1. Thomas D, Brown JS. Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter. International Journal of Learning and Media. 2009;1(1):37-49. Available at: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/ijlm.2009.0008.
A paper that looks at the value of virtual worlds (primarily focussing on MMOGs like World of Warcraft, Eve online and Second Life - although I still contend that Second Life doesn't come close to being a game) as social educational environments. These games are selected because players can create, change and evolve the game world. Focusses not only on the 3D worlds, but also the message boards, wikis etc that are created around the edges of the game.
Discusses the way that learning to play the game is an inversion of the normally accepted learning method of 'learning about' and then 'learning to be'. When you play a MMOG you spend the first x levels finding out how to be your character, rather than learning about your character and then learning how to be it.
Also talks about the idea of a 'networked imagination' - using the example of a guild in World of Warcraft. I _think_ the idea is that a group of people (or network) imagine or understand the game the same way - they build their view of the game together, by playing the group missions, developing guild rules etc.
Introduces the idea of 'conceptual blending' in MMOGs, where rather than keeping real life and virtual life separate, players blend their perception of both. So they are easily capable of processing that they are both sitting in front of a computer and taking part in a raiding party. This suggests that things that teh player tries via their avatar can have a direct effect on their real-life attitude/learning, and that the player-outside-the-game can use that position to learn things to have an effect on how the player-in-the-game does things. Got a bit complex, and I think I might need to follow up on the references in this area!
There is an interesting idea about how when players struggle to do something and then it's suddenly easy they reflect on what's happened to analyse it and try to use it again. Might be worth following up to see if we can use this in our game to bring in any aspect of reflection?