I just watched this TED Talk by Jane McGonigal called “Gaming can make a better world.” McGonigal outlines how Gaming (and Gamers) can save the world. You should watch this TED Talk in it's entirety but I have taken the liberty to aggregate McGonigal's points for you:
Urgent Optimism: Gamers always believe an epic win is possible;
Social Fabric: Gaming builds strong social relationships;
Blissful Productivity: Gamers are willing to work hard all the time if they are given the right work; and
Epic Meaning: Gamer's love to be attached to awe inspiring missions and epic stories.
McGonigal says this adds up to Gamers being super empowered hopeful individuals who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. To harness this power of thought, we just have to convince them to look past the virtual world to the real life problems of this world.
But I think the challenge would also be to change the opinions of the old school people who would be hard pressed to understand why they should value or empower this type of behaviour. While I believe Gamers (like McGonigal suggests) would happily rise to a global challenge, the virtual world remains the most comfortable place to turn when a person finds little value or satisfaction in mundane workplaces were employers will never value their skills (or recognize their potential). When people are only cogs in a money making machine why would they bother to innovate at work - especially when the rewards from gaming are so much more enjoyable and readily available.
I do think McGonigal is onto something here... but I wonder how will we convince the grown ups that they should let us play?