Here's something that's been bothering me for a while about computer games in general and virtual worlds in particular.
For many years, suggestions have been made by politicians and in the media that there is a link between the playing of computer games and the committing of acts of real-world violence. They feel that if you play a violent computer game, it teaches you to be violent in reallife. Game-savvy people like us will typically regard these opinions as founded on ignorance, and argue that they should not be given credence.
One of the larger sub-branches of game research concerns educational gaming. Its premiss is that kids don't always like traditional teaching methods, but they love games, so we should design games that help teach them things. That way, learning will be fun, so children will want to learn.
Now, isn't there a contradiction here? On the one hand, we're saying that no no no, games don't teach people all those bad things, but on the other hand we're saying that yes yes yes, games do teach people all these good things. Can we really sustain both these positions? Is there something about how games teach (or how people learn) that genuinely does separate desirable from undesirable results? Or are we changing our story depending on whether we're being threatened with banning or being promised kudos?