A lot has been said over the years regarding using games/Online Games to aid the learning of complex topics and skills. For example using Civilization III to help children develop an understanding of historial development of civilisations, or using Lord of the Rings online to aid understanding of narrative and it's development in different media.
Jane McGonigal spoke at the New Yorker conference about alternate reality/pervasive games, which can use the connecting power of the web to create Massively Multiplayer (Offline) Games. These are in some ways similar to role playing simulations that I've seen used in the past, but the emphasis is taken off role play - you play yourself in an imagined alternate reality. Looking at the example she spoke of, the game World Without Oil, it is difficult not to be impressed by the potential educational value.
In World Without Oil, instead of players playing an online game set in a virtual environment, they changed their own lives for 32 days, as they would have to if there was an oil shortage. This could be done without being based online but the fact it was, brought together 1800 people who were interested in doing this, created synergy. For example there are the videos that people made to develop this alternate reality, blogs where they shared experiences and ideas, and even personal interaction where people worked together to modify cars to run on biofuel.
Where would it be appropriate to get our students involved in things like this? Is there scholarly value in them? Do they have a place in Higher Education?