I’m not a gamer and I don’t know much about gaming, but I’ve been noticing with interest the trend toward creating games with socially topical content, and games that privilege problem-solving and higher-level cognitive skills, rather than the ability to shoot people in the head. This seems like the real future of gaming and AI–finding ways to create online environments that engage players holistically, both affectively and intellectually, within and outside of the game. I do think that games have the potential to do this, just as movies and books do. I’m very interested to see where they head in the next ten to twenty years.
That said, there’s a recent article in Wired dismissing Second Life as “deserted, almost creepy.” Apparently marketing efforts in SL haven’t been paying off, and a large number of avatars are abandoned shortly after being created.
On the other hand, there’s also this article in Yahoo! News, about a video game that gives players identities as immigrants in the U.S., and then makes them navigate through the difficulties that many immigrants face–deportation or scrutiny for minor infractions, inability to appeal, etc. To my mind, this is in the same category as the video game Darfur is Dying, created by a group of college students and sponsored by MTV. Both games (as well as a second one about the Arab-Israeli conflict, mentioned in the Yahoo! News article) are designed to educate people about an issue in an accessible, engaging way. And, if my experience with the World Traveler IQ widget in Facebook is anything to go by, they may do a very good job of teaching. My geographic knowledge has increased a lot (3 points!) since I started playing that addictive little game.