fandom

eSports, Fangirls & the Celebrity Gamer: Autoethnography & State of Play

After dabbling in some autoethnographic research in the past — one of the ‘perks’ of being a Cultural Studies major — the notion of analysing, recording and addressing my personal experiences was not new to me. As a method to understand cultural experience, Ellis, Adams and Bochner describe autoethnography as an approach that embodies “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research.” By doing so, this methodology helps to “facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders”, and whilst watching State of Play, I was undeniably the outsider looking in.

It would be a complete lie to say I wasn’t entirely gobsmacked when watching and thus experiencing State of Play. I had never even heard of eSports until just last year and I would have never been able to comprehend the fervour with which its community shared.

For those of you who don’t know, eSports is an organised competition which involves the playing of video games — mostly multiplayer ones — across a number of electronic platforms. One of the most popular in this gaming phenomenon is the League of Legends World Championship. The global eSports market spans across transnational borders and attracts a viewership of over 200 million. In 2016, the industry is expected to make an approximate $463 million.

The documentary State of Play follows the lives of professional gamers — most notably Lee Jae Dong, — providing viewers with unique insight into the Korean cultural phenomenon that is gaming. I recorded my response to the documentary, and this is what I found most intriguing:

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Lee Jae Dong

  • There was a distinct parallel I found myself constantly drawing on when watching Lee Jae Dong and his teammates compete in arduous keyboard thrashing battles. I couldn’t help but picture them as professional NFL players, striving for their chance at the Superbowl. They mirrored the same traits I expected in an Olympic team. Yet despite this, and perhaps most surprising to me was, they were just gamers.
  • The fan following which Lee Jae Dong and his teammates had accrued was surprising to say the least. As a former Directioner — I spent a significant amount of time in high school obsessing over 1D and may or may not have a Harry Styles doll — I could see myself in the fangirls State of Play followed. I just never thought a group of gamers would be afforded with the same celebrity status as boyband royalty.
  • The pressure with which the StarCraft professionals dealt with on a daily basis proved that the industry could not be treated with contempt. Lee Jae Dong showing emotion after winning a competition highlighted the highly competitive nature of the eSports league.
  • This moment further suggested that even in Korea, and in gaming culture too, gender roles are quite strict. I didn’t see the portrayal of a female gamer once in State of Play. Is this to say that female gamers are not part of this popular culture narrative?

In making sense of my State of Play experience I have been able to heighten my understanding of others. It never occurred to me that Korean gaming culture was so revered in the eyes of the community. In the words of Ellis, Adams and Bochner, my “assumptions of the world” have been changed.

참가 (participation)

Upon reflecting on what I personally experience as a fan of EYK, I could see a multilayered, physical and intangible quality to the EYK fan experience, which has grown from EYK’s focus on giving fans an unique, customised insight into South Korea which recognises that “social interaction and knowledge work effectiveness depend heavily on user engagement” (Orsatti and Riemer 2012).

Firstly, it is inherently important  to define what constitutes a ‘fan’, in order to understand how important interaction with EYK is in the context of this discussion. According to Brough & Shresthova (2012), “fans are typically understood to be individuals who engage deeply with, and often assert their identity through, popular culture content.” Thus it is important to reflect on how deeply fans are permitted to engage with the content and the hosts of the channel, physically and intangibly, and how much the content creators are facilitating the integration of their culture into the identity of fans.

Simon and Martina’s approach to YouTube has changed significantly since they started vlogging (video blogging) in 2008. To once again experience this change, I took a step back in time to their archives channel. The format and filming/commentary style was the immediate change I noticed; I felt like I was intruding on personal holiday videos, a pure auto-ethnographic approach which focused on their reactions to new cultural experiences. In comparison, their current filming style is much more professional and performative, almost educational in tone, and they place a very high importance on the opinions, interests and engagement of their fans. This is demonstrated most obviously in their TL;DR videos (Too Long; Didn’t Read, crowd-sourced questions about South Korea and comparisons with other cultures/countries are answered by Simon and Martina) and F.A.P F.A.P.s (Food Adventure Program For Awesome People, videos which help viewers understand Korean traditions and culture).

