State of Play

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.

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

State of Gender Equality in South Korea

Today I am analyzing my own auto-ethnographic account of the South Korean documentary on professional gaming ‘State of Play‘.

Autoethnography as defined by Ellis et al, 2011 refers to the act of observing a cultural experience and discussing how your own personal cultural experiences affect the way in which you experience this.

In my initial autoethnographic account of ‘State of Play’, I was left dumbfounded at some of the situations exhibited in the documentary. This included the huge amount of fame given to professional gamers, these gamers then giving the majority of their ridiculously high earnings to their parents and the lack of equality exhibited in gender roles through South Korean society. After the initial shock of these differences wore off, I conducted research into South Korean traditions and values and found many answers to my questions of cultural difference.

Despite only 1% of South Koreans actively identifying as Confucianist today, many of their social values and traditions are based upon Confucianist ideologies. The family is integral in Korean life and the father, being the head of the family is required to provide food, clothing and shelter and must approve of any marriages of members of the family. Many families trace back their ancestry through male ancestors for over 500 years and Confucius’s teachings denote how individuals should behave and outlines obligations of people depending on their relationship.(Commisceo Global, 2016)

Further children in Korean society are raised to believe they can never repay their parents for bringing them up and are forever in their debt. As the act of bringing them into the world and giving them life is seen as the ultimate self-sacrifice.(Commisceo Global, 2016)

Now how does all this relate?

The cultural values exhibited in Korean society and their values bring light to a lot of the things Lee Jae Dong did in the documentary ‘State of Play’ which confused me in my initial viewing.

For example, I was thoroughly perplexed and mildly pissed off when Lee Jae Dong’s exclaimed that he gave all of his winnings to his father. Growing up in capitalist Australia my initial reaction was to accuse the father of stealing and question his use of emotional manipulation tactics. However, upon research and reflection, as Korean society places the family’s welfare above that of the individual’s, and Korean children are raised in debt of their parents by Confucian tradition, this act made sense. Despite the fact my upbringing still makes me view this as ridiculously unfair.

Another aspect of confusion for me was the very structured, rather sexist ritual of female fans presenting Lee Jae Dong with gifts after he would play in professional gaming tournaments. Although it appears gift giving has very strict etiquette rules to follow in South Korea. As the female fans admire and respect Lee Jae Dong, and want him to perform well, these gifts signify support and love from the fans. Some of the etiquette rules to follow include handing over the gift with both hands, wrapping it nicely (a gift wrapped untidily is a sign of disrespect), and giving 4 of something in a gift is considered unlucky where giving 7 of something is lucky. (Commisceo Global, 2016)

The fact that everyone has a specific place in society with rules and obligations they must follow accordingly means the disparity between genders is very large. South Korea ranked 111th out of 136 in the gender equality index. As the documentary highlighted through its significant lack of female professional gamers and immense number of fangirls which I originally found quite alarming, the country has a long way to go for gender equality. (Kim, J Lee J-W, Shin, K 2016)

Just because these social exchanges make sense, doesn’t make them agreeable or right for the me and this seems to be the case for others as there are many feminist groups fighting to raise women’s place in South Korean society.  There is a 55% female participation rate in the South Korean labor force compared to the male rate of 77%. South Korea’s importance of raising a good family places immense pressure on mothers, who are primarily responsible for rearing children. Korean workplaces have been found to provide inflexible environments for working mothers and a lack of affordable, convenient and quality child care. (Kim, J Lee J-W, Shin, K 2016)

One of the more extreme branches of these movements is ‘Megalia‘ who have spoken out against, misogyny in South Korea. Their website is a space which has been dubbed by Reddit user ‘SexyMcSexington’ (I know I’m sorry) as the ‘female Korean 4chan‘ which I find is an interesting perspective.  The group have been surrounded in controversy as it attempted to ‘mirror’ the misogynistic comments male users would write about females.

