Autoethnography to me sounds oddly like a niche branch of medicine practiced by only a few dedicated doctors. However, I have learnt despite my initial first impression this is not the case. Autoethnography is a means of exploring other cultures, religions and experiences without having to be objective and disregard your personal observations and experiences when undertaking investigation. (Ellis, C. et. al, 2011) I think this is great because there is usually an element of bias within research no matter how objective an individual try to be, and acknowledging the individual’s knowledge and experience, opens an extra element of understanding for everyone involved.
So watching the documentary State of Play, (2013) which follows the path of aspiring professional gamers in Korean who play ‘StarCraft’, was really interesting for me.
One of the first things I noticed was how dedicated the players were to their games, which I would compare to NRL and FIFA players who train all day. Their sport absorbs every aspect of their life as they aim to be the best. Korean gamers who would train for 12 hours a day by playing games on the computer seems like the complete opposite to our admired western athletes, however the amount of preparation and dedication the gamers put into their sport, even though it’s not physical, is still as consuming in their everyday life. The idea that the gamers would move out of their home to go live with their teammates who they eat, sleep and train with daily, isn’t something which is often done in Australia as athletes usually have individual accommodation. However, when considering financial and time implications of travelling and separate living in Seoul, the concept makes a lot of sense to me.
The popularity of gaming is shown through the competitions, which were filled with fans who were so emotionally invested in the players. At first I was unable to comprehend how these fans (who were all female supporting the male players) were so obsessed with the games and the gamers, but then when comparing it to celebrities like Justin Beiber and One Direction where fangirls will wait for hours in the cold just to get a glimpse of them I guess it’s not such a foreign concept.
Another thing which bugged me the whole time watching the documentary that I couldn’t actually put my finger on it until Chris defined it at the end, was the definite and unmalleable gender roles. The girls were the cheerleaders and the guys were the studs who played games. The weird tradition of the gamers accepting gifts of food, flowers and miscellaneous gifts from their fans after their tournaments was unsettling for me. I found the whole concept archaic and the firm structure of the exchange alludes back to the stereotype of females always being nurturing creatures through worrying about the physical and mental health of the players.
There was not a single featured female gamer, they were all merely there to make up the masses of females supporting the players. In the recent events of the ‘gamergate’ controversy this is further example of how unequal and closed the professional gaming world is for females.
The documentary gave insight into how important family is in Korean culture. For example, when Lee Jae Dong was playing professionally it was revealed he would earn 135000 Euros per year which is approximately AUD $196500. Later in the documentary when he was visiting family he mentioned that he gave all the money he made to his father. In Australia I feel that would not go down so well, yes individuals would often give their parents and family significant amounts of money when receiving a lot, but it was so accepted by all of Lee Jae Dong’s family that his father should receive all of his income. The element of ownership is a more collective form of earning for family in Korea compared to the independent capitalist society western cultures follow.
However, as critical as I am, I did enjoy the glimpse into the dramas and tears of the Korean Professional Gaming Leagues which exhibited distinct differences and similarities to western sporting cultures.
- Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1
- State of Play, Sept 10 2013, Documentary, Steven Dhoedt
- Mr–Jack, 2013-2016, Star Craft: Trifecta, image, Deviant Art, viewed 7 August 2016, <http://mr–jack.deviantart.com/art/StarCraft-Trifecta-387451595>