Reconnecting with State of Play

Re-examining ‘State of Play’ and looking through others blogs, I realised that a lot of people were unaware of e-sports and were surprised about many of the culture’s aspects, including myself. Before this encounter, I understood the addictive aspect of online gaming but never considered it as an actual competitive sport that was recognised with its own leagues. Watching the documentary opened up curiosities to e-sports and the obsessive, competitive nature. Describing my autoethnographic experience watching State of Play, I was able to link certain Korean cultural aspects that I was aware of and understood due to my own experiences and knowledge about the culture such as training groups, dormitories and the fan culture.

South Korea is the leading country in E-sports and as identified here– there is a simple reason for it. I guess you can agree that the strict training systems in Korea that may be surprising to us, in Western cultures can actually be beneficial. This reddit user believes that dorms only brings further improvement by players being surrounded by other pro-gamers and be completely absorbed in gaming. It’s mainly a cultural difference to western cultures where eastern cultures are focused on specialisation- thus the extensive, hardworking schedules apparent in State of Play is somewhat expected out of pro-gamers in the Korean gaming industry. I connected this intensive training system to the Korean music industry where young teenagers are scouted by large entertainment agencies, live in dorms and are trained in singing, acting, speech, language- basically everything including change of physical appearances.


‘Koreans spend the same effort on everything, whether it’s college entrance exams or an office job. Korea stands for hard work’. – Lee Moon- won, a culture critic


E-sports are recognised to be alarmingly addictive to the point where the ‘government is subsidising treatment programs for game addiction’ (Groom, 2014). The pressure on elite players was identified in State of Play with Jae Dong becoming stressed with his image of being the best pro-gamer as well as the pressure on amateur players to hopefully reach that level. Online gaming is a bigger issue than I could have imagined. With research I was able to discover various reported deaths relating to online gaming. In 2002, a twenty-four year old man in Korea collapsed and died in an internet café after playing non-stop for eighty six hours. In 2005, another Korean male went into cardiac arrest after playing StarCraft for fifty hours and the list goes on. South Korea’s availability of cheap internet cafes (PC Bangs) that are open 24/7 and high- speed internet allows the online gaming culture to blossom- something that we in Western cultures don’t readily have. We see online gaming as a regular hobby or something you do in your free time, but in Eastern cultures it could be considered as an actual sporting practice. In the documentary, E-sports are compared to physical sports such as football, with all the appropriate stadiums and even fan audiences.

‘State of Play’ opened my eyes to a different culture that I was initially unaware of. I found myself completely interested and curious about the online gaming industry and with further research I was able to reflect on the Korean culture that were questionable and completely different to my own.



Choe, S. Kim, SY. 2013, ‘Never Stop Playing’ in Academia. visited 23/8

Groom, N. 2014, ‘Online Gaming is South Korea’s most popular drug’ in VICE. visited 23/8

Hong, E. 2014, ‘The Lean, Mean, Star-making K-pop Machine’ in The Paris Review. visited 23/8

Maestrosc, 2014, ‘Why Gaming Houses are NOT holding back E-sports’ in Reddit. visited 24/8

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