Gaming, Culture, and Korea- looking back at State of Play

A couple of weeks ago I had posted my own introduction to the concept of Autoethnography, as well as my personal interpretations towards South Korean Gaming documentary State of Play. Despite further research and investigation to the concept my understanding of autoethnography has remained relatively unchanged in following Ellis, Adams and Bochner definition as:

“an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” as well as subscribing to the belief that autoethnography is essentially the combination of ethnography (the study of cultures)  with autobiography (an individual’s self-articulated accounts). In light of this, my post State of Mind centered on this concept, as well as my own personal epiphanies towards State of Play, the full extent of which can be seen:


And here:

Now although my interpretation to the concept has not changed, after conducting external research in academic, mainstream media, and web based formats I have decided to revisit several assumptions that I had made in regards to South Korean Culture. Specifically these center on the perception of gaming, the treatment of education, as well as traditional family values and structure.

These two tweets highlight some significant assumptions in relation to South Korean gaming culture, namely that e-sports have a predominately positive reputation in Korea with largely male involvement. For the most part, E-sports has become quite an integral part of South Korean culture even resulting in the establishment of its own government department, and the production of specific E-Sports arenas. Players are treated as major celebrities earning thousands of dollars a year, and adored by a largely female fan base which Lee (2015) argues mimics the treatment of K-Pop stars. What I neglected to realise however, is how gaming has been treated as an epidemic of sorts among Korean Youth. Lee also argues that the exceptionally long periods of time spent gaming by players occurring in PC Bang bars has resulted in highly detrimental health issues such as repetitive strain and blood clots. The Korean government also passed the Shutdown Law in 2011, preventing children aged 16 or below from playing online games between 10:30pm and 6:00am. Digging a little deeper resulted in stories of death from malnutrition, and even the neglecting of children by parents as seen below.


What this tweet identifies some of my assumptions in regards to the treatment of education, while additionally I assumed that education was not taken overly seriously by many students. This cclusion was reached through images of students sleeping in class, and gamers such as Jae Dong skipping high school to pursue professional gaming.

What has been presented by Seth (2002) in his book ‘Education Fever: Society, Politics, and the Pursuit of Schooling in South Korea’ however reveals quite the opposite. South Korea has quite largely adopted what Seth Coins ‘education fever’, a natural obsession to education from both children and adults resulting in the formation of Cram Schools, a major focus on entrance exams and schooling characterized by long hours of study, strict discipline, and high levels of teacher competency. South Korea also spends more money on education than any other country as seen below. Thus my original assumptions have been completely reverted.




What my original post had also noted was the dynamics of Korean family life, specifically the strict nature of Korean parenting, and the importance of masculinity to Korean men. My assumptions in regards to this were reinforced through Asia Societies’ article, ‘The Value and Meaning of the Korean Family’. Korean family culture is quite similar to that of Japan’s with a massive emphasis on the importance of family, and the running of this family as a “benevolent monarchy”. Korean in this manner takes a predominately collectivist perspective in regards to family life, as opposed to the individualist nature of countries such as Australia. What was particularly interesting was the idea that children incur a hypothetical debt to their parents to be paid by treating them respectfully, caring for them in old age, mourning them at funerals, and performing ceremonies for them after their deaths. The family hierarchy was also presented largely in terms of age, and gender with the head of the house (the father) assuming leadership, and strict rules being instilled in children from the age of about 7.

Although I did have a general idea in regards to the collectivist, and predominately male orientated family structure, this research did provide some very interesting insights.

What this external research provided was both much needed clarification, and the reinforcement of pre-existing ideas towards my insights gathered from State of Play. Despite making incorrect assumptions in regards to the perception of gaming, and education, research also confirmed my ideas towards South Korean family life and masculinity.





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