Tearing Down my Autoethnographic Experience

I’m not going to lie- I was reluctant to start this post. Every time I look and the word “autoethnography” and tiny alarm sounds in my brain. This time I will be using it to inspect a previous recount on “The State of Play” (you can read it here). I understand that autoethnography is a useful tool for breaking down the world around me, allowing a unique while still relevant recount of my experience with Asian culture.

Yet, the concept feels like a bar of wet soap. The tighter I try to get a hold of it, the more forcefully it slips from my grasp. I am still struggling with speaking in such a personal tone. My scientific training has taught me to avoid any use of reference to the self in reports, and I find that mould hard to break out of.

Ellis’s words are burned into my brain, and yet they’re like a foreign language I’m just learning. Combined with the fact that I have an outstandingly low level pre-existing knowledge in regards to Asian culture, this whole project seems a tad overwhelming. Thankfully for me, I’ve reached part two of my first autoethnographic journey, analysing my previous post, an area in which I feel a deal more comfortable.

In my viewing of “State of Play” I found myself feeling indignant at the lack of female representation.

I couldn’t believe that one half of the population had been simplified down into screaming fan girls and mother figures, devoid of most, if not all, character development. What I didn’t do however was truly question why there were no females in the pro-gaming industry. I also never thought to question how people in South Korea itself felt about the matter. Did South Korean women in  want to break into pro-gaming but received too much hostility? Is the market open to women but they just have no interest? Is this because of cultural conditioning? Are female gamers subjected to a lot of the hardships female gamers in Western culture have to endure? I had to find out more.

The results of my investigation did not bode well. It turns out that South Korean women may have had experiences similar to women in Western culture. A Gamer-gate-esque occurrence was the first thing to come to my attention. A South Korean voice actress lost her job over a photo of her wearing a shirt saying “Girls do not need a prince” which was allegedly a slogan from a feminist group fighting the inherent sexism in South Korean culture.



The shirt in question. Source.


This is interesting because it implies a number of things; 1) that there is sexism embedded in the culture and 2) That their are people out there fighting to change that fact. So it seems, although this may be a heinous assumption, that the struggle for women to be seen as equals is a universal struggle that transcends cultural boundaries.

However this is just one case, and to make conclusions about a culture from one single instance would be unwise.

So I dug a little deeper. I found that there are women’s gaming teams, one such team being QWER, an all-female pro League of Legends team. This team experiences the same rigorous training that male teams experience, including long days of training and detailed reviews of performance. Whilst it’s a different game it shows that there are female players out there, which is encouraging.


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Min-Bin Shin, a member of QWER. Source.

Apparently there’s also been a rise in female players to many games, especially MMORPGs seen in South Korea in recent years. My making the assumptions that females in the gaming industry in South Korea are doomed from one unbalanced documentary may have been a little extreme. These strong feelings probably come from my experience in a male dominated study area. Sexism isn’t anywhere near as big as a problem as it once was, but it’s there, and more insidious than ever, so I’m quick to jump to the defence and outrage of other women.

Finally, I sought to understand the South Korean version of pool. It caused me no small degree of distress to see that the pool tables they play on in South Korea have no pockets. Tuns out it is a game named sagu. The game, whilst superficially looks like the Western version of pool, is uniquely different. I think that has got to be some kind of symbolism for this project at large. Or maybe I’m just reading into it too much.

The game features two red balls, one white cue ball and one yellow cue ball. There’s two player per game, and the aim is to caroms (strike and rebound) on two balls. While I’d imagine there is a similar technique used in this game compared to the pool I’m used to, their would be a completely different set of strategies.

As I write this post I’m being to fully realise the potential of autoethnographic inspection as a learning tool.

When I started this semester I found the whole concept of trying to understand another culture quite confronting, however by using my initial experience as a jumping board into learning I found the process quite simple. You can’t learn what you don’t know, especially if you don’t know what you don’t know. By looking back on my assumptions I can recognise gaps in my knowledge and learn about South Korean culture in an informative, yet not overwhelming way. I knew that sexism was an issue, but I never realised how strangely similar yet diverse the problem is universally. By learning the rules of sagu, I’ve brought myself just one tiny step closer to an authentic South Korean experience.

I’m excited to see what I’ll discover and uncover in the future. 


One thought on “Tearing Down my Autoethnographic Experience

  1. Pingback: Tearing Down my Autoethnographic Experience — A Minute in the Life | Digital Asia

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