Revisiting ‘State of Play’

In my previous post I used Ellis, Adams and Bochners’ concept of autoethnography to record my own experiences with an East Asian text, the film State of Play (2013). As Ellis, Adams and Bochner explain, in order to write 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”. My previous post details my initial response to a Korean cultural experience, and I will now re-examine it to critically evaluate my assumptions…

State of Play is a documentary following professional gamers as they compete in the Korean eSport industry. My initial response to the film can be read here.

In my previous blog post I stated that I was immediately hesitant to watch the film, as I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t enjoy it. Immediately I’ve distanced myself from the film and this can explain why I felt so emotionally disconnected from the characters. Watching the film in a tertiary educational setting caused me to be disinterested before it had even begun. I’ve immediately positioned myself away from the story, the characters and the industry. Because of this, I began to question the legitimacy of the gaming ‘profession’ and the respect they’ve earned.

“I had no idea that they could actually make real money or have a career playing video games.” (me)

“Not only is being a gamer a career, but there is an entire industry built around them?” (me)

“I’m pretty amazed that people actually sit cheering in a room whilst they compete in video games in real time.” (me)

Looking back I can re-examine aspects of the film that may have re-enforced my position as a cultural outsider. The fact that I had to rely on subtitles to understand the entirety of the film should be taken into account. I also found the cityscape to be something I’d never experienced before; the smog and grey city seemed almost unrealistic.

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In hindsight I am now rethinking why I had a negative attitude towards the film. Whilst viewing the film I felt my traditional understanding of what a successful, professional career ought to look like challenged. Before watching the film I never thought that gaming could be a real profession, or that gaming was a professional industry. However I found the idea of social media influencers to be perfectly conceivable (Adi 2015).

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Why is this? And why am I only making this comparison now?

My daily use of social media, and my understanding of contemporary marketing practices mean that I understand and approve of social media marketing and those that make a living from posting pictures. I now see that my personal experience and interest shapes the way that I have rationalised this.

Originally I found that this film challenged my perceptions, but why should it have???

During the film I drew comparisons between professional gaming and professional football. I found that I could appreciate the work and commitment that young footballers make to get where they are, but not that of young gamers.

“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.” (me)

I can now see that my personal experience with social media and football, and the normality of both of these within my own community have shaped my responses. I personally had no experience or interest in gaming, and have never participated in conversations about the industry before – and this ultimately caused my initial dismissal of professional gaming, ‘eSports’. I can now see that I drew parallels between gaming and football in order to comprehend the industry, but even then I thought that footballers had a more legitimate profession.

With research, I can see that my original response feeds into contemporary debates. There are hundreds of thousands of articles, webpages and forum debates on whether competitive gaming should be respected, and whether competitive gaming should even be a profession. Whilst watching the film I stereotyped these professional gamers as nerds with little social skills wanting to just play games for a living. I was originally amazed that gaming was a professional industry, but after reading an old forum post from years ago I can see how they earn their respect. I hadn’t been exposed to these opinions or debates before watching the film, and this explains why I held my original views.

Everyone has different assumptions about the world we live in, and it is by analysing our responses that we’re able to clearly see this. It is through the process of autoethnography that I am able to see my response to an Asian film as a reflection of my cultural identity.



Screenshots from the film; State of Play, 2013.

Google search ‘social media influencers, the profession’ results.


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