Digital Games, and it is planned to take place digitally in March 2022. I am working on it with Janna Kaiser and Florian Schäfer from the University of Freiburg. The idea of organizing a conference on games and game culture in Freiburg has been on our minds for a long time — but then, well you know, Covid happened. We eventually decided to hold it online, and as with Reading Games, I can see that digital events have their own advantages. We are planning to make our conference as interactive as possible, with streams, virtual coffee breaks, etc.
RI: Thank you very much for your time.
As for the aforementioned conference Culture at Play: Spaces — Colors — Stories in Digital Games, proposals are still being accepted until 1.11.2021. They can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org-
Last but not least, the Reading Games discord server is open to anyone!