eSports on the world stage

This month Valve hosted its annual Dota 2 International, hosting qualifiers and then the main event over 2 weekends, with a total prize pool of over $24 million. I know all of this because my boyfriend went missing in the middle of the night for 2 weekends in a row (but more than made up for his absence later). I already knew that professional gaming or ‘eSports’ was a big industry, with a whole world of spin-off industries like streaming or ‘casting’. What I didn’t know was that it’s an industry worth almost $900 million annually (and growing), or how seriously the gamers at the top take their careers.

State of Play follows the life and career of Starcraft megastar Lee ‘Jaedong’ Jae Dong, shining a light into the intensity of life as a professional gamer in South Korea. The documentary catches the drama and emotion of the players in a way that makes them accessible and human, despite their elite status and unorthodox careers. As we watched, I was blown away by the dedication these guys (even today, eSports is male-dominated) put in – leaving home young to move into corporate-sponsored team houses, training 12 hours a day.

only 12

intense training

But these players know that’s what it takes to get to the top – Jaedong was widely considered one of the best players in Starcraft before his retirement in 2016.

I grew up in south-east Asia, so the intensity and commitment shown by the players in this doco, as well as the blow to their pride and loss of face from failure, is something I understand. This documentary got me wondering why esports is perceived as a uniquely Asian phenomenon? Who are the top players? Who are the most avid viewers? Who are the biggest fans? State of Play shone a spotlight on the fangirls who flocked to gaming superstars – their love, their gift-giving, and their loyalty really tugged on my heartstrings.

Ji Sun


Well, 190 million people tune in to follow their favourite eSports every year, most often to watch League of Legends or DOTA 2. Those viewers come from all around the world (and wake up across all time zones to tune in). In LoL, Asian teams still dominate, but 3 of the top 10 teams come from the USA or Europe. In DOTA 2, which has larger prize pools, 6 of the top 10 teams come from Europe or the USA. In both games, commentators, or casters, come from all over the world to accommodate a global viewership in multiple languages.

While the popularity of gaming as eSports spawned in Asia, technology and passion have converged to make it a massive worldwide industry.

Old School vs New School.

I find myself once again changing my stance and opinions on e-sports. I am constantly sifting through ideas and have switched to something I think, in an ethnographic sense applies more to this subject and enables me to share my opinions more freely. As an autoethnographer it is important to note and be aware of the multiple resources you have lying around .We live connected to social networks that include friends and relatives, partners and children, co-workers and students, and we work in universities and research facilities. (Ellis, Adams & Bochner 2011)

My background is Turkish. Although I was born here , we relocated when I was younger so its safe to say that I have aspects of both cultures within me . The concept of ‘sports’ has changed dramatically over the years and to my surprise it has so in Turkey as well.
A country I believed was very much old school, where the average young man enjoys his freedom till his 18th birthday , then shipped off to the military so he can fight someone else’s war.


However with the rise of e-sports I think that the cultural understanding and acceptance of sports in Turkey is changing .
When I was 10 , all I knew was a ball. Cans and bottles would do fine as long as we could kick it. The Internet cafe was a treat. Tech-heads in Turkey , despite their own follower base would be labelled as nerds and antisocials by the large majority of the older generation.
Despite this labelling tons of kids would would go to these cafes simply because personal computers were expensive and LAN gaming was possible. Soon after around 2005 , Ankara where I lived experienced a massive boom in Internet and Playstation Cafes . They were popping up everywhere and kids would partake in Counter Strike tournaments in their local net cafes and I think that this was the first step of Turkey’s transition into the online era.
Sports are very important in Turkey. Fans are passionate and this passion has often led to violence and potential bans for Turkey participating in world events especially after the fatal stabbings of 2 Leeds United supporters in April 2000.
Besiktas otherwise known as BJK , known for its strong old school approach have done the unthinkable and picked up an e-sports team which indicates that the Turks want to move on and explore new avenues outside their comfort zone.  It has been 2 years since BJK have made their team Fenerbahce, also a giant in Turkish football have made the transition. This movement from reputable Turkish football team are good pushers for the catching on of e-sport in Turkey and I think Turkey can expect some good performances in this field. Perhaps with the correct attitude and training the young Turkish teams can be as good as the Koreans .