However much of the backlash I found was very similar to the backlash against feminism in Western cultures and Megalian’s tactics could be easily compared to ‘Feminazis’ online. Where men would have similar arguments stating that the feminists are worse than misogynists and accuse them of attempting them of suppressing men’s sexual freedom. (Singh, E 2016)

The group have been responsible for shutting down ‘hidden cams’ on the website Ticketmonster, which would film females in situations where they were unaware of being filmed. They lobbied for the removal of misogynistic banners from Hanshin University, donated over 6 million KRW to Aeranwon an NGO which helps single mothers, and most notably has stopped the sale of high concentrate hydrochloric acid which has been used as weapons in hate crimes against women by men. This was all done by lobbying and protesting by the group and are all significant measures which enable better safety and security of South Korean women.

Their logo I absolutely love, it is satiric in nature and alludes to the novel by Gerd Braten Berg, ‘Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes’, where the genders are reversed. So males are at constant risk of sexual assault and it’s considered their fault and women are given the upper hand in society due to their ability to give birth. It also alludes to the constant objectification of women through use of hand gesture used to signify small male genetalia. (Singh, E 2016)


I love that there are feminists fighting for their voices and right to equality in South Korea as there was a very defined divide between genders throughout the documentary. The only females shown were the gamer’s mothers and sisters and then the fan girls whose only purpose seemed to be to worship and offer unyielding support for the players. Which I found very unsettling considering its 2016.

I apologize for going off on a feminist tangent however I feel I didn’t delve enough into the issue in my original autoethnographic account. Through analysis of my original post, I have gained greater understanding of the Korean Culture and the state of society (pun intended) exhibited in the documentary ‘State of Play’ through research and reflection.


In Retrospect: Autoethnography & State of Play

It was only a few weeks ago that I attempted to expand my horizons and experience Korean gaming culture with a set of fresh eyes. This autoethnographic experience was enlightening, and brought my attention to the fact that I was ultimately an outsider when it came to eSports, gaming and Lee Jae Dong. Despite this, here I am, trying to make sense of my initial assumptions and interpretations of my State of Play experience (which you can read about here).

As aforementioned, autoethnography as a methodology aims to “facilitate the understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, drawing on “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research” (Ellis, Adams and Bochner). Reflecting on one’s experience of a cultural phenomenon can be insightful and explorative. It not only highlights “dominant narratives” and “ways of thinking” about culture but seeks to understand such experiences on a larger cultural scale (Warren, 2009).  In my first auto ethnographic account of State of Play, I made several cultural assumptions and addressed ‘dominant narratives’ I felt were essential in the documentary. Re-examining my initial interpretation, and by conducting a little more research, I have once again become a more culturally aware individual. Read on, and you can be too.

After watching State of Play, I was admittedly astonished that gamers in Korea had such celebrity status and were afforded with privileges similar to those of professional sports players. Little did I know that gamers around the world, — not just in Korea, — earn millions when they put their skills to the test. “DoTA has actually gone on to host the largest tournament prize pool, with nearly $11 million for their 2014 International. That’s a larger prize pool than the Masters Golf Tournament” (Aaron, 2015). The above graph highlights this. Furthermore, gaming tournaments attract global sponsors and intrigue audiences in the millions — eSports are now broadcast on networks like ESPN, making them accessible to all. Gamers make similar commitments and moreover share in the sacrifices that other professional sports players make to create a career. By reducing these individuals to “just gamers” in my first experience I failed to understand the deeper meaning behind gaming culture.

After scrolling through more ‘research’, I became acutely aware that whilst there were no females battling for the tournament prize pool in State of Play, female gamers do exist. “According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 44% of all gamers in the U.S. today are female” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Perhaps most notably, “one of the great things about eSports is it’s one arena where there is no difference between men and women; they’re both equal in the game” (Gaudiosi, 2015). Just because the representation of women in State of Play was skewed, that doesn’t mean that women are missing from the global gaming ‘narrative’. Another cultural assumption bites the dust.

Autoethnography requires one to be self-reflexive and open in order to understand a cultural experience. By drawing on additional information from scholarly sources, media articles and social commentary my experience and understanding of Korean gaming culture has reached a new high. Adding layers of information onto my autoethnographic account of State of Play has shifted my perspective on eSports and the Korean gaming phenomenon dramatically.