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio! Credit: @leechangsun

The Eat Your Kimchi Studio!
Credit: @leechangsun

Secondly, Simon and Martina’s establishment of a permanent physical presence in the heart of South Korea provides fans a space to amplify their fandom experience and extend their learning experience. The Eat Your Kimchi studio, where Simon, Martina, Leigh and Soo Zee film videos, edit, hang out and conduct interviews with KPop bands, is a tangible space where they can meet up with fans and where they also film one of their highly interactive video formats: LiveChats. During LiveChats the EYK crew interact with fans through Twitter and YouTube comments and open fan mail. They also do this at their recently opened cafe in Seoul, the You Are Here cafe, an additional physical space for fans to engage with EYK and become part of the content themselves!

The You Are Here cafe Credit: DailyBap

The You Are Here cafe
Credit: DailyBap

 

Finally, Tumblr, a slightly underrated part of their digital presence, is a great demonstration of how deeply EYK values their fans and exemplifies how much EYK has become part of fans’ social interaction, hobbies, and happiness,  e.g.

 

 

1. mightaswellbeonjupiter:

So this girl walks into the lounge while I’m listening to some music and studying when I notice she has a “Soy un Dorito” shirt on. I was so excited and then suddenly, Sherlock started playing. It was drama-like fate.

EYK: Did you become bestest best friends? I hope so!

2.

yeshisson:

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The promised fanart for EYK! 😀

EYK: AAAHHHHHH!!!  THIS IS AWESOME!

 

 

 

Looking at examples like these clearly demonstrates the value of participation and engagement to both fans and the object of the fandom. I hope to demonstrate this relationship on the EYK Compendium, and maybe add to or amplify the role of this relationship within the culture of Eat Your Kimchi.

제공 (contribution)

Struggling with a direction to take my digital artefact in (which I had previously decided would be a visual representation of the international Eat Your Kimchi fan community, possibly a word-art gallery, and which subsequently changed to a simple prezi), I decided to reflect on what made the EYK fan experience so unique compared with other YouTubers that I have come to love.

Louis Cole, host of the channel FunForLouis is a comparable example from the United Kingdom, as his approach to YouTube is much like Simon and Martina’s (EYK’s two hosts) in a few ways:

  1. They both have multiple forms of media attached to their main channel in order to interact with fans (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc)
  2. They both have fan meet-ups in countries all around the world, including Australia (FunForLouis) (EatYourKimchi) ,so that they can connect with and appreciate the support that has steadily grown for them in many communities
  3. They both have merchandise shops (Louis) (EYK) which help support their channel, providing a way for fans to both show their support for the YouTubers and identify themselves as fans to the wider community (as I have by buying an EYK shirt, see previous post 유명인사 (celebrity))
  4. They both have huge international fan followings; Louis has just achieved 1 000 000 subscribers in the last few days and fans actively try to independently meet up with him in every country he travels to. Similarly, EYK often encounters fans on the street and in other countries when filming their videos, and post pictures with fans/’nasties’ on Instagram and Twitter.

These channels are both great at integrating fans into their content and they both have a creative approach to editing and presenting their videos. Additionally, they both started their channels by documenting their daily lives highlighting changes or new learning experiences. So what makes Eat Your Kimchi different? Is it the content creators who make the difference, or the fans themselves?

To me, it’s the actual fandom of EYK which stands out. Their passion, dedication, creativity, general sense of community and acceptance, and willingness to contribute their own opinions and knowledge of cultural experience is evident across YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and in real life e.g. during filmed fan-meet ups and encounters with Simon and Martina in public spaces.

Trying to think of a way to describe, display, analyse and interact with this fandom in a meaningful way, I realised that Prezi was not going to work in this context, especially considering that I have identified an innate personal need to somehow show my interaction with and interest in the world of EYK. What makes digital fandoms so unique and simultaneously personal and inclusive of difference is the participatory culture which the Internet and blurring cultural distinctions have emphasised and cultivated (Brough & Shresthova 2012). So how do I play into this culture? How do I both participate in and study the fandom of EYK?

