My 6-year old has discovered "Animal Crossing, City Folk" for the Nintendo Wii. Although he's always enjoyed playing video games like his big brothers, this is the first game that inspires him to compete for time on the console with the big boys. It's also one game that I'm more than happy to let him play extensively.
For any of you not familiar with the Animal Crossing franchise, it's basically a role-playing game in which you can farm, raise animals, sell and trade goods, and otherwise just work your way around a little, vaguely anime world. Interestingly, the game appeals to all of my kids, ages 6-16, who can interact in increasingly sophisticated ways with other characters and other friends over WiFi.
My point here, though, is that Animal Crossing has my little guy reading. He likes to read anyway and has recently discovered Junie B. Jones and the Magic Treehouse series. However, in Animal Crossing, he needs to read and comprehend to be able to make his way around town and accomplish the various tasks required to advance in the game. The game itself is fairly open-ended, so there is a lot of reading that can be done.
I'm not saying that Animal Crossing represents the latest in literacy software or RTI methodology. However, games that not only get kids reading, but require a reasonable degree of comprehension; and don't involve blood, gore, sex, or drug use; and appeal to a broad range of ages; and include facilities for writing and communication are worth our consideration