This paper examines depictions of the "cyberchild," and the child at risk in Hollywood films and television advertisements portraying children's digital gaming. We examine fears of digital play and adjoining hopes for its conversion into a "productive" and educational practice. We find evidence of a stiflingly polarized conflict over children's digital gaming: young gamers are either delinquent and violent, or naturally adept "cyberchildren" with bright futures as information workers. We propose three reasons why this polarity remains unresolved, detail how issues of gender and class are sidelined, and suggest that cinematic and promotional depictions have both helped shape and reflect grossly exaggerated characterizations of the child gamer.
The project started out as a conference paper, which we presented at the PCA and CSA back in 2006, and which we then elaborated and refined in response to some of the great feedback we received from conference attendees, colleagues (a special thanks in that regard to Helen Kennedy and Graeme Kirkpatrick for their early support and comments), and peer reviewers. An enormous thanks to Karen Ross, Jane Wynn and Jane Anderson at Communication, Culture and Critique for agreeing to publish this piece and for making the entire process such a pleasant and expedient experience.
Full citation for the piece is: Narine, N and S.M. Grimes (2009) "The Turbulent Rise of the "Child Gamer": Public Fears and Corporate Promises in Cinematic and Promotional Depictions of Children's Digital Play." Communication, Culture & Critique, Volume 2 Issue 3, pp. 319-338.