I have decided to create a space where I (and possibly other fans) can shine a spotlight on different aspects of the EYK fandom, somewhat in the vein of Pottermore or the Pokemon Wiki. Introducing the EYK Compendium: The Fantastical Fandom of Eat Your Kimchi, brought to you by WordPress (the central fandom hub), Instagram and Twitter (two methods of additional engagement where I hope to connect with fans and use hashtags to find content and EYK fans).

vlogs, blogs and fandom fun

This week I have continued the blog and profile from different sections of YouTube fandoms. I honestly had no idea YouTube had separate fandoms, but you really start to notice a a trend on similar videos, the same people and similar language is used. Because of this little discovery I have decided to also look at the fandom surrounding the individuals. I have been looking on tumblr and other fan created sites and profiles (such as fan instagram accounts) and will be adding these into the profiles of the YouTubers.

I felt this was important to add, as it helps create a more whole insight into the YouTuber and their fans (who are obviously quite important). Not all YouTubers have such an obvious fan culture but using their comments as evidence can help too.

My experience with the task has been a really positive one. I have found myself enjoying a lot of videos I would never normally watch, such as Let’s Play videos, which *confession time* I had never actually watched before. The fan culture is interesting too, I found myself fangirling over some of these stars along with the rest of the community.

As I was writing some of my blog posts I felt that I needed something more formal to back up some of my personal theories (to see if I was simply making some of them up). I found some helpful articles which have further enhanced my understanding of the YouTube culture is Asia specifically.

Here and here.

 

References:

Brennan, D. (2007). YouTube and the Broadcasters. U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper, (220).

Krishnappa, D., Khemmarat, S. and Zink, M. (2011). Planet YouTube: Global, measurement-based performance analysis of viewer;’s experience watching user generated videos. pp.948–956.

 

SBS PopAsia: The Fandoms


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This week I tried to flip the coin so to speak and look at the culture of Asian pop fandoms as opposed to the Asian popstars and performers I’ve largely been looking at up until now. To be more specific I decided to narrow in on the peripheral fandoms that tune in every week to watch the Australian Asian pop music video show SBS PopAsia. A big part of every week’s countdown is Tweeting along with the episode using the hashtag #SBSPopAsia, which is used to play games, nominate artists/songs as well as create an actively vocal audience whose Tweets are cherry picked for screen time during the episode (SBS PopAsia HQ 2014). In the hopes of better understanding the fandom I decided to tweet along in the hashtag during the episode and collate some examples of the fandom in action (shown above).

 

What were some of the key activities, conversations, or internal thoughts that I experienced today? (Sheridan)
My initial experience was bewilderment as a scrolling wall of tweets cycled rapidly across my screen, filled with the kind of ecstatic glee you might expect from a crowd at a live event. It becomes clear quite quickly that a lot of these fans tweeting along with the show are active participants in the fandoms of these pop artists outside of the bounds of the show, as most of them display a level of knowledge about the individual artists and performers that is not only absent from the show itself, but recalled rapidly in response to the events of the show. In other words, the reaction time of the tweets suggests this information is not being looked up beforehand. I did try contributing to the discussion, guessing which common element was present in the 3 songs they played consecutively and generally commenting on the songs as they played, but I found the experience largely distant. Things move too rapidly; with too much vigor and desperation to be noticed for the fans to engage with each other too much it seems. Although the one question I did ask the group actually received a response, even if it was just the one.

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What would I do differently next time if I researched the same group or event? (Sheridan)
I think that researching these fandoms properly will require looking at how they behave on the other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, that move much more slowly and with more of an air of contemplation. I approached this group expecting more of a conversation but instead I learnt that it was much more like a mass-aggregation of quick, yet vocal monologues.