My research will shift from my previous post based on RTS gaming and the Military to The role of E-sports and how it is slowly changing the traditional understanding of sport in a very traditional and old school country.
I have begun by viewing another documentary film “All Work All Play” . It is very similar to State of Play but focuses on League of Legends rather than SC. How e-sports started and where it has come today.
I have also asked my mates and cousins  from Turkey to see what the general public thinks of e-sports as well as my younger cousins who are the first generation to start e-sports over traditional sports.
Prominent Universities in Turkey such as Bilkent and Middle Eastern Technical University have started putting together e-sport societies and stage tournaments in search of gifted players.
I want to focus on the benefits of e-sports in terms of financials and how it applies in Turkey because I believe that it is a big incentive for Turkish kids who live far below the standards we have in Australia. Well some of them .

A Contextualised Note To Self – Who Said Professional Gamers Should Get A “Real” Job?

In my blog post from a few weeks ago, I introduced the concept and method of auto-ethnography and recorded my first encounter with the documentary State of Play (2013). This post will take my autoethnographic account one step further in interpreting and analysing my initial thoughts, assumptions and reactions to decipher their wider social and cultural meanings.

Autoethnography is based on the idea of experiencing “epiphanies” which are self-claimed liminal moments of clarity and emotional intensity perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (Ellis et al. 2011, p.2). When researchers conduct autoethnography, they retrospectively attempt to contextualise and make sense of these epiphanies by engaging in a critical dialogue with culture, history and social structure (Denzin 2016, p.131).

Epiphanies Epiphanies

In my first viewing of State of Play, I was surprised to discover that video gaming is an official profession in South Korea. This was an…

View original post 1,160 more words

Better late than never

Aside from learning to not compare local eSports in South Korea to arguably the most popular sports team ever assembled in my other post, as it wasn’t a very close comparison, and watching State of Play most of the people in the documentary were in there late teens and early twenties struggling to try get to the top of eSports, while the dream team were already at the top of their world and were looking for something to do in their down time. Not a great start on my part.

ya dun goofed

Looking back I can definitely see the cultural differences between professional sports in America and the rise of eSports in South Korea. Funding is a big issue between the two, as the Dream team was filled up with NBA players who could afford to stay in 5 star hotels and travel on private jets and have private buses everywhere they went, as to Everyone shown in State of Play is living in share houses and sleeping on mats on the floor or sharing a room with four other people and travelling around South Korea in beat up vehicles.

After getting up and actually doing some research into this topic, it might not be very long until eSports surpasses traditional sports in terms of popularity and funding, as many eSports competitions these days a racking up prize pools that are hitting 6 figures. For example, League of Legends has only been around since 2009 and is already one of the biggest games in the eSports scene, even if eSports doesn’t have the massive TV station contracts that sports like the NFL and NBA do, I’m left wondering how long it will be until they do?

Before watching State of Play, I was unaware and to be honest didn’t really care all too much about eSports until I saw something about it that wasn’t DOTA 2 or League of Legends, as both games were enough to turn me off the topic. But after seeing something new made me want to look into it more as the whole premise of the players are treated almost like American professional athletes are, as they are drafted by different camps and then play for them, and seeing the similarities that in both eSports and regular sport, it takes hours of training to get to the top, and if they don’t work on it they will start slipping.

Researching eSports has kind of killed my assumption that eSports aren’t overly necessary, as thy have become more and more popular and are going to continue rising to the point where tournaments that were shown in State of Play might actually turn into an international thing (if it hasn’t already, I haven’t found anything on it), and that the world of eSports is a lot bigger than I first ever bothered giving credit for before actually looking into to it.

