I’m no gamer. I didn’t think I’d be able to connect with a story about eSports athletes. I didn’t even know eSports athleticism was a thing.
State of Play is a film about a South Korean gaming subculture. Watching it was an ethnographic experience. It was ethnographic in that I was observing and noting the practices and experiences of the gamers. My analyses of these observations using selective personal retrospect is autoethnography. Ellis describes the method as an acceptance of the researcher’s subjectivity in which personal experience is used as a means of understanding another culture.
My cultural identity has shaped how I’ve interpreted this film – autoethnography says it’s totally valid.
Ethnography – observations of the film I considered worth noting:
- A narrating voice tells us that most people follow the paths given to them. I might be cringing a little because I don’t know if it’s meant to give the vibe of a Morgan Freeman-esque intro to a philosophical narrative. This is just not Morgan Freeman’s genre.
- The professional gamer who earns a kick-ass load of money is asked when he’ll get a ‘real’ job. We all have that one relative, don’t we – that uncle who constantly throws shade at people’s (our) life choices.
- This is hardcore gaming. It looks like an addiction.
- It seems that these dudes (it’s all just dudes!) trap themselves into the gaming life in sacrifice of their education, family relationships and a social life outside this subculture.
Autoethnography – analyses of my observations using personal experience:
- That initial cringe-worthy line felt like a more meaningful statement as I got to know some of the characters. We see the concern for gamers’ long-term wellbeing expressed by their families. Professional gaming is an unconventional career pursuit, even in mainstream Australian culture. I can empathise with these characters. I too have been challenged by the ‘paths’ paved by my parents’ ideas of tradition and my individual desires which contested them. It’s a conflict of cultural identity which leads to awkward but necessary conversation.
- Perhaps the uncle didn’t mean to be condescending. I feel like that one uncle we share mightn’t understand the capacity with which digital culture can impact a person’s life. I may not be a gamer, but I am hugely reliant on digital media, and so it’s of great value to me. Older generations mightn’t share the same sentiment, perhaps because of their vastly different experiences with telecommunications throughout their lives.
- ‘Addiction’ isn’t really the right word to associate with this gaming. It’s actually a thing that requires training and active competition. I thought of it as an unhealthy kind of leisurely ‘playing’, but no. It’s actually $eriou$ bu$ine$$.
- I don’t know whether it’s right to feel both sympathetic and unsurprised when the professional gamer says he no longer plays for the fun of it, but essentially for the money. I understand it’s a way of providing for his family. But he seemed bored. And 12 hours of training is intense for those eyeballs, man! But he also expressed how fulfilled he felt when competing successfully, and the gratitude he had for his admirers. It’s not really something I could relate to, though.
My autoethnographic experience of this South Korean gaming culture wasn’t about the games they played. It was an insight into the perspectives of those who identified with the culture, and of others who couldn’t quite understand it.
I think this narrative could’ve very well been Morgan Freeman’s genre.