I randomly came across a very good article about learning and games, "Public Pedagogy through Video Games," written by James Paul Gee and Elizabeth Hayes. In it, Gee and Hayes argue that today's large, complex, and multifaceted video games use myriad techniques of learning in order to make players into experts, as well as producers (rather than mere consumers). Witness the example of "Jade," a woman who ends up selling clothing to Teen Second Life participants:

Obviously, this girl had learned from her interactions with popular culture a theory of learning that she could articulate.  Such a theory could, indeed, be the beginning of discussions with this girl about learning, school, and society that could become deeply “critical,” remembering, however, that she starts from a working class position of non-affiliation with school.  The afterschool program recruited her affiliation because it deliberately avoided replicating typical school structures:  she was able to pursue learning related to her own interests, not tied to a set curricula or timeline, and thus came to a new view of herself as a learner that was not shaped entirely by the measures of school. We are not claiming this girl is a “critical thinker” or not—only that she can now most surely engage in critical discussions about learning, school, and society and that she will very much have something to say.  We won’t be able to impress her with our political views, we will have to argue for them with her.  And we may not win.

Usually, one hears accusations that video games rot the mind, take time away from real learning, and teach repetitive behaviors rather than critical thinking. While that may be true for Space Invaders, it's hard to determine who does not partake in some sort of learning when interacting with Worlds of Warcraft, The Sims, Zoo Tycoon, and the like. This article spells that out quite neatly and nicely. The real challenge is to take the example of successful game-playing learning and transfer that into a classroom-bound technique that involves students with the same energy and enthusiasm that they use to approach a Bakugan battle.