Aaron, J., 2015, ‘The Controversial Dichotomy Between Sports and eSports’, The Huffington Post, Article, 19 April, viewed 29 August 2016

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P., 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Gaudiosi, J., 2015, ‘This Company Wants More Women in eSports’, Fortune, Article, 17 November, viewed 29 August 2016

Warren, J.T., 2009, ‘Autoethnography’ in Encyclopaedia of Communication Theory, SAGE Publications, p.68-69.

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

State of Social Framing.


Prior analysis of State of Play demonstrated a degree societal stigma towards western gamers, and gender inequality in Korean eSports. While inequality occurs throughout western society, the traditional family role in Korean culture is still prominent comparative to personal perception within Australia. With each individual having a clearly defined role within that family unit, the male maintaining the ‘house head’ and a greater sum of inheritance going to the male spouse(s) (Sorenson, C. W. 2016). In the prior post, the lack of personal perception of the text was noted. Therefore through autoethnography personal assumptions illustrate a level of criticism towards a male-dominated industry. However it is important to note that criticism of traditional family approaches and female inequality display in State of Play, much of the deprecatory perceptions are the result of individualised libertarian philosophies. What we aim to illustrate is the critical arguments of inequality and stigmatisation is that of ‘social framing’   

Analysis of the previous autoethnography allowed for personal framework that differences between gaming, physical sport or even business is nil. In that the social stigma that the West experiences is relative to individuals and societal perceived bias and engagement with the activity. This was further demonstrated in 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience (2012) noting that gaming was perceived negatively by the American government due to association with children. If we were to breakdown these structures that produce these social activities, and the institutional and societal spheres that impact (such as gaming and physical sport for example), we can assume no distinct difference. Gaming and other activities can be deconstructed to illustrate series of individuals who form a network. These individuals, whether through this sphere or otherwise singly, then partake in activity X in a certain space that has been constructed and embellished to achieve a desired consumption relative to personal assumptions. Once this activity has been consumed to it’s absolute, these individuals and parties then progress to the next social activity.

Therefore upon watching State of Play the perspective of how gaming is ‘appropriate’ can be framed through these social constructs designed by individuals and networks within society. Subsequently the reason for the stigma within western society can relate to that lack of investment within western networks and how individuals rationalise their personal assumptions with gaming (Leeds-Hurwitz, W. 2009). Additionally we can illustrate how commerce perceptions fit into the spectrum, with the Korean adults in State of Play content with the idea that it provides support for the family unity. Whereas the opportunity to sustain oneself in Western gaming, while growing is still limited.


100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience (2012), viewed 22.08.16

Leeds-Hurwitz, W. (2009). Social construction of reality, Encyclopedia of communication theory, viewed 23.08.16

Sorenson, C. W. (2016) The Value and Meaning of the Korean Family, Asia Society, viewed 18.08.16 <>

Hello. Again.

To be honest, I did groan a little at the term ‘autoethnographic research’ as it sounded like a load of academic vomit. However, I must give this term the benefit of the doubt, as four weeks in, referring and thinking in this way has actually been really interesting. For once you get to consider and challenge your own perspective and opinion as an outsider, which is often what you are told to suppress in research. This blog post is me revisiting my autoethnographic account for my first text in the Digital Asia subject.


Two weeks ago our Digital Asia seminar consisted of watching State of Play, a documentary on the eSports competitive gaming scene in South Korea. Watching and recording noticeable factors throughout the documentary was the easy part. When I looked over those notes, it was extremely interesting to see how I referred to such a scene. I used words like ‘they’ and took note of critical differences between South Korean culture and my own.  For example, “They give all of the prize money to their Dad’s”, or “They carry around the keyboards with them”, or “In South Korean schools they sing the national anthem of a morning”. I was noticing and recording the key disparities to my own culture as that is what made sense to make note of.


