Out of the Cafe and into the Arena

Can, Onder; Foxman, Maxwell

This paper examines three Turkish esports venues formed under the watchful eye of a transnational, neoliberally oriented, and increasingly authoritarian government. Using these sites—an internet cafe open to the public, a gaming house for players, and an esports arena for fans—as case studies, we apply theories of the social production of space to find that Turkey’s neoliberal and conservative policies, which have deeply ruptured the urban social fabric, enabled the seamless integration of the global esports ecosystem into Istanbul. Furthermore, we show that each space follows Western norms surrounding gaming to varying degrees. This association allows affiliated companies to capitalize on the practices and experiences of Turkish gamers by professionalizing gameplay and commodifying esports participation. Ultimately, rather than acting as a mode of resistance, each space reinforces both global gaming and Turkish neoliberal neoauthoritarianism.