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.

Autoethnography, Starcraft and the Military.

I am still very confused on how auto-ethnography works. Hopefully I’ve understood the concept.
Ellis & Bochener say what I think translate to autoethnography being the process of understanding and thinking about a culture using yourself and how it applies culturally and socially.
The first example I came up with was when I went to the states, ate a hot dog a stereotypical American food and how it made me feel as an Australian who eats meat pies. Well that’s my understanding.
It is important to understand that each person has a different view on certain issues and I think autoethnography gives the individual the chance to explain their experience in a matter where everyone can understand .(Ellis and Boechner 2000)
Starcraft was a game I clocked on 9 to 5  with when i was young. I played for fun with friends but it was just a game. I dont think I would have dedicated my life to it . Not with my parents.Imagine explaining to your parents that you were moving over to Korea and advancing your “Starcraft” career. I think they would just look at me , make me recite the nonsense I’d just uttered a few more times.

What surprised me  was that Korean parents are encouraging their sons to compete in the tournaments and become pro gamers.  It falls right into place doesnt it. Stereotypically we call kids who play these games “nerds” but some boys were complaining of failing grades. Guess they aren’t so different after all. If all goes well there is a real chance to make a large salary as a pro gamer.We’re talking 6 figures.  At the same time, it is a very competitive industry in South Korea with amateur commanders eager to test out their skills and draft their way into a team. The emphasis of physical vs mental sport in each region can really be seen.  In ethnography, a culture’s relational practices are looked at, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping people not so close the culture gain a better grasp at whats happening (MASO, 2001)



Reflexive ethnographies are a way of understanding how you as the researcher change throughout your research. Reflexive/narrative ethnographies relate to your research and how it applies. Your research is a reflection of how what you’re interested in. You study yourself literally and this may come from ethnographic memories (ELLIS, 2004, p.50) or “confessional tales” (VAN MAANEN, 1988) and this is where the ethnographers personal research plays a part in explaining the experience. . (ELLIS, 2004).I have been seriously considering joining the military after uni so naturally I wanted to find out more. I do have a military background from both sides of the family so maybe its a natural inclination.

The selection of brilliant minds to lead these teams to victory reminded me of ‘Enders Game‘. RTS games or video games in general. Are there any connections with gaming and military. I did some digging and found a blog titled ‘Starcraft game added to military officer training curriculum.Offers Realistic Leadership Simulation’ The blog goes further :”Amid growing concerns with professionalism, conduct, and leadership among Navy and Marine Corps officer ranks, a working group was assembled to improve leaders in the areas of tactical understanding, money management, and impersonal leadership methods.”
This was very interesting as I trying to understand what benefits an RTS game would bring to the military. It turns out , opinions are mixed, as always. One officer said in its basic form the game is about understanding how to get your troops from A to B . Which positions need defending and attacking. However a former Starcraft player now Officer stated that Starcraft didn’t really add much in terms of his profession.
Starcraft is a game , so there is no pressure to keep your soldiers alive , but in a real life situation there is . As far as strategy games a lot of major factors are overlooked. How are soldiers fed, logistics, transport, ammunition, petroleum . These factors are all “assumed” in games but in reality they hold a real importance.

Well there goes my chance of ever becoming a battleship commander.  It turns out , RTS games aren’t the only games the military have employed to train soldiers and entice new recruits. FPS’s are also preferred among recruits to simulate real life combat and train them as closely to the real thing possible.  The gaming and military industry could form a very valuable partnership if video games continue to entice recruits and prepare them for the real thing weather that be physically as a soldier or an officer behind the scenes forming strategies and tactics playing the field like a chess board.

btw; The Korean Military had a professional Starcraft team who served and played Starcraft but because StarLeague was coming to and they disbanded. Thats still pretty cool seeing as how one game had such a huge impact on one culture.They go by the name ‘Air Force ACE.’