Such “interactions and the conditions that make them meaningful, can be labelled ‘culture’” (Sinclair N, 2015). I was studying a different culture from the context of my culture; An Australian, female, non-gamer, which is first and foremost the major consideration to remember with this research method. Essentially, this form of research is a way to “systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis C. Et al, 2011), which in this case, is eSports in South Korea through my eyes. Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 3.55.50 PM.png

In continuation, this research method really allows you to pick up on your cultural biases and stereotypes that are usually what you are required to notice and dismiss in other research methods. That is not to say that ethnographic research doesn’t require objectivity. The research method is academic and requires to uphold academic integrity, however we get to bring to light our own perceptions which is different in the academic sense.

This research method does have limitations and difficulties such as being able to comprehend and analyse why you think the way you do. You also need to consider context and additional influencing factors that may affect your opinion such as racism or gender roles. Many facets come in to play when you are observing a culture different to your own. In revisiting my first recordings of the the documentary, I got to recognise how limited my opinion is, due to the lack of knowledge on South Korean culture.

Overall, autoethnographic research is a bloody long-winded word, however moving on from that fact, I do think it is a very valid way to undertake research, as for the most part it encourages you to be natural and record your truth. You then get to discuss why you took note of the points you did and how this is as a result of culture. I’m looking forward to choosing my own text and using the autoethnographic research method in my next blog.


By Abbey Cubit

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1.

Nicholas, S 2015, ‘Ethnography’, Research Starters: Education (Online Edition), Research Starters, EBSCOhost, viewed 21 August 2016.




State of Religion

After initially experiencing State of Play and observing it with autoethnographic research in mind, there were several processes, encounters and internal thoughts I experienced which I will analyses through self-reflective investigation. I hope to explore certain epiphanies and important moments within the text and in doing so, will hope to gain and convey a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances within the Korean e-sports industry.

As we begun the viewing of State of Play in class, the #Digc330 twitter feed sprang to life. This was an extremely interesting experience. Everyone contributing to the feed was simultaneously watching the documentary and thus commenting on the experience itself in live time. However, whilst this was all simultaneous, the ideas and issues that were being brought up all explored different aspects of the film.




The above tweets are just a few I pulled from the #digc330 feed to portray the variations in issues being discussed. This process of autoehtnography helps to explain a couple of things. Firstly, autoethnography and the research conducted by the individual will vary and depend on the individuals cultural back ground. Therefore within autoethnography, there is no “right” or “wrong” thing to be looking at, rather the individual draws from their own personal experiences and reflects on this in the hope of forming a greater understanding of the culture they have experienced. Yet viewing State of Play alongside a live twitter feed undoubtedly affected my understanding of the documentary and Korean e-sport culture, more so then if I had simply viewed the film alone. Therefore, autoethnography is more than just personal self-reflection, it also allows for the reflection of a group of experiences and observations.

As I already had some basic knowledge and exposure to competitive Korean e-sports previous to my initial State of Play viewing, I found myself actively searching for unfamiliar aspects within the film. Where I understood that the money, stadiums, huge fan bases, and team houses where a common part of e-sports, I was intrigued by the involvement of the family. By drawing on my personal experience I was able to relate to certain aspects of the Korean culture, while also noticing other aspects that I haven’t personally experienced before.

Taking note of the historical and spiritual/religious culture that came from the parents in State of Play, I was intrigued and wondered “Is this emphasis on religion part of the overall Korean culture, or is it simply a result of Jae-dongs culture?”

Looking at this paper, I am almost convinced that the emphasis towards spirituality and religion in Jae-dongs family, is not repeated throughout the entirety of South Korean families. Of the secondary school children surveyed in the “Spiritual State of the World’s Children, Executive Summary report for south Korean” 58% stated they have no religious affiliation and only 16% report weekly or daily prayer. These statistics suggest many families are much less involved with religion and spirituality when compared to what we see in State of Play. This is interesting as I have come to realise that State of Play is conveying quite an individual, unique story about an elite pro-gamer. This story isn’t what every pro-gamer has experienced, rather it is Jae-dong’s personal endeavour. In other words, we experience Jae-dongs journey through the cultures immediately surrounding him.


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.

14017559_10153986335294302_687768153_n.jpg 14045376_10154006096589302_1934554188_o.jpg

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).

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 8.12.34 am.png

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.


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.