Eight year old Charlie carrying his Minecraft lunchbox ran into Bonne E Cole Elementary school classroom and exclaimed, “Ms. Jenny! Do you play Minecraft?!” His teacher responded “Yes I do! Do you play video games too?!” Excited, Charlie responded “Ms. Jenny! Do you like Fortnite too?” This exchange only encouraged the other students to share their favorite games. Video games have always been wildly popular but nowadays it feels like a rarity to find a child that doesn't have a favorite YouTuber, streamer, video game, or all three. Will these gaming interests of young students create the desire for realistic gaming careers for this generation of the chronically online?
When many people think of a classroom dedicated to elementary-level art, they may think of paint on the floors, colored construction paper, and Elmer's glue everywhere. "Basic" is not a word used when describing Jenny Duplantis' classroom. Anime action figures, gamer merchandise galore, Minecraft posters, and even a light-up RGB keyboard are on display. You can quickly tell this is a kid's favorite place to go when almost all the graphic backpacks and lunchboxes they carry are covered in video-game references. The best way to make a child feel seen is to relate to them and make them feel special with their interests. Jenny does not shy away from showing students just how many references she's up to date on.
When Ms. Jenny asked, children from grade level pre-k through 6th were confident in their answers on what they want to be when they grow up. This survey was conducted in her art room, by a means of students raising their hands when a career interested them. When asked if anyone in the room wanted to be a police officer, the reactions of the younger students were seemingly random, raising their hands merely to participate out of the fear of being incorrect. None of these young kids were expressive in their answers; unsure and skeptical. When asking grades 4-6, positive answers were extremely low. The older children had little to no interest in a traditional job. The same mixed results occurred for similar general careers like a firefighter, or lawyer. When asked if they want to be a streamer or YouTuber however, the room erupted for every grade. Almost every child was ecstatic to share who their favorite creators were and why they were ‘the best.’
Many kids today are fascinated and even passionate about achieving dreams of becoming famous. However, it’s not 'movie star'-famous, walking the red carpet, or book famous signing copies for hundreds of fans. The goal is to be a ‘c-list celebrity, low brow, internet streaming’-famous. With wanting to start their adult lives repeating the phrase “Hey what’s up guys, welcome back to another video-” are we ready for the future they’ve seemingly already planned?
YouTube video after YouTube video of their favorite gamers never seem to bore the youth of today. Evan Duplantis (14), also known as ‘Sparkz2827’, is who most would call a chronic gamer. From as young as a toddler, he has had technology constantly in his life. Even if tiny three-year-old Evan didn’t know how YouTube or posting worked at the time, he still wanted to be a part of it all. In self-made home videos from 2010, he can be seen taking videos of himself believing he was a content creator. With catchphrases like “Hey guys,” and “Thanks for watching, remember to subscribe,” even though no one was watching, it’s clear to see how the rise of technology in young hands inspires creativity.
Many kids who grew up in the exponential rise of the internet can relate to this early life influence. Fifteen-year-old Ethan M., username ‘PyroFox42’ has a similar background to Evan’s in the way that his gaming life is his life. Looking for a way to escape the pressures of beginning high school, being able to come home after a long day, and play with friends is something that Ethan states is “The best part of (his) day.” A notable similarity about these two teens is the want to have a career based around technology.
Ethan and Evan have both considered the possibilities of being engineers and/or working in I.T. For their lives seemingly just starting, it is interesting to see how these two have already considered what, to many, is the hardest decision in young life. Having online resources and a limitless amount of information available, can make these options easier to digest. When the young and impressionable are encouraged by a constant source of validation for their dreams, nothing can stand in their way.
For those who have had a later in life conversion to their gaming life, the culture of this phenomenon can be both hilariously fun and shocking. DanglyTripod (42) an Apex Legends player states: “I wish I had what these kids have…I also wish I invested in Twitch.tv, I’d be hella rich...My first game was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on GameCube. I think I prefer my games that I play today but I always try to replay L.O.Z. when I can. It’s nostalgic.” Being on the more daily and chronic side of gaming life, can make this transition of technology advancing seem like a plus and something to envy.
As a teacher and member of Gen X, Jenny Duplantis has witnessed the shift in the way kids think about “What they want to be when they grow up.” She says, “It’s fascinating to see how kids today are so grossly immersed in video games or just watching them that they can’t believe it when adults like what they like, too…So many kids that come into my classroom are baffled at how I like video games and decorate my room the way I do.… I think this will definitely be a core memory for these kids and It feels good to be able to be someone they can relate to.”… “I hope my relatability can influence their future.”