Week 2

Gojira

After going through the lecture slides, I downloaded Gojira and watched it on a Sydney to Wollongong train trip. In some ways, watching a black and white Japanese foreign film while on an Australian train provided great juxtaposition for cultural awareness. I was sitting in a carriage with fellow Australians, some in suits, some in jeans and converse, some very drunkenly slurring Aussie slang while others shielded their children’s post day care ears from such colourful language. And here I sat watching a film where even the monsters were treated with respect.

As a first generation migrant, to whom English is technically a second language, I have grown up loving foreign films. I grew up in house where children did not often watch TV. If we were watching TV it was a SBS (SBS before 8.30pm ehm ehm) family movie night – popcorn, home made Bengali and Arab sweets, world music soundtracks and subtitles. As a child I had the joy of watching and reading artsy, indie and documentarian Bengali films. As I got a little older, we would go to foreign film festivals. I moved out of home at 17 but like many familial attributes, the love for foreign film moved with me.

Growing up as a person of brown colouring in a multicultural, yet very white part of Sydney, my exposure to Western film was channelled through friends birthday parties and movies watched in school – limited to essentially The Goonies and The Rabbit Proof Fence. It wasn’t until I was in my later years of high school that I turned to Western Film for entertainment – cue The Godfather, Fight Club and Batman (I have two older brothers). Whether I was watching a eastern or western film, I was raised to question what it is the content is telling us to value, what it wants us to question and in turn, what really was the purpose of making it.

For these reasons, when I noted that Gojira the film was produced in 1954, I understood that it was a comment to the Atomic Age. I have always valued the simplicity and creativity of old film techniques. In one of the scenes in Gojira, we hear the singing of children as the camera pans the destruction of the city after Gojira’s first attack. The slow camera movement creates an emotional allusion to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At first the footsteps of the monster seem to be an expected film sound effect, but upon closer reflection, (as someone who has been trapped in a war zone) each step sounds like a bomb – a sound that unfortunately, would be familiar the films post WW2 audience.

How I make sense of the film is framed by by cultural, social and educational conscious and subconscious knowledge. For me the content was telling us to value peace, it wants us to question political tensions and the abuse of power. The purpose of any film is to some extent entertain, but Gojira is a reminder of what has happened and what can reoccur if we do not learn from our historical mistakes.

60 years on and Godzilla is still strong

I’m a 90s baby, I grew up watching Hi-5, The Wiggles (originals) and then grew into more sophisticated films like Mean Girls that truly understood the struggles of growing up in a white privileged society. I’ve grown up in a mostly peaceful time, and the only worries I’ve faced have been “end of the world” scares that never eventuated. As a result, the films I watched growing up were mostly light-hearted fun, adventure filled stories that never showed hard-ships.

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Godzilla (1954), image, movieboozer.com

I would have never watched Godzilla growing up, and even if I did I would have missed the underlying metaphor behind the film. This is because I’ve never lived in a time where the horror of nuclear war or death of loved ones has ever been a treat to my perfect bubble wrapped life.

 

As I watched Godzilla, I found it difficult to relate to the characters because I had never experienced anything that made me think about how my life could be affected by this. Also, my experience of films up to this point were American made or American sympathised, therefore the common enemy of those films were Russia, Japan, or Germany that had made up the Axis Powers in World War II. These stereotypes had carried across to my understanding of the world around me, and it was only until I was old enough to experience the world for myself that I found this to be this incorrect.

 

Therefore, expanding my understanding of International Film is a valuable source to understand how other countries document and make sense of hard-ships they have faced. The Japanese film industry using a nuclear, fire-breathing monster as a metaphor of the destruction the US inflicted upon Japan during the war makes this film more relatable for many different audiences, rather than if it was a more direct portrayal of the event. It ended up becoming a hugely successful formula and as a result, ironically America has released their own Godzilla films.

 

If you’re interested in a little background reading:

Here’s an article of photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki then and now from the Guardian 

And a review of Godzilla

Gojira, an Understanding

When I first realised I would have to do this subject on Digital Asia, I must admit I was wary and disappointed. I am not really one to watch anime, or read manga, or really I’ve never been interested in it at all. I was again surprised that the first movie we were to watch would be Godzilla. I’ve never watch the original, although I have watched the latest one (Gareth Edwards, 2014), and the one where the bad hair over took the story line (Roland Emmerich, 1998). This subject is heavy on the autoethonography methodology, and it is necessary for me to relate back to the subject matter in a way that explores my own connection and contextual understanding of it. My cultural background is limited, at best. I have no real understanding of Asian media, other than the cartoons dubbed for Cheese TV back in the ’90s-00’s.

