Critical Essay—"Jellybeans Don't Grow on Trees": Commodity and Identity in Toontown Online

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Danielle Roney Roach, Old Dominion University

Toontown Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) geared toward an early elementary school audience and populated with cartoon-character heroes (the Toons) and robotic villains (the Cogs). While the game echoes many of the conventions of MMORPGs marketed to older populations (World of Warcraft, among a bevy of others), various aspects have been adjusted because of the younger audience. This paper examines Toontown Online through a variety of lenses to illuminate how games and play geared toward the very young (particularly early grade school children) shape players’ notions of cultural norms and expectations both within game spaces and beyond them. This paper will also point to some larger conclusions about how digital culture shapes the rhetoric surrounding games, play, and the child, and also about how that rhetoric reverberates beyond the youth culture targeted by this game.

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"Jellybeans Don't Grow on Trees"

Danielle Roach is currently the Assistant Director of Composition Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia where she is also pursuing her PhD in rhetoric and new media. She received her MA in Rhetoric and Composition from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. She has taught writing for about seven years and is especially interested in multimodal composition and play in the writing classroom. Her research interests include digital communities, rhetorics of play, fan culture, computers and composition, writing program administration, and digital humanities.

© 2011 Danielle Roney Roach, used by permission

Technoculture Volume 1 (2011)