Here are some reads on the topic for anyone interested.

Starcraft Game Added To Military Officer Training Curriculum, Offers Realistic Leadership Simulation   <— Military fps video





‘We don’t play games for fun, we mostly play for work’

Starting DIGC330, I didn’t know what to expect, but the first few weeks of it have definitely met and well exceeded my expectations. Our topic, autoethnography was something unfamiliar and unheard of but after looking into it, it helps put a name to the method that allows us to understand cultural experiences. According to Ellis, it is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005).

From this reading, I understand that it is qualitative research in which one gathers through personal experiences from being a part of a particular culture then assessing it and allowing further cultural and social meaning and understanding.

This week’s text, ‘State of Play (2013)’ was a particular interest due to my own in depth knowledge about South Korea and it’s culture (and because I just came back from a holiday in Seoul). While watching this documentary, I managed to connect what I knew about the culture to what was being demonstrated. Thus, some things that came as a culture shock to others; was something I had expected and already understood about the principles of Korean life. However, the idea of e-sports and its popularity was still a new concept.

A few observations picked up throughout the documentary:

  • South Korea is considered the home to E-sports and is accepted and viewed like regular physical sporting events with a stadium, wide screen TVs and cheering audiences. From my knowledge, cable TV in Korea also has its own station dedicated to E-sports that has people playing games and tournaments 24/7.
  • Players, such as Lee Jae Dong are treated the same as celebrities and have a fan culture. The fans in Korea are known to be very dedicated and protective towards idols and actors. Thus, the screaming fan girls weren’t a particular shock, but the fact that pro gamers did have a broad fan audience was unheard of.
  • They have a team house in which pro gamers are scouted, leaving home at a young age and trained, living together in a dormitory. – I noticed this was very similar to the way Korean K-pop idols were scouted and trained for years by entertainment agencies until they debut. This way of constant, consistent training must be quite understanding in Korean culture and seen as highly beneficial.
  • There is no fear or taboo about kids playing games and wasting time compared to western culture; but seen as dedication and benefit- much like sporting events.
  • Teams are sponsored by huge companies in Korea such as SK Telecom and CJ E&M Company; large well known corporations.
  • Jae Dong has a ‘game face’ in which he hides his emotions- due to his beliefs growing up of how a man should act. The masculinity and gender through e-sports is also demonstrated due to the lack of female involvement. These expectations of a male can be somewhat related to western culture.

My Life for Eire. State Of Play.

Opening scenes. Not so fascinated, overhead shots of South Korea, looks pretty cool yeah whatevs however when I heard Zeratul and Aldaris talking at the start of the video my care factor for the show jumped from 3 to 10 . I love StarCraft. I even carry it around on my portable hard drive so i have access to it everywhere. StarCraft was one of those games that you could play hours and hours on end. The story line was great and I a 9 year old in 2002 prett much had a crush on Kerrigan while she was still a Ghost .

State of Play is a doco based on the lives of multiple Korean boys, who have set out to become pro gamers in a new opening of sport called “e-sports”.  E-sports haven’t been around for long in comparison to your traditional understanding of sport. Well that changes according to what tradition you’re from. State of Play challenges and attempts to alter ones stereotypical view of sport and gaming. The era where the human mind overrules the body is pretty much here. “Enders Game” came to mind at first where they select quality minds through rigorous training and and repetitive tasks examining their actions in RTS games. Are they secretly testing us to find the best star-ship commander? The ability to operate a computer is more important than sprinting after a deer for dinner . The era of the ‘geek’is here.


