State of Play (2013) takes us on a journey through the lives of South Korean pro gamers, the film sheds a new perspective on a pop culture often overlooked in western media. The director Steven Dhoedt has gone on an autoethnographic journey, creating a new foundation of knowledge surrounding the sport. We can see this through a series of answers he provides on an online Reddit forum
He draws attention to the cultural differences which create a trustworthy transparency to his work and notes the experiences he has had with East-Asia, which would develop a framework of knowledge influencing the style of documentary. We can see how his perspective shifts and he wants to portray these gamers in a raw reliable light.
Aslops Journal article delved into The Cultural Psychological Meanings of Home and Away with the emphasis on understanding one’s cultural background, and if that person is placed into a new cultural setting, we cannot interpret what is presented to us. We lack a historical foundation of experience. ‘the foreign lacks the inner template home provides’. (Aslop, 2002)
After watching the film I was very much drawn to the director’s relationship with pro gaming as he is not South Korean but from Belguim. This quote from the reading also resonates with me and I think drives Steven’s work to better understand different aspects of our world, and how international popular culture shapes our society as a whole not just nationally.
At the beginning of the documentary I immediately thought the players would be participating in some sort of physical sporting event, the music, voiceover and crowds, alluded to some sort of competition, but due to my learned social characterstics gaming was not even an option. E- sports aligns to a physical professional sport in South Korea, with fans and celebrity status“Enjoying rock star status with hordes of adoring fans, professional gamers are national celebrities in South Korea.”. And the clear focus on the individual journey, s a good way to establish a connection to the sport internationally; State of Play depicts a journey of victory but also of defeat, of hardships but also of friendships.
E-sports challenges traditional South Korean culture, however, the same values are applied as we see in the documentary, these kids are pushed by coaches and parents, and must also excel in school. It is a highly competitive society, and the audience pushing these kids to be the very best pro gamer.
The documentary portrays Korea in this cross roads of traditional culture and technological convergence. There is this tug of war between a traditional South Korean upbringing and new technological career pathway, that is forming our future, the rise of gaming culture and the professional status and passion these players have reinforces the seriousness of the sport, something that is extremely foreign to me. Every aspect of life in South Korea 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 and politically. (Al Jazeera)
- Alsop, Christiane K. (2002) Home and Away: Self ReflexiveAuto-/Ethnography’, Forum Qualitative Social Research. http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kmacd/IDSC10/Readings/Positionality/auto-eth.pdf
- featured image: https://wcs.starcraft2.com/en-us/about/
- State of Play Promotional website, http://watch.stateofplaydoc.com/
- No author 2015 ‘State of Play: E-Sports in South Korea’ 18th November http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2015/11/state-play-151118095603942.html
- Smith R, 2013,“State of Play” follows the life of Jaedong and other Korean players just before StarCraft II.’ https://www.redbull.com/us-en/new-film-explores-starcraft-esports-in-korea