Video Games and Autoethnography.

In this week’s post I wanted to detail how my research project about Japanese handheld video games actually corresponds with, and is guided and framed by, the concept of autoethnography. In order to do this I need to outline the methodology which I will be applying to my research.

Ellis et al. (2011) describe autoethnography as a combination of certain characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. From autobiography we take the way of writing about past experiences, and from ethnography the practice of studying a culture to better understand it. So as an autoethnographer I need to “retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies” (Ellis et al 2011) which come from experiencing Japanese handheld games and the culture surrounding them.

By playing a number of different games I am directly experiencing the culture and so can perform autoethnography quite directly. I can’t just write about playing the games, rather I need to write about what I bring to the experience, particularly the things which have influenced my way of thinking and acting.

Though I will not limit my autoethnographic research to simply playing the games. I need to make sure that I experience the culture behind the games, particularly on social media sites, such as Tumblr. I need to consider how other people may experience the same things, and why they may have such different experiences. (For example, is it to do with something as big as culture, or something more personal?)

The sorts of questions I will be asking myself in the following weeks will come from Rick Sheridan’s list of ‘Autoethnography prompts’; such as “what did I pay attention to most?” and “are there unexplainable holes in my general understanding?”.

For my digital artefact (Tumblr blog) I will attempt to get people to share their own experiences with handheld video games, and do some more research about production and consumption of Japanese handheld games in Australia. In the coming weeks’ blog posts I will be playing a couple more video games (liveblogging as I play), and also looking at retro handheld games and the culture around them.

– Gabi


Ellis, C, Adams, T & Bochner, A 2011, “Autoethnography: An Overview”, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1, accessed 10th Sept 2014, found:

Sheridan, R , “Autoethnography: Research as Participant”, accessed 10th Sept 2014, found:


  1. Hey Gabi, you seem like you are on track with your project. I would have to agree that epiphanies are really important in autoethnography because this is when we make connections between our experiences and observations with broader cultural/social outcomes. From your previous posts, you have definitely had some of these epiphanies so to speak, which is a positive sign that your project is on track. “For my digital artefact (Tumblr blog) I will attempt to get people to share their own experiences with handheld video games, and do some more research about production and consumption of Japanese handheld games in Australia” this is an interesting element of your project. Perhaps maybe you could get a short video of them playing the game? That would be good because then you could discuss the video/s in your digital artefact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good summation of what an autoethnographic piece is, as well as a quick outline of your project. It is important that you ask the important questions you want to answer now so as to generate a framework for your research. Sheridans list seems like the most appropriate place to start. You may want to consider more tailed questions rather than just relying on the ones provided, however as you said, the most usefull information may come from epiphanies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Firstly, thanks for linking the Rick Sheridan list that will be really helpful for my own study. Not quite sure how far into it you are yet, but have you had much success getting people to share their own experience with you on Tumblr? Are you going to rely on hashtags or are you immersing yourself in different Fandoms, following certain people and interacting yourself? I think that would make a really interesting topic for one of your posts, the process of actually getting involved, or having people interact with you online. I love your idea of live blogging as you play the games as well. Certainly gives me a lot to consider for my topic. Thanks.


  4. I definitely agree with your decision to do more than just play these games devoid of experiencing the wider culture around them. How much do you think internet sites will be able to accurately reflect this surrounding hysteria experienced in Asian cultures? Do you think this method would be as effective than if you were to enter these situations in a physical context? If not, how do you seek to overcome this?


  5. Do you know what games in particular you will be playing? I think it’s cool that you are focusing on just handheld games. Some games on handhelds are designed specifically for handhelds in terms of controls, snappier gameplay etc. Some (a lot on Playstation Vita) are merely ports of console games though. Are you looking at making a distinction between the two? It might be something to consider.


  6. Great post, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your experiences, as well as others experiences. It might be worthwhile to also check out r/gaming on Reddit, a heavily used sub-reddit where if you post a question there’s a potential that you’ll receive a list of interesting answers.

    Also, I reccomend looking into Kingdom Hearts since it’s a Japanese Franchise which is quite unique as it takes American characters and storylines – perhaps you could investigate how the game communicates these American characters, and if there is anything inherently ‘japanese’ or ‘Asian’ within the game, or does it feel no different from a Western game?


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