Trying this Again: State of Play

The last blog post I wrote said that I would attempt to analyse the movie length Japanese animation Akira following in the autoethnographic style of research and study. However, upon talking my previous blog post over with the subject head, I have instead been tasked with analysing the documentary State of Play. Before going any further, I would like to thank Lisa and James Blunsum for their critically thought out comments which could have potentially aided me in writing a completely different version of this blog post.

Moving on, the documentary State of Play examines the state of eSports in Korea during 2011 and 2012, focusing on various Korean members of the eSports community such as Lee Jae Dong, Park Yo Han (amateur player), and Kim Joon Hyuk. Marcel Martončik describes eSports as an area of game playing which involves players regularly training to compete and participate in leagues and tournaments. During State of Play, the various eSports community members gave us a peek into the world of competitive gaming and its challenges.

A recurring theme that stood out for me that I would like to analyse from this documentary is the loss of innocence experienced by its members which began with their entrance into this industry which was only realised by its members when the 2011 Star Craft match fixing scandal occurred. At the time, those involved in the industry believed that this represented a huge loss of innocence for eSports, and suddenly, sponsors were dropping pro-gamers and their teams, forcing some to return home to their parents.

This effectively left pro-gamers out of a job, with some having no future prospects as they did not complete their schooling so they could become full time pro-gamers at young ages. While still a fulltime gamer, Lee Jae Dong revealed he no longer played for fun but for work, and when he was dropped from his pro-gaming team, he had time to think about his past and future. He realised that he had regrets about the kind of school life he should have experienced at that age (like having a girlfriend), and regrets that he did not finish his schooling, as he found himself worried about his future.

When looking into the area of loss of innocence in the realms of eSports, I found an article by Yuri Seo that looks into ‘serious leisure,’ which essentially means the pursuit of a hobbyist activity that participants strive to create a career in for themselves to express its special skillset, knowledge, and experience. I believe that it is this ‘serious leisure’ that could have possibly led to the loss of innocence in some pro-gamers, as they pour all of their time and energy into cultivating their skills to survive in the industry while forgoing experiences only achieved during their youth.

Seo makes some other observations that can apply here such as when he looks into prosumers becoming constrained by the structural elements of social systems, limiting the prosumers agency. The pro-gamers, in this sense, produce an identity for themselves in the eSports community which they present in organised tournaments where their live matches are consumed by avid spectators. However, it is this drive for prosumer pro-gamers to acquire and sustain an identity that may drive them to deprive themselves of experiences because they are devoting more time towards building this identity.

The whole process that this loss of innocence occurs within is something which Seo says is the “hero’s journey.” The “hero’s journey” can be broken down into three stages which include:

  • “The call to adventure:” the process in which a casual gamer becomes exposed to the world of competitive game playing.
  • “The road of trials:” the process in which casual gamers teach themselves skills and knowledge earned through perseverance in becoming more skilful in a computer game via immersion in eSports ethos and practices.
  • “The master of two worlds:” the result in which the casual gamer has now become a pro-gamer with the ability to influence the eSports world and to return to a world before eSports.

The Korean pro-gamers presented in State of Play went through a journey that could be described as the “hero’s journey,” but some were not able to return to a world before eSports that “the master of two worlds” stage allows. They became masters of one through uninterrupted dedication to their craft, unlike the participants of Seo’s study who also worked or studied on top of training for eSports, giving them opportunities should they fail in/or fall out of the eSports world.

A “master of two worlds” would include second-year Australian university and Call of Duty (COD) specialist Denholm Taylor, a member of the team Plantronics and a part time eSports gamer. While he wants to be a full-time pro-gamer, Taylor at least has an education that he can fall back on should his career in eSports fail him, unlike some Korean pro-gamers who never complete their education or further education because they devote themselves to a career in eSports.

While eSports is not always participated in solely for financial gain, pro-gamers must be, in some part, after the money. The eSports industry pays well if you can hold your own against many competitive pro-gamers. This may also be a motivation for pro-gamers in solely focusing on a career in gaming, as they know that if they can perform well in competitions and tournaments than they can live off of their video game skills.

All in all, in this blog post I have attempted to analyse the loss of innocence expressed throughout State of Play. Any judgments made here are not conclusive and require further study to establish academic accuracy.

Just for interest’s sake, here is a list of “15 Of The Highest-Paid Professional Video Gamers In The World,” and this website lists a large number of pro-gamers and various information about them.

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