State of Play- an autoethnographical response

Initially I found the concept of autoethnography incredibly confusing. I’ve now come to understand that autoethnography is a way of writing about another culture from the perspective of your own, whilst acknowledging the personal biases that inevitably come from this.

In writing an autoethnographical account we’re required to recognise “patterns” of cultural experience and describe these patterns. In writing autoethnography we need to write about our own personal experience with another culture, and use this in order to “understand our own cultural experience”(Ellis, Adams & Bochner).

My own consumption of Asian media has been very minimal. I do have quite a few Asian friends, but that’s where my exposure to Asian culture really begins and ends. Coming from zero gaming experience/interest I was skeptical of the film ‘State of Play’ from the outset. To be frank, I wasn’t very interested in watching a Korean film about gaming ~ But I was interested in noting which parts were unfamiliar or strange to me, and determining how this highlights my own cultural (in)experience. Before even beginning to watch the film I knew that I wouldn’t appreciate it, based on my own interests and cultural identity, and I wanted to see how this influences my response to Korean culture. Below are my observations of the film:

  • Competing in eSports is immediately framed as an elite, daring profession. The men are shown getting massages and having their hair professionally styled before matches. They have cheering crowds of fans.
    • Was I naive in thinking that being a gamer wasn’t a real profession? I had no idea that they could actually make real money or have a career playing video games.
  • I definitely feel that within Korea gamers are much more respected than within ‘Western’ culture. I just cannot see gamers being celebrated and idolized within my own communities. I’m pretty amazed that people actually sit cheering in a room whilst they compete in video games in real time.
  • Not only is being a gamer a career, but there is an entire industry built around them? I’m now beginning to draw comparisons between eSports and the world of football. These kids start young, practicing 10-12 hours a day to get drafted into teams.
  • I’m noticing a divide between spiritual, traditional Korea and the fast-paced technologically advanced Korea. It seems that the kids have to make a choice; pursue their education or compete in eSports. I feel like their parents values and ‘traditionalism’ has an effect on their decision.
  • Traditional gender roles seem to be reinforced by the film. The starting quotation “[man] is only completely a man when he plays” shows that the man needs to prove his worth by working hard. This is once again reinforced when Lee Jae Dong later says that he no longer has passion for playing and that “mostly just plays for work”
  • Near the end of the film Lee Jae Dong and the audience were both crying and soft instrumental music played in the background- however I still feel emotionally disconnected to the story. This is probably because this world is so far from my own, and still seems to unreal to me.

Having zero knowledge of the profession, watching this film definitely shone light on a whole aspect of Korean gaming culture. As a female Australian I feel like the entire concept of this industry is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced, and thus find it difficult to empathise or relate to the struggles of the individuals depicted in the film. Whilst watching the film I was able to draw comparisons between Korean eSports and Western football teams by the way in which the players were commoditized, and idolized within the community.



Screenshots from the film; State of Play, 2013.


  1. Ellis outlines that autoethnographers are often criticised for using personal experience which are thought to influence bias data. However as you have outlined through your recount of State of Play, it is an important way for autoethnographers to analyse the influence of their own cultural understanding when it comes to interpreting texts.

    I have also had limited gaming exposure, despite the obvious interaction with Pokemon when I was much younger. A part from this, my understanding of the stimga surrounding gaming was also limited before watching State of Play. I also drew the distinction between the treatment of the gamers and elite athletes that we often see on television – they are being massaged and prepared for the all important, swim, run, football match or in this instance, a video game battle.

    You most definitely are not naive for thinking that gaming is not a profession – as Ellis outlines, autoethnography is about your interpretation of the text and one in which I have a slightly different take on. I knew that there were professional gamers out there, however I had no idea of how large and popular eSports is in Asia.

    I cannot agree more with your comparison between gaming and football – I am currently working for Football Federation Australia and am hence around the football realm a lot. There were definitely the characteristics of achievement, rejection, disappointment, camaraderie, teamwork and satisfaction all of which are portrayed through our Western consumption of the sporting world (not just football of cause but that was one of the main sports I could see similarities with).

    Growing up in an era where women have struggled and been the minority in a cumulative list of settings, I found it extremely frustrating to note that the only participants in eSports where men while women were depicted as the ditzy ‘fan squad’.

    Your response to the film highlights that in some way or another your interpretation of the text has been influenced by your preconceived ideas, which is not at all a bad thing. I look forward to reading your second post to see how the concept of process, product and research meet and to widen your understanding of the text.


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