State of Mind- An Autoethographic Response to Korean Gaming Documentary, State of Play

In first hearing the term ‘autoethnography’ I had two main thoughts: A) that this word has way too many syllables to be learning at 9:30 in the morning, and B) I really hope this is the study of autobots (sick transformers reference Jesse). Alas, my hopes and dreams were dashed with no reference to Optimus Prime and his robotic buddies, with Ellis, Adams and Bochner defining the concept as

“an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience”.

Put simply, if ethnography (the study of cultures) had a baby with autobiography (an individual’s self-articulated accounts) the result would be autoethnography.

Despite a lack of transforming cars, this concept does present a revolutionary approach to cultural studies. As opposed to traditional ethnographic tactics of ignoring personal biases in order to report on cultural practices impartially, autoethnography highly relies upon the personal experience in reporting on individual reactions to culture and an analyzing them. You know that god awful show Gogglebox where you watch people watching TV? In a way, that’s Autoethnography.

Now in taking a step forwards, my experience with Asian culture specifically has not been massive. Although studying Japanese in high school for several years, and being a big fan of various Anime (although dubs over subs), my cultural experience more or less stops there. Therefore, the 2013 South Korean gaming documentary State of Play presented itself as quite the culture shock, filled with delicious looking Korean food, with next to no English spoken and following the accounts of young, professional Star craft Players. As my first attempt at autoethnography, I attempted to live tweet my experiences of the film as they happened as seen in the Storify feed below:

storify 1

There were however several other observations I had made in regards to the film:

  • The relationships between the parents and gamers appeared very strict, as they are stereo typically recognized in western culture.
  • Gaming as an activity is treated as an entirely different process than in Australia, professionalism isn’t recognized unless you operate as a developer for example.
  • The treatment of professionals mimics the treatment of movie stars or musicians for example.
  • The High school experience recorded is entirely different to in Australia. There is no real graduation from middle school to high school, while sleeping in class would result in immediate punishment. Although I do know this is acceptable in Japan.
  • The scene of Jae Dong’s emotional breakdown highlight much in regards to masculinity in Asian cultures. Dong saying specifically that he normally puts on a brave face as a ‘Korean man should’
  • E-Sports are essentially met with the same attitudes as physical sporting events, even having their own dedicated e-sports arenas.

As what I classify as a casual gamer, State of Play was extremely enlightening in presenting the true perception of E-Sports in cultures other than my own. While E-sports would be perceived as a laughable concept to the majority of Australians, games present extremely similar themes and issues in terms of the competitiveness, the coverage, and even gambling/fixing. Watching this documentary was highlight educational and enjoyable, although I still never want to play Star Craft.

-Jesse Max



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