The way I have watched, understood and disassemble the movie Gojira from 1954 is through the discussion in class about the contextual and historical location Godzilla has in the film world. I never really put much thought into the big lizard, and through the discussions over twitter and in class I have learnt a lot more about where it stands as a movie.

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The movie came out at a time where Japan had lost its sense of self; the Japanese culture had lost a part of its identity due to the clashes with the West. Not so subtle inferences to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fall out of nuclear war are echoed throughout this movie. Godzilla himself, with his nuclear breath, is the metaphor for a time where the possibility of being wiped off the map, was a reality some thought would happen. The sentiment of antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons was a powerful message to be sending out in a post-war Japan. Godzilla was symbol and exploration of the people’s fears, encased in a rubber suit.  To my understanding, Godzilla was a call for the end of this type of destruction. Godzilla speaks louder than roars, as even in modern times, the monster can be the symbol for whichever man-made disaster is occurring at the time.  Global Warming, war, nuclear power – all of these topics are easily interchangeable as a new Gojira.

My understanding of the context and importance this film has all stems from discussions in class and a larger memory of history than I thought I had. The subject matter is much richer than just a monster in a rubber suit. It is a movie that speaks up about what an entire country felt at the time and that is powerful.

State of Play

sop-regularGrowing up I loved video games. My PlayStation didn’t have a memory card that worked very well so my brother and I became particularly skilled at completing games in one day (except Chicken Run because that shit was hard). We thought we were pretty skilled right up until the point we went to one of our family friend’s house. When we got there we lost every round of Tekken 3 and it was shocking. Take that insular, naïve point of view away and give it a broader context and you get the exact same feeling when watching State of Play. I didn’t grow up in the most technologically prominent family, my father is a tradie and my mother is an English teacher, so over the years my interactions with video games and advanced technology have been limited, though my interest in them has not been. I was an avid watcher of Good Game (RIP), an ABC television show showcasing and reviewing video games and video game related news, and know people who game competitively so before my viewing of State of Play I was aware of the intensity of gaming competitions in South Korea and of the small fortunes some of these gamers were earning. However, what I was unaware of was the extremely young ages the gamers were starting from.

At the age of 16 I was figuring out what romance was, going to parties and getting picked on for my Dumbo ears (grew into them its ok). It would have been inconceivable to me at such a young age to do something on that level and if I’m being honest, there is a high likelihood it could have broken me, in multiple ways. The amount of stress and intense pressure these young gamers are placed under would break many people and I think when it truly reaches other cultures, such as the USA or England, where composure is not valued so highly, it could do some real mental damage. The dizzying highs of this world could also make re-adapting into the real world after much more difficult, much like what happens to Olympic athletes who retire from their sport extremely young, like gymnasts. In a culture that may be less resilient than South Korea, ex professional gamers could end up feeling unfulfilled and depressed about their lifestyle but the age of their mid-twenties, an age when most people are beginning to find what they want to do in life.

 

‘GOJIRA’: Reaction + Thoughts

Originally posted on: mc560.wordpress.com/

Those people who know me well, will (rightly) tell you that I am a massive film geek. So when I found out that we would be watching the 1954 allegorical B-movie ‘Gojira’, I was naturally thrilled. As the film started, I began to think about the differences between the Japanese film industry and the Hollywood film industry.

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As I said in one of my tweets posted during the screening, NO-ONE makes genre films quite like the Japanese. Unlike many (there are exceptions) Hollywood blockbusters, Japanese blockbusters always seem to try to incorporate some  form of social, religious or political context. With this in mind, it was fascinating to watch the way that ‘Gojira’ uses genre (in this case b-grade sci-fi) in order to make a bold allegorical critique of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WW2. Contrastingly, if you look at the 2013 remake ‘Godzilla’ (which I actually kinda liked) you’ll notice that it has none of the original’s political undertones, but is more interested in establishing Godzilla as a major player in the new MonsterVerse (as is now the trend).

