It's obvious to many that gaming is here to stay. For instance, the most popular Dutch news site has a gaming section these days, and the gaming industry involves billions of dollars and euros.
And yet, games are, to many, 'just' games. It's not real, it's just a game! Well.. not entirely. It may be true for many games out there, but it's not true for MMO environments. Whether they be sandbox games like Eve Online, virtual worlds like Second Life or kid's adventures like RunEscape (which my not-yet-teenage-kids love btw), there's a human element in those games that sets them apart, elevates them from other games. It's not just you sitting behind your PC or game console; it's you and your guild members, your corporation, your enemies, your opponents and allies. There's politics, spying, buying and selling, trade and combat; there's madness, love and war, marriage and divorce, and the emotions all of these generate, the feelings involved are very real - and sometimes the monetary losses or gains are too.
This brings a human element to these environments which cannot be discounted too easily. Of course the MMO environments in which all this takes place is computer generated, and as such not 'real' in the common sense. But, more and more, I have
come to realise that there's a lot of reality embedded in these virtual worlds.
They are a canvas, upon which very real, human stories are painted.