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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Calibrating Play: Sociotemporality in South Korean Digital Gaming Culture

  • Author(s): Rea, Stephen C.
  • et al.

This article examines the significance of digital gaming culture amidst broader institutional trans- formations in South Korea over the past several decades. Digital gaming is contextualized by a popular narrative about Korean society “speeding up” and complementary sociotemporal expectations for being and acting that stress qualities of both quickness and endurance. Approaching digital gaming’s virtual- and actual-world sites as nested “taskscapes,” I contend that calibration—processes that bring phenomena across different taskscapes into corre- spondence with one another—best describes how Korean digital gamers align their individual, embodied play with sociotemporal expectations. Specifically, I analyze two digital gaming practices in their ethnographic contexts—an e-sports performance metric called “actions per minute” (APM) and an online gaming activity known as nogada—as modes for calibrating play with dominant sociotemporalities. The contrast between quick and slow sociotemporal- ities and the necessity of continual recalibration across taskscapes is a source of unending stress and frustration for many Koreans. Thinking with play as a disposition for calibration helps to make sense of everyday strategies for making do in precarious circumstances.

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