In the August Popular Science you can find "Is Science Fiction About to Go Blind?" A fun and thoughtful read that claims Sci-Fi -- once the domain of fresh thinking and edgy choices about imminent possibilities -- has gone soft, safe, and docile:
...(To) imagine the relatively near-term future... is a strangely courageous act, because modern science fiction is facing a crisis of confidence. The recent crop of stories mostly take the form of fantasy (elves and wizards), alternate history (what if the Black Death had been deadlier?) and space operas about interstellar civilizations in the year 12,000 (which typically gloss over how those civilizations evolved from ours). Only a small cadre of technoprophets is attempting to extrapolate current trends and imagine what our world might look like in the next few decades. “We’re staring into a fogbank,”
What is this "crisies of confidence?" Perhaps it stems from an inability or unwillingness by writers to attempt some of the hardest work in the genre: reason, imagine, and distill crisp storylines from the zany, paranoid, mixed-up, internet-speed details of our lives extrapolated in short fictional bursts from today.
Likewise, could our virtual worlds be similarly better served by greater world-building imaginative discipline? In other words, the question should never really about how to map proven team dynamics (e.g. Healer-Tanker-Nuker-Mezzer) into a "futuristic" setting, but should be about asking how to imagine real, touchable worlds, and then worry the dynamics:
... futuristic science fiction isn’t just about understanding relativity and estimate the approximate surface area of a solar-sail spacecraft capable of traveling at half the speed of light. You have to factor in politics and civil rights too. You have to think long and hard about the capabilities of a robotic pet cat with human-level intelligence, and then you have to ask whether it should have the right to vote.
I believe there is something deeper here than just Science Fiction and Sci-Fi worlds. Is it about building virtual worlds, imagined or not, that are palpable and exciting for their own sake. Should we try to get those right first, and hope for a game... or do we aim for the game and hope for the world. In the end, does the latter represent a creative pragmatism doomed to timidity? Or, alternatively, is the former wildly dangerous, but exciting?