‘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.
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5 comments

  1. I also found the living arrangements of the E-Sports gamers to be quite interesting and I liked your mention of its similarity to Kpop groups. I wonder the commonality of sharing such small space, my impression is that it may be quite normal?

    I had stayed with a friend from South Korea in Stanthorpe, Queensland where a lot of South Koreans and other People from Asia lived in similar sort of “group housing” arrangements to be close to work on farms. I have a friend who’s former workplace (in Sydney) was predominately made up of South Koreans on working Visas, most of them shared a single house arranged by the business itself. It makes sense in terms of a financial saving for temporary accommodation, While students in Australia also turn to share housing, there seems to be a preference for own rooms and more comfort. This could be attributed to our tendency in preference toward “Individualism”, “Short term Orientation” and “Indulgence” (See Hofstedes value dimensions https://geert-hofstede.com/australia.html) While South Korea is at the opposite end in particularly these aspects.

    Another reason is for managers to have the ability to control and monitor their team members better. http://www.allkpop.com/article/2010/09/the-harsh-reality-behind-the-regimented-lives-of-girl-group-members
    as well as their complete dedication and focus in life as a result of the high competition with schools running from 9am to 9pm (plus vacation school) according to
    http://2015.na.lolesports.com/articles/surprising-esports-culture-korea

    A Reddit user also suggested that gamers surrounding eachother with other gamers will then improve knowledge and interest of players to that game. As well as again reinforcing this difference of culture – South Korea as one that promotes specialization while western cultures promote “All roundedness” https://m.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/comments/2ejoan/why_gaming_houses_are_not_holding_back_esports/

    Housing would be an interesting aspect to follow up.

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    1. Hi Anna. Thank you for the comment! I totally agree with you saying that our tendencies are completely opposite to South Korea as mentioned in Hofstedes Value Dimensions so great pointing that out! You mentioned the discipline of managers and using the dorms to control the team- that is something very common in KPOP too as it is easier to manage and keep everyone on task while following their diet and schedules. It’s like as if their whole lives are completely dedicated to gaming and training. Thank you for the links!

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  2. Hi Linh, first off this is a really nicely post composed and formatted post. Your perspective is an interesting one to view the text through, being already familiar with some of the things that other people took note of, and I had a similar one when we all watched Gojira (1954) having already seen it myself. Of note, what I got from the film and slightly at odds to your account, was that while gaming as an activity didn’t appear looked down-upon in general like some might argue it is in the West there is an expectation that you will be able to make something of it. Whereas in the West, if you spend a lot of time gaming as a hobby it is kind of just accepted as that; a hobby, not you attempting to become a ‘pro’ gamer so to speak.

    Something I thought might be cool to share is that a remastering of the original StarCraft game is in the works, presumably an attempt by Blizzard to recapture some of their lost Korean market-share! http://www.polygon.com/2016/8/5/12385660/starcraft-hd-remaster-announcement

    Regarding the team houses, we’re beginning to see them outside of Korea too, even here in Australia. The Captain for team Legacy stated that “I didn’t think living together magically makes you a better team. But out of nowhere it kind of seems that it does. We don’t have some magic potion in the back room that we all drink and become amazing. It’s just been having this house.” This was while they were on a 16 win streak during that season, so it seems to honestly be a critically valuable factor in eSports. Who knew!
    http://www.cnet.com/au/news/team-house-e-sport-league-of-legends/

    All in all great post Linh, look forward to future ones 🙂

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  3. What’s interesting about reading people’s posts on State of Play is that the revelations about gamers being treated as a celebrities, and the whole celebrity cuture and fans around them is just second-hand to me, I’ve been interested in competitive eSports for a long while now and definitely have my favourite players and teams, so that side of things is not news to me. Neither is the large sponsors, each team always has team jerseys with all their many sponsors on them. It really brings home the whole point of this autoethnography study when you see the different reactions everyone brings. (Which is why I didn’t do State of Play because I’d be like ??? okay yeah what’s new about this)

    I do however agree on the wierdness of player housing, I know of training houses in general, but Jae Lee Dong’s version of a training house seems to be taking it a step up from anything that I’ve seen European teams do in their training – usually training camp lasts for a fortnight max.

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