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Having said this, it doesn’t mean that all Japanese films are as smart as ‘Gojira’ and that all Hollywood blockbusters are simply disposable pieces of entertainment that exist solely for financial reasons. It just occurred to me, as I watched ‘Gojira’, that very few American film-makers would be make such a ballsy, political blockbuster.

Another difference between the two film industries, which I briefly discussed with my tutor after the screening, is the perception of their audience. By making such a allegorical film, the director of ‘Gojira’, Ishiro Honda, clearly perceives the audience to be clever enough to understand the ideas and messages that the film is trying to convey. Hollywood, however, often believe that a blockbuster has to be ‘dumbed down’, in order to satisfy audiences and are often very reluctant to finance big-budget films with complicated narratives or concepts (although this trend is starting to die down, thankfully).

In the end,  the screening of the 1954 ‘Gojira’ was an eye opening experience which led to a deeper understanding of the way the Japanese film industry works and the differences between them and Hollywood.

Until next time…

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The Art of Autoethnography: Part I

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Part I- Autoethnography

A form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experiences and connects this autobiographical story to a wider cultural-political-and social meanings and understandings’ (Collins Dictionary, 2013)

Autoethnography is a new and foreign concept to me, one that seems simple at first glance yet has hidden complexities and requires a greater deal of insight to result in purposeful authenticity.

This week’s reading Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) details that autoethnography is to analyse experience through methodological tools, literature research and use personal experience to illustrate facets of cultural experience. Therefore it is under this guise that I shall share my process of autoethnography regarding the 1954 Japanese film Godzilla/Gojira.

 

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Observation and simply absorbing the text in all its glory, taking note of my observations were the only methodological tools used. A basic approach, but as this is my first attempt at autoethnographic research, basic is the best way to start.

Here are my observations, a summary of the running commentary of my thoughts during the entire film:

  • Constant shadows make it hard to see the emotions displayed of the characters faces.
  • I wonder what the subtitles meant by ‘firefighters’, I’m guessing firefighters given the context.
  • There is a lot of jumping from one scene to the other.
  • Little emotion is shown by the characters when announcing the deaths of the soldiers. They are stone cold statues.
  • There is this annoying bell sound throughout many of the scenes and it is starting to annoy me.
  • This storyline is getting hard to follow, there are many different characters being introduced and the scene jumping around.
  • The constant jumping around between scenes is leading me to disconnect from the text, and a computer screen in front of me provides an abundance of distractions from writing emails to scrolling the Facebook newsfeed.
  • It is so silent given the large amount of people in the scene, there is very little background noise. I am definitely not used to a movie score of this nature.
  • Now I’m thinking about food while watching a man handle a dead fish. I don’t think I am really invested in the film.
  • The scary noise they are running away from isn’t even that loud, their screams cover it.
  • Finally Godzilla/Gojira makes an appearance.
  • That appearance only lasted a second. That was hardly worth all the build up in that scene.
  • There is no visable destination that they are running towards. Then they just stop before the scene changes.
  • The picture of Godzilla/Gojira  is on the screen longer then he actually was.
  • They never actually seem that scared of it. Maybe thats just a cultural difference regarding the displaying of emotions.
  • How did they get the sand from Godzilla/Gojira’s body?
  • I got distracted again by emails. It’s not my fault they just pop up on my screen.
  • Why is the guy in the eye patch so serious?
  • I think that girl has the hots for the guy with the eye patch.
  • I didn’t pay enough attention to know any of the characters names.
  • New method found to slightly understand what’s going on. Watching the #DIGC330 twitter feed.

 

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The literature research conducted on the topic of autoethnography. Autoethnography: An Overview (Ellis, Adams & Bochner, 2011) did two things for my understanding of autoethnography. Firstly it enlightened me as to what the process of autoethnography entails and what it produces; ‘aesthetic and evocative thick descriptions of personal and interpersonal experience’.

Secondly, what my first attempt at autoethnograhic research was not. Ellis et. el. (2011) stated that autoethnography was developed in ‘an attempt to concentrate on ways of producing meaningful, accessible and evocative research grounded in personal experience’. If I were to use this as a checklist, I could say that my work was very much grounded in personal experience as there was no other other facets to it and that by posting it in this digital format it is also accessible, but meaningful or evocative I am struggling to see that part coming to fruition.

