Brad King (EEG News) asks "Sim Simulations: Can Games Teach?" He cites a great post by Jamais Cascio ("The Map is not the Terrain; the Sim is not the City") that worries from an urban planner's perspective:
All models of reality make assumptions about reality. The better sorts of models try to make those assumptions explicit and, best of all, changeable. More worrisome are the models which hide the assumptions within swanky graphics and animations.
Also cited is this pre-release press release (Andrew Burnes, IGN) for Sim 2 University:
Players will enjoy all-new college based wants and fears that are tied to their Sims' social life and academic goals which will lead to new rewards and powers that will help them achieve their goals and aspirations in college and beyond...
Pranks, parties and college social interactions add to the excitement while your Sims explore campus locations such as college lounges, pool halls, gyms and coffee houses. As in real life, if your Sims start running low on funds, they can earn Simoleans by picking up a part time job, like tutoring, or engaging in riskier affairs like printing money as a member of the "secret society."
Considering game worlds as simulations of real-world systems and processes, is this something to which MMOG players and social systems can uniquely and advantageously contribute. In contrast to, say, NPC-driven games? Or perhaps MMOGs preoccupied with their own set of dynamics and interests: AI is craftable and controllable whereas players are numerous and distracted.
Put it another way, by the time one crafted a virtual world with the intent of simulating a city, it may be likely that they would end up creating another city, of a different sort, in a virtual space.