In a world of over 6 billion people, the vast differences of culture and ideology categorise us into groups based upon perception, prejudice and personalities. These three P’s, as I like to call them, differentiate us from one another in ways that allow us to understand that there are differing values and customs held around the world; without them after all we would be the universe’s boringest party ever assembled.
Whenever we view someone or something as being similar or different from us, or being odd or plain scary, we must remember that when doing so, we are looking through our own experiences, presumptions and knowledge, thus subliminally creating comparisons from the start. This is something that I take great care in reminding oneself when I come across events, cultures or information that catch my eye. It too was mentioned by Chris in the tutorials prior to him playing the film which will be the main topic of this blog’s discussion, the 2013 South Korean film State of Play.
To say that State of Play was an eye-opening piece of artistic brilliance would be an understatement. The film follows the day-to-day life of professional South Korean video game players, or for a more accurate term; athletes, sportsman el al. I had an understanding already of how big video gaming was in Asia, specifically South Korea & Japan, be it through friends or other forms of media, but I must say that this film was the first time I looked deeper than just the tournament.
The tournament is focused around the game Starcraft, which attracts mass crowds, sells out stadiums and is a million dollar industry; complete with corporate sponsorship for the teams, many of which are made up of school-age boys given special leave from their educators to participate. That was the first surprise to me, as I have friends who have South Korean ancestry, and one of the things I knew prior to this viewing was how important and authoritarian the Koreans valued schooling. So to find out that students, or now ex-students, were given permisiooin to leave school, some at the age of 15, to play professional gaming was quite the eye-opener, as I could not imagine for a moment that we would even allow that for our sportsman and women be it AFL or Netball. According to the director;
“The micro-world of the StarCraft Pro League is like a mirror of South Korean society – a society so competitive that it almost seems logical that a simple video game would result in a professional competitive sport. South Korea is a country that aims high. It’s a country in full development that wants to prove itself on all levels – technologically, economically as politically.”
Now for those who are viewing this post from DIGC330 and wondering “Well yes Todd this is all well and good, but where is your statements on autoethnography?” I say wait no more.
Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore their personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings (Ellis 2004) So when viewing State of Play, if you have forever viewed sports as a bat and ball, or just a ball involved competition, you would begin viewing it with inner scoffs and wondering how anyone would seriously consider video gaming, or the correct term e-sports, an actual sport? If you manage to get past these prejudices, you will begin to realise just how mentally, physically and socially demanding this tournament is. For myself, the sports I have played were all ball-involved in some way, shape or form, however I can boast to have an open mind when it comes to appreciating the art that is training and preparation for events one holds dear; that is in this case the hundreds of thousands of young Koreans who devote their teenage years to something they truly believe in.
Whilst I can see the seriousness of this competition, having grown up in a generation where video gaming boomed in ways that many members of society enjoy it as both a passion and a pastime, the elder generations, such as those of the competitors parents, in Korea do not view it as a career or sport worth pursuing. During the filming, the only adults (that is about the age of 30) that take the gaming seriously are either the coaches or the corporate sponsors who most likely treat it as an investment rather than a shift in Korean societal thinking. One of the main players the film follows, Park Yo Han, is questioned by the elder males in his family, mainly his father and uncles, about when he plans to retire and take up a real job, such is their way of thinking.
Thus I felt that State of Play was an excellent film, both in it’s own right but too in challenging the preconceptions that those outside South Korea have of their esports industry, and too by showcasing the changes that are currently going in within the highly competitive, structured South Korean society.
State of Play film as viewed in DIGC330 tutorial.
Ellis, Carolyn. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press