In the ABC Fora podcast Serious Gaming , Ian Bogost commented about the role of video games.
He claims that video games are the one form of modern media that embraces complexity rather than shying away from it. The key characteristics of video games are modelling, role playing and world building.
I found his comments on role playing to be the most insightful. He says that an important aspect is to experience what it is like to be constrained by the rules that the role implies. I can see that as a useful dynamic in my 12-year old son's life. As he plays various computer games, he is forced to work within tight boundaries to reach some pre-specified goal. In doing so, he is hopefully building an ability to empathise. He is brought up will such affluence and power that he could easily be blind to the constraints most people experience. Short of an immersive cross-cultural experience, a role-playing computer game may be his best chance to appreciate what its like to maintain a will to succeed and avoid despair in the face of limited choices.