The Original Alienation

I opened my previous post by announcing my non-gamer status. From the beginning, I was already subconsciously distancing myself from the text, its characters and the professional gaming culture. I positioned myself as an alien.


Little alien me writing little alien notes. (source)

“I’m no gamer”

My greatest assumption about the gaming documentary was the kind of content I was expecting. Despite not having watched a gaming doco prior (or at least not according to memory), the thought that I couldn’t be entertained by the sight of people ‘playing’ at a computer was like a self-imposed barrier to the ethnographic experience. I thought, “How am I going to associate with this plot and empathise with its characters?”

I have no aversion to gaming. It’s just something I haven’t partaken in to any significant degree, unless we wanna count Club Penguin.

Anderson (2006) gives 3 criteria for a researcher to effectively undergo analytic autoethnography:

  1. The researcher is a full member in the research setting
  2. The researcher is visible as a member in the research setting
  3. The researcher is committed to an analytic research agenda of improving theoretical understandings of broader analytic autoethnography (p. 375)

I did/do not fit Anderson’s number 1 criteria, which cancelled out the rest. Were my analytical capabilities hindered by my non-‘CMR’ (Complete Member Researcher) status within any level of gaming culture? I’m convinced that if I had even known of someone deeply involved in gaming culture, my non-participant observer’s impression of the film from its introduction would have been positively different.

“That one uncle”

I then realised that ‘State of Play’ was less about games and more about gamers. My slight disinterest was gradually replaced with engagement in understanding the lives of particular characters.

Scenes which involved dialogue with gamers’ family members were moments I reacted to with most empathy. They were scenes which revealed doubts and hesitations about young peoples’ goals and desires. It might be because I am aware of stereotypical Asian parenting attitudes. These are relatively conservative values about family, gender roles and career choices. Maybe I’m wrong to see this from a racial lens, for I’m well aware that these experiences of cultural familial conflict aren’t exclusive to Asian people.

The thing is, autoethnography is about acknowledging and embracing those lenses – racial, gendered, etc.

My growing empathy for the people observed is a core objective of autoethnography. It is a foundation to understanding my own longings and belongings as I connect personal and cultural contexts to my research (Alsop, 2002). Those desires and values I initially expressed were of individualism in particular. I consider its origins the ‘traditionally Asian’ aspects of my upbringing in a Western society that challenged those traditions. I understand the personal conflicts experienced by the film’s characters via the cultural conflicts of my own.

Without the empathy I gradually gained for the film’s subjects, there’d have been less room for my perspectives about eSports athleticism to change, and otherwise, according to Alsop, I’d be measuring the eSports culture against my own inner compass, without “self-reflexivity” (p. 7).



Alsop, CK 2002, ‘Home and Away: Self Reflexive Auto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research, vol. 3, no. 3, <;.

Anderson, L 2006, ‘Analytic Autoethnography’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 373-393.

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