 

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My personal experience with this film is that I couldn’t get fully immersed in the storyline. What is evident from my notes is that as the film progressed I became less content with watching and making observations. I found myself looking for distractions and had difficulty remaining focused.

Though in all honesty I have never;

a. Been  drawn to Asian cinema unless it was of a Bollywood persuasion

AND

b. Been able to become totally engrossed in a film in an educational context, it just seems unnatural.

For someone else, or if I had first encountered this film in a different context, the outcome might have been different, though this simply wasn’t the case and I am afraid that this will cloud my view of the film forever in my mind.

Reference List

Collinsdictionary.com. (2016). Definition of Autoethnography | New Word Suggestion | Collins Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/10957/Autoethnography [Accessed 25 Aug. 2016].

Ellis, C., Adams, T. and Bochner, A. (2011). Autoethnography: An Overview. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [online] 12(1). Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 30 Jul. 2016].

IMDb. (2016). Godzilla (1954). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047034/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2016].

An Experience Without Enlightenment

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Image by flamoking1, While I wouldn’t watch gore anyway, this anime is the reason I don’t watch graphically violent or gory anime under any circumstance.

Within the subject Digital Asia, autoethnography – a type of research method – underpins the majority of our study. But what is autoethnography? According to Ellis et al, autoethnography is a synthesis of autobiographic and ethnographic techniques that allow a researcher to write about epiphanies which stem from experiences with and being within culture. These cultural engagements can be experienced within a culture itself, i.e. a researcher participates in cultures previously unexperienced, or through material cultural products, e.g. the analysis of clothing, architecture, texts such as books, movies and photos.

Ellis et al say that autoethnographers take their experiences and detail them in length as a kind of personal story that shows how something in that culture changed them or their idea of that culture. As part of this process, autoethnographers’ go further and analyse their experience with theoretical tools, methodological tools, and research literature. Without applying this academic edge to their experience, their story could be just like any other, when they are really trying to use their experience to illustrate the characteristics of a culture and make it familiar for those on the outside and for existing members of that culture.

As part of an exercise, we were asked to examine a digital text and to detail our experience with it from an autoethnographic standpoint. The text that I examined was the 1988 Japanese anime film Akira, directed by Katsuhiro Otomo who is also the author of its original incarnation as a manga.

I’m sure there is more that could be said of this movie, but I will not be mentioning much more here. My reasoning? Because I am terrified of the internet and what it will show me regarding this movie. I have watched a lot of anime, I could probably give you a list of 80 or more anime’s that I have seen, I love anime. But I absolutely refuse to watch Akira and any kind of content like it because I cannot handle the strong, graphic, and bloody violence its R rating tells me it has.

My experience of this film began with excitement when I heard we would be watching an anime film, then when I heard it contained scenes of graphic violence that could be distressing for some viewers, my excitement evaporated and my heart rate skyrocketed out of anxiety. I opened Google Chrome and went to IMDb’s information page regarding Akira, I scrolled down to their message boards and opened one which was literally titled, “How gory is this?” and proceeded to read on in horror. Suffice to say, I didn’t watch a single frame of the movie, and instead, listened to the evocatively throbbing soundtrack and violence while imaging scenes of hyper-real violence and hyper-real representations of gore. My time was much better spent googling wallpaper images of Orange and Anthem of the Heart.

I guess you could say my experience of Akira was an experience without enlightenment. I have no idea how I am going to analyse this. If anyone has any thoughts please share them, I am honestly stumped.

‘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.

When Games Are No Longer Games

DIGC330, Digital Asia, where we will be conducting an autoethnographic investigation into the production and consumption of Asian digital media, communication technologies, as well as the industry and culture as a whole, from a local, national and personal perspective.

“Woah, what the heck does that even mean?”

To me, autoethnography is research based on the researchers personal observations of the ‘mundane’ within a culture, and then, an analytical narrative of these observations in the hope of understanding certain aspects of said culture. These observations should be “aesthetic and evocative”, utilising storytelling conventions in order to engage readers.

“Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience.” – Carolyn Ellis, 2011.

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Ellis (2011), explains that “When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity.”

So, for this post I will be commencing an autoethnographic investigation of the ‘State of Play’ documentary. This will involve my personal observations of the documentary, as well as the way the Twitter-feed reacted, and why these observations are of importance to my research.