Utilising Autoethnography I approach this relatively new concept of e-sports and compare to my traditional understanding of sport. I play football and engage actively in kickboxing . My understanding, altered and influenced by cultural , traditional and family factors taught me that sport is a game which requires two or more teams who physically exhibit high levels of skill to become the winner but the lifestyle these boys live illustrate how narrow my conception of sport was. If anything mentally being put off something you love to do for fun is killing it. The repercussions are heavier in comparison to being tired from running around after a ball.  Lee Jae Dong, one of the pro gamers and perhaps the center of the shows focus. His life from the outside may look desirable and cool, however he explains that the physical and mental strength required to compete in these sporting events is phenomenal.  Just like any sport , training is necessary. 10-12 hours a day, in front of a computer screen slouching on a chair isn’t your ideal sport , in fact we are told quite the opposite.

These e-gamers, like Jae Dong all belong to their own team , who live in their own team house, eat , game, sleep , game , toilet break, game all together. The training and repetitive nature of StarCraft would become daunting and would kill the game for me if i was forced to play and practice every day.
One boy even remarked “When I play I work , I don’t play for enjoyment anymore”. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

Like every professional sports star does , Jae Dong too has his followers. His supporters cry and cheer for him while he battles his opponents, tearing up marines and firebats with his critter zerglings and dousing goliaths and vultures with hydralisk fluid his  female fanatics can be compared to the Tal’Darim drooling over Dong as if he was the Xel’Naga himself.
One young lady refers to him as ‘hardworking and very competitive I like him because he never leaves the house and he practices’ . She has a crush on him like Raynor does to Kerrigan. Buying him gifts and following him to his matches.  The values and ethics that the Korean girl was looking for in her sports idol indeed clashes with western ideals. This was another world where different rules apply. Survival of the fittest was irrelevant , to survive you had to be the smartest and that’s what they were after. “If you are good at Starcraft, you are a smart person ” (Korean boy’s father).
The lack of female competitors also is an interesting aspect of the documentary.  Is it because gender roles are concrete and  in Korea or are females just not interested in StarCraft.

To finish my first post I would like to reiterate how my understanding of e-sports has changed. I believe that the rise of e-sports is only beginning and may eventually take over as the primary understanding of competitive sports. People, especially the younger generation will be more inclined to be better at not just StarCraft but computer gaming overall.




eSports, Fangirls & the Celebrity Gamer: Autoethnography & State of Play

After dabbling in some autoethnographic research in the past — one of the ‘perks’ of being a Cultural Studies major — the notion of analysing, recording and addressing my personal experiences was not new to me. As a method to understand cultural experience, Ellis, Adams and Bochner describe autoethnography as an approach that embodies “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research.” By doing so, this methodology helps to “facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, and whilst watching State of Play, I was undeniably the outsider looking in.

It would be a complete lie to say I wasn’t entirely gobsmacked when watching and thus experiencing State of Play. I had never even heard of eSports until just last year and I would have never been able to comprehend the fervour with which its community shared.

For those of you who don’t know, eSports is an organised competition which involves the playing of video games — mostly multiplayer ones — across a number of electronic platforms. One of the most popular in this gaming phenomenon is the League of Legends World Championship. The global eSports market spans across transnational borders and attracts a viewership of over 200 million. In 2016, the industry is expected to make an approximate $463 million.

The documentary State of Play follows the lives of professional gamers — most notably Lee Jae Dong, — providing viewers with unique insight into the Korean cultural phenomenon that is gaming. I recorded my response to the documentary, and this is what I found most intriguing:


Lee Jae Dong

  • There was a distinct parallel I found myself constantly drawing on when watching Lee Jae Dong and his teammates compete in arduous keyboard thrashing battles. I couldn’t help but picture them as professional NFL players, striving for their chance at the Superbowl. They mirrored the same traits I expected in an Olympic team. Yet despite this, and perhaps most surprising to me was, they were just gamers.
  • The fan following which Lee Jae Dong and his teammates had accrued was surprising to say the least. As a former Directioner — I spent a significant amount of time in high school obsessing over 1D and may or may not have a Harry Styles doll — I could see myself in the fangirls State of Play followed. I just never thought a group of gamers would be afforded with the same celebrity status as boyband royalty.
  • The pressure with which the StarCraft professionals dealt with on a daily basis proved that the industry could not be treated with contempt. Lee Jae Dong showing emotion after winning a competition highlighted the highly competitive nature of the eSports league.
  • This moment further suggested that even in Korea, and in gaming culture too, gender roles are quite strict. I didn’t see the portrayal of a female gamer once in State of Play. Is this to say that female gamers are not part of this popular culture narrative?

