State of Play and eSports

During our recent DIGC330 class, we watched a film called ‘State of Play’, which is a documentary around the craziness and lifestyle of eSports in South Korea. It was great to not only see the culture of the industry, but to actively use Ethnography to observe and witness the differences and features of the eSport industry. After watching the filming and reflecting on what I saw, I came to conclusions based on my personal experience with the eSports industry – otherwise known as using auto ethnography.

So what does all this gibberish mean? Basically what i’m trying to describe, is the two approaches of analysing and conducting research in the field. While Ethnography is the act of making observations and conducting interviews through research, Autoethnography is the act of coming to your own conclusions through your own research, by submersing yourself in the research itself, whether by watching a film similar to what we dis in class with State Of Play, or by researching a tribe by living with them for an extended amount of time.

In his published work ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’ (2011), Ellis describes auto ethnography “As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences.”

So what about State Of Play? Well i’ll be using the film as a case study to highlight my own experiences with these two approaches!

State Of Play

Ethnographically speaking…

I made quite a few observations throughout the film about the culture of South Korean gamers in the eSports industry.

  1. One of the first things I noticed was how each South Korean gamer carried around their own keyboards. I found this at first really weird at the beginning, because it’s a keyboard, and they were replacing the letter positions around in the bus rides.
  2. To become a professional eSports player in the starcraft league, you have to go through the trialing stages and be selected into a team. There were so many people at the trialing events trying to reach their dreams of becoming a professional gamer.
  3. Fan girls. Fan girls everywhere. It was crazy to see just how many fans these gamers have, and how committed they are to the players. They really care about their performance, and their wellbeing,

Autoethnographically speaking…

After some time thinking over my initial observations I came to conclusions through my personal experiences.

  1. I realized that this is parallel to an athlete carrying around his boots, or a football to a game. I know from personal experience of following sports that a lot of athletes do these things out of superstition and routine, and considering how big eSports are in South Korea, it’s not so crazy for this to be a normal thing.
  2. Watching the trialing and everyone being selected into teams felt like I was watching the NBA drafts, which made me feel the legitimacy of the sport and how serious it’s taken in South Korea.
  3. Again, taking into consideration just how big this sport is in South Korea, it’s not totally crazy to think that these players would have fan girls at this level, just how athletes would in our sports.
Perhaps it’s not so crazy that gamers have a large fan base considering the amount of fans Athletes and Youtubers have



2 thoughts on “State of Play and eSports

  1. I really appreciate the way you broke up your blog to help your audience understand the difference between autoethnographic and ethnographic. I found it useful that you wrote out what would be a typical reaction to the film State of Play, as I too had a strange reaction to the film. The use of comparison to show what was going through your head as you watched the film and began to immediately compare the gamers in the film to sports stars. It shows that your past experiences of sport led to “epiphanies” that allowed you to draw relationships to sports stars as the idea of a “gaming star” confused or was foreign to you. Therefore you definitely had an authoethnogrpahic experience and I really enjoyed reading about what was going on in your head while you watched the film.

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