State of Play follows a champion pro-gamer, Lee Jae-dong, as he loses, triumphs and struggles through the world of South-Korean professional E-sports. In the true sense of autoethnographic research, below are my initial observations in experiencing the film.

Observations:

  • Gaming isn’t seen as play, it is seen as work.
  • It is a serious sport, (again, more than a ‘game’) with massive fan groups, intense training, huge stadiums and LOTS of money.
  • The players still have decisions to make: High school or Pro-gaming.
  • Extremely demanding career. 10 hours of training a day, away from friends and family, some choose to leave school.
  • To add on to the demands observation: He is constantly sleeping at school (know that feel bro).
  • The average pro-gamer retires at 24. This is incredibly early for someone to end a career. Is this due to slower reaction times as people get older, or is there an underlining concern of longevity for such a career.

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An interesting experience I had throughout the viewing of the documentary was watching the twitter feed react to certain things. Each user would come at an issue with their own perspectives coming into play. This demonstrated to me how Autoethnography works. For example, some people were interested in the technology used for the huge competitions shown in the documentary, others were concerned with the gender roles within the sport. Further subjects included: Clothing, training, and even food.

Having experienced competitive online games for a lot of my youth, many of these being popular within Asia, (League of Legends, DOTA) the notion of E-sports was not entirely new or strange to me. I knew about the professionalism of the industry. The money, the stadiums, the massive fan bases and even the team houses are common place within E-sports and I had come across these circumstances through the games I had casually followed.
What interested me within State of Play was the family aspect shown through the documentary. This brought with it a historical and spiritual culture which I had not being involved with before. These notions created an authentic, traditionally Asian ‘feel’ to the film. For me, this added a new and intriguing experience to E-sports, one which previously I had not experienced or even considered.

State of Play- an autoethnographical response

Initially I found the concept of autoethnography incredibly confusing. I’ve now come to understand that autoethnography is a way of writing about another culture from the perspective of your own, whilst acknowledging the personal biases that inevitably come from this.

In writing 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”(Ellis, Adams & Bochner).

My own consumption of Asian media has been very minimal. I do have quite a few Asian friends, but that’s where my exposure to Asian culture really begins and ends. Coming from zero gaming experience/interest I was skeptical of the film ‘State of Play’ from the outset. To be frank, I wasn’t very interested in watching a Korean film about gaming ~ But I was interested in noting which parts were unfamiliar or strange to me, and determining how this highlights my own cultural (in)experience. Before even beginning to watch the film I knew that I wouldn’t appreciate it, based on my own interests and cultural identity, and I wanted to see how this influences my response to Korean culture. Below are my observations of the film:

  • Competing in eSports is immediately framed as an elite, daring profession. The men are shown getting massages and having their hair professionally styled before matches. They have cheering crowds of fans.
    • Was I naive in thinking that being a gamer wasn’t a real profession? I had no idea that they could actually make real money or have a career playing video games.
  • I definitely feel that within Korea gamers are much more respected than within ‘Western’ culture. I just cannot see gamers being celebrated and idolized within my own communities. I’m pretty amazed that people actually sit cheering in a room whilst they compete in video games in real time.
  • Not only is being a gamer a career, but there is an entire industry built around them? 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.
  • I’m noticing a divide between spiritual, traditional Korea and the fast-paced technologically advanced Korea. It seems that the kids have to make a choice; pursue their education or compete in eSports. I feel like their parents values and ‘traditionalism’ has an effect on their decision.
  • Traditional gender roles seem to be reinforced by the film. The starting quotation “[man] is only completely a man when he plays” shows that the man needs to prove his worth by working hard. This is once again reinforced when Lee Jae Dong later says that he no longer has passion for playing and that “mostly just plays for work”
  • Near the end of the film Lee Jae Dong and the audience were both crying and soft instrumental music played in the background- however I still feel emotionally disconnected to the story. This is probably because this world is so far from my own, and still seems to unreal to me.

Having zero knowledge of the profession, watching this film definitely shone light on a whole aspect of Korean gaming culture. As a female Australian I feel like the entire concept of this industry is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced, and thus find it difficult to empathise or relate to the struggles of the individuals depicted in the film. Whilst watching the film I was able to draw comparisons between Korean eSports and Western football teams by the way in which the players were commoditized, and idolized within the community.

 

References:

Screenshots from the film; State of Play, 2013.

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