 

References

Sheridan, R (n.d.), ‘Autoethnography: Researcher as Participant’, An Introduction to Autoethnography, viewed 31 August 2014 http://ricksheridan.netmar.com/auto/

SBS PopAsia HQ 2014, ‘Get Social with SBS PopAsia’, SBS PopAsia, viewed 31 August 2014 http://www.sbs.com.au/popasia/blog/2014/02/04/get-social-media-sbs-popasia

Join the Club!

So can you believe that there are people who have never watched Sailor Moon. Crazy, I know! I mean this show was my everything so to learn that there are people who are new to the phenomenon blows my mind.

The YouTube channel SourceFedNERD uses people’s lack of knowledge to their advantage. In fact they have created a whole club dedicated to this. The anime club is a series of videos that record the separate reactions of a person who is a fan of a certain anime and one who has never watched an episode before. The audience is gaining a different kind of perspective through this experience as opposed to watching a regular review.

So Reina is a Sailor Moon fan. You can tell by the excited tone of her voice, the bouncing on the couch, the movement of her hands. William has never watched an episode of Sailor Moon before in his life. His reactions are dull compared to Reina’s although he still looks as happy having watched the rebooted first episode of Sailor Moon Crystal.

The most beautiful part of this experience is watching Reina’s face as William begins to explain the parts he enjoyed the most. It’s almost as though she is saying – I have shown him this, I am the reason he likes this. It’s a proud moment. One that a lot of us will experience. I mean, there has been so many times where I have recommended a TV show or a book to a friend, and sat there waiting for them to tell me everything they loved.

There is nothing more satisfying than having someone enjoy a show you recommended. However it could go pretty sour if they severely disliked it. This style of review is an interesting concept. It would be interesting to see more of this style with books, movies and other various television shows. If only purely for the look of absolute joy on the face of the person who recommended it.

MMCollection_Papercraft

The Paper Trade Market

Papercraft communities on DeviantART consist of groups of users who are actively trading, circulating, and contributing to series by constructing their favourite characters from anime, video games and other Asian media. These groups, like Anime-Papercraft, are divided into series, either by the content or the model design, and each product is available for download as a template (most of the time). Except I don’t like many of these designs. Most of them are just characters stuck onto a Cubeecraft model. They’re often detailed but uninspired. As much as I admire the spirit of the collaborations involved in these groups, the products they’re designing I have no interest in putting them on my shelf. My only interest is discovering who that character is.

I love to find intricate, detailed and thoughtfully constructed models. It has to convey and represent the spirit of whatever media I enjoy. I don’t want Naruto’s head stuck on a square. I want him to be in a striking pose. These are toys I want to display. But for some, people like to have entire sets.

Smilerobinson's room with her 5cm models displayed in glass cases.

Smilerobinson’s room with her 5cm models displayed in glass cases.

Papercraft images on DeviantART are visual portals to Asian media. Models are representations of an Artist’s passion and interest in an anime or a video game. Smilerobinson is an artist on DeviantART that creates 5cm models and circulates them on popular groups. As I click through each of her collections, more suggestions from Smilerobinson pop up on the side, and I continue clicking. Some characters I recognise, some I don’t. But on each image there is a description of the show the characters are from, and below there are users thanking and making her designs. Smilerobinson is going beyond just viewing Asian media, she’s appropriating her favourite characters into her papercraft designs and making it available to download. She’s also sometimes borrowing from other artists and linking their work too. Her work is inspired by Nibi‘s Hetalia Kakukaku papercraft, found on Pivix, a Japanese art board. Pivix was fascinating to explore in, a mixture between instagram and Deviant art, and mostly dominated by Japanese artists.

There’s so much content on DeviantART and Pivix. These platforms are providing a voice for small Papercraft communities. Groups are centralised fandoms; designers sharing and presenting models on their favourite shows. These models are small mementos of the anime they enjoy, and it’s a way to display it in your room, or to the world in a creative way. Plus, you’re making it yourself. For me, the idea of being able to recreate designs on DeviantART is what engages me in the community. I can build a model of an anime I love, tweak it, share it, and then place it on my desk.

