When Games Are No Longer Games

DIGC330, Digital Asia, where we will be conducting an autoethnographic investigation into the production and consumption of Asian digital media, communication technologies, as well as the industry and culture as a whole, from a local, national and personal perspective.

“Woah, what the heck does that even mean?”

To me, autoethnography is research based on the researchers personal observations of the ‘mundane’ within a culture, and then, an analytical narrative of these observations in the hope of understanding certain aspects of said culture. These observations should be “aesthetic and evocative”, utilising storytelling conventions in order to engage readers.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience.” – Carolyn Ellis, 2011.


Ellis (2011), explains that “When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity.”

So, for this post I will be commencing an autoethnographic investigation of the ‘State of Play’ documentary. This will involve my personal observations of the documentary, as well as the way the Twitter-feed reacted, and why these observations are of importance to my research.

State of Play follows a champion pro-gamer, Lee Jae-dong, as he loses, triumphs and struggles through the world of South-Korean professional E-sports. In the true sense of autoethnographic research, below are my initial observations in experiencing the film.


  • Gaming isn’t seen as play, it is seen as work.
  • It is a serious sport, (again, more than a ‘game’) with massive fan groups, intense training, huge stadiums and LOTS of money.
  • The players still have decisions to make: High school or Pro-gaming.
  • Extremely demanding career. 10 hours of training a day, away from friends and family, some choose to leave school.
  • To add on to the demands observation: He is constantly sleeping at school (know that feel bro).
  • The average pro-gamer retires at 24. This is incredibly early for someone to end a career. Is this due to slower reaction times as people get older, or is there an underlining concern of longevity for such a career.


An interesting experience I had throughout the viewing of the documentary was watching the twitter feed react to certain things. Each user would come at an issue with their own perspectives coming into play. This demonstrated to me how Autoethnography works. For example, some people were interested in the technology used for the huge competitions shown in the documentary, others were concerned with the gender roles within the sport. Further subjects included: Clothing, training, and even food.

Having experienced competitive online games for a lot of my youth, many of these being popular within Asia, (League of Legends, DOTA) the notion of E-sports was not entirely new or strange to me. I knew about the professionalism of the industry. The money, the stadiums, the massive fan bases and even the team houses are common place within E-sports and I had come across these circumstances through the games I had casually followed.
What interested me within State of Play was the family aspect shown through the documentary. This brought with it a historical and spiritual culture which I had not being involved with before. These notions created an authentic, traditionally Asian ‘feel’ to the film. For me, this added a new and intriguing experience to E-sports, one which previously I had not experienced or even considered.


  1. Using autoethnography we’re able to realise and understand unfamiliar aspects of another culture. By discovering unfamiliar aspects of the Korean culture, you’ve effectively noted a difference between the Australian and Korean cultural experience. By noting your unfamiliarity with the notion of the traditional Korean family, you have been able to highlight the different familial roles within Korean culture as compared to Australia.

    This was a great autoethnographical account of your response to the film, particularly your final paragraphs! By drawing on your personal experience you were able to relate to certain aspects of the Korean culture, and draw attention to other aspects that you haven’t personally experienced before, thus illustrating a difference between Korean and Australian cultures.

    It’s great to read a post from someone who already had some understanding of the eSports industry, and see how that shaped your response. Great work!


  2. Interesting account of your experience with autoethnography. Love the way you were able to explain what autoethnography in your own terms and used visuals to further explain your understanding.

    By observing your first interaction with the ‘State of Play’ documentary, you were able to make some interesting findings regarding the Korean culture. Your observation of the demanding nature that is the Korean gaming culture, was quite insightful and really does show a likeness to that of professional competitive sports.

    I found it interesting how you were able to link this experience with your previous personal experiences regarding gaming, and looking past the main topic of competitive gaming and taking note of the family traditions and various roles that are imbedded in the Korean family unit.
    In all I really enjoyed reading your post and your understanding of the topic, great job! 🙂


  3. Hi Matt,

    I think it was awesome how you drew comparisons between autoethnographic research in action with the live twitter feed when observing the documentary for the first time in class. The Twitter feed is essentially a micro-environment for our class to record our autoethnographic experiences in real time. Really clever comparison.

    Similarly, I also thought it was lovely how you drew comparisons with your own personal gaming experience. This shows that you were engaging with the text and aligning it to your life which appears central to autoethnography. For someone like me who hasn’t had much experience with gaming or the e-Sports industry, it was interesting to see what you took from the documentary.

    Overall really great read.




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