In making sense of my State of Play experience I have been able to heighten my understanding of others. It never occurred to me that Korean gaming culture was so revered in the eyes of the community. In the words of Ellis, Adams and Bochner, my “assumptions of the world” have been changed.

South Korea and the State of Play

My final semester of university kicked off with watching a documentary State of Play, which looks into the eSports scene in South Korea. For those of you that haven’t heard of eSports, it is defined as a “multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers” (Oxford Dictionary , 2016). This doco highlighted the fanatical nature of the huge eSports industry in South Korea specifically, that draws in gamers and fans from all over the country. Our class were asked to simply observe and record our perspectives when watching the film and then to consider our cultural lenses and biases that form our opinions. Regardless if I think eSports are crazy, amazing, intense, bizarre or cool, I need to bring myself to recognise that I am watching this as an outsider, peering in and recording what I think.  Such a method is referred to by Ellis, Adams and Bochner as autoethnographic research.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze personal experience in order to understand cultural experience. This approach challenges canonical ways of doing research and representing others and treats research as a political, socially-just and socially-conscious act” (Ellis et al, 2011). After four years at University I have practiced a plethora of research methods and I find this to be the most interesting to date. It is always easy to record one’s own perspective, however it is refreshing to be reminded of our cultural biases that influence our views.

Ok, so back to State of Play… Pro-Gamers flock to the South Korean capital Seoul, to compete in huge stadiums dedicated to the video game, Starcraft. The doco follows the story of a Pro, Semi-Pro and Amateur. Whilst the game is pretty ancient, it still manages to attract a huge base of young gamers and this in turn draws in an intense audience, both in the stadiums and across two 24 hour free-to-air TV stations. It is a multimillion dollar business, with sponsors paying for entire teams to live, study and train for the competitions. These young gamers sacrifice a normal social life and a steady education, to train hours upon hours for these matches. Playing is no longer for fun but a short-lived career, with most pro-gamers retiring before they even reach 30.

I found it incredible how intently these kids train. They have such a strong team culture, all carrying around their keyboards and wearing sponsored uniforms. The gamers earn over a hundred thousand Euros per year, all of which is passed over to their fathers (very different from AUS).  I knew there was big bucks to be made in gaming, however didn’t expect it on that level. There are tryouts and drafting of teams, where kids as young as 16 come from all over South Korea to try out. There is such sensationalism around the events and it was incredible how much these teams sacrifice to get so good, playing for around 10-12 hours per day playing the one game. For these young South Korean pros work just happens to be a game.

I was shocked by the enormity of the fan-base that the eSports have in South Korea specifically. There are huge crowds both on TV and in the stadiums, filled with fans who line up for autographs and buy merchandise from the favourite team or gamer. There is a notable split between the genders, with males taking the role as the pro gamers and the girls screaming on the sideline, offering gifts at the end of a competition. Perhaps this is cultural? It would be interesting to see if such gender disparity is evident in other industries or sports.

In conclusion, I want to briefly mention the debate on whether or not eSports can be considered a “real” sport; I would say that it is. The game has spectators, has teams, people feel excited by winning and sad when they loose and overall, it is entertaining. The gamers train hard and sacrifice a normal social life to ensure that they can compete at a professional level. I think that sounds like a sport. It was a new phenomenon for me and I was completely enthralled by the documentary as well as the process of focusing on the way I observe things and how I come to my opinion.


By Abbey Cubit