 

 

The Champion of Justice

If I heard the name Kotono Mitsuishi a week ago I wouldn’t have bat an eyelid. Today, however the name means so much more. For those of you who don’t recognise the name I’ll give a little description. Mitsuishi is a 46-year-old voice actress who lives in Tokyo, Japan and is famous for providing the voice of our favourite crime fighter – Sailor Moon.

Now although I consider myself a long time fan of Sailor Moon I had never watched a Japanese version until recently. The voice I remembered from my childhood was whiny and slightly deeper than the voice Mitsuishi provides. It was also extremely American. After watching the new improved Sailor Moon Crystal (of which Mitsuishi is revisiting the role) I’ve realised that Mitsuishi is Sailor Moon.

To watch Mitsuishi transform into the character is something to behold. In the video above, you see her talking to the crowd normally. She seems courteous and polite. There is even perhaps a hint of shyness to her stance. However as soon as she begins to talk as Sailor Moon her body transforms. She is no longer Kotono Mitsuishi – she is Usagi – champion of justice and fighter of evil.

Now Sailor Moon is not the only character Mitsuishi has voiced – just the most famous. She has provided her voice for over 90 separate characters ranging from guest starring roles to major characters. It’s interesting to note that Mitsuishi has only been involved in one Western created cartoon within television or film. It would be interesting to learn why she chose to have a guest starring role in the Japanese dubbed Adventure Time. It could be that creator Pendleton Ward has mentioned a number of influences – one of which being some of the works of Studio Ghibli.

It seems fitting that the first anime I remember watching is connected with the first anime voice actor I have come to know. I have now watched two episodes of the new Sailor Moon Crystal and am immensely enjoying watching Mitsuishi’s Usagi come to life. I have found myself feeling more connected to the character now than I ever did before and I have Kotono Mitsuishi to thank.

Reconnecting with my childhood.

Sailor Moon was my Superman. She was the hero that my seven – year – old self aspired to be. I mean who wouldn’t love to be a moon princess who fights for crime and justice, eats a lot of food, and cries when things don’t go her way – not to mention have a dreamy guy in a mask lust over you.

However as I grew older Sailor Moon changed from the hero I wanted to be. She became a distant memory. The toys I once owned were discarded, the costumes tucked into the deepest corners of my wardrobe. The television series was all but forgotten. I was perfectly fine with the present situation, however on July 5th 2014, everything changed.

According to Den of Geek, the reboot of the anime version of Sailor Moon was announced two years ago at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary. The Fandom went crazy. Every person had a different theory for what path the show would take. Would it be closer to a remake of the original anime? Would they stick to the Manga this time around?

When I first heard about the reboot, I – like the other hundreds of fangirls – freaked out! But it also had me reminiscing on the anime that was. Before watching the new and improved I decided to do a little research on the TV series that changed my life. The information that i had found prompted me to look deeper into the difference between the Japanese or Eastern version of the anime, to the localised version shown in the West.

Looking into the show I fell in love with I discovered a huge amount of changes. According to Rebecca Ballanger of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange the American version was altered due to the “reoccurring themes of adolescent sexuality and homosexuality”. When I watched the original anime as a child the link between Sailor Moon and Japanese culture was almost non-existent. This could mean that the Americanised version perhaps went a little too crazy at altering the anime for Western audiences.

For my research project I will be looking at the difference in not only the reboot and the original, but also the East vs. West portrayal of both new and old. It has been confirmed that an American version of the new Sailor Moon Crystal will be happening, so it’ll be interesting to see if they follow their previous path or stick more closely to the already successful Japanese version.

References:

Ballanger, R 2014, Too Many Girlfriends: Sailor Moon’s Censored Life in the U.S, Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, May 11, viewed August 11, http://bookmans.com/too-many-girlfriends-sailor-moons-censored-life-us/

Mammano, M 2014, The Sailor Moon Reboot: what we now and what to expect, Den of Geek, April 7, viewed August 11, http://www.denofgeek.us/tv/sailor-moon/167439/the-sailor-moon-reboot-what-we-know-and-what-to-expect