So by now, I assume everyone has heard of how successful MMORPG's (massively multiplayer online role playing games) have been. I've heard various stats from the real world wealth of games eclipsing real world countries, and today one of my best friends told me that the population of World of Warcraft is now higher than Norway and Denmark.
Obviously something is working right here. I don't play these games as I simply don't have the time. I used to MUD when I was in college, and I remember that being extremely addictive, even though it was simple text based games. (I used to be a coder for a few MUDs, and I thought I was quite good at it.)
So I think we can accept that MMORPGs are a "success" and are very interesting from a social, economic and even political view. Now take that and let's look at a quote from Joystiq.com article concerning what is wrong about gaming today:
Exergaming is too lame. Where's the friggin' holodeck, already? I'd happily run miles every day if I were able to run through the corridors of a Strog-infested spaceship. I'd be a black-belt in several martial arts if I could really step into Dead-or-Alive 4. I'd have abs and buns of steel if it were possible to actually play soccer, baseball, tennis or hockey in my living room.
So put this together. If we did have a holodeck type environment (for those of you aren't Star Trek nerds, think VR with a physical component), and if it were matches with a good MMORPG, it could have some interesting side effects.
Imagine if the most popular game required physical work. Could our nation, which is slowly getting too fat, slowly turn back the other way? Could these games serve as military training? It gives a whole new meaning to "militia" when you have a sizable portion of your population with reasonable combat training. (Although that would only apply to hand to hand combat, and "fighter" types. I can't see how a Mage would have any kind of real world use.)
All in all - I think the combination of VR and MMORPG could alter the basic fabric of society - once it hits a critical mass.
I'm adding a point I forgot to make clear. The idea I'm wondering about is - what if the makers of MMORPGs used their games as a way, indirectly, to push social change? This could be either for good or bad. For example, a war between humans and elves could be a indiscreet way to teach tolerance. On the other hand, other scenarios could be used to turn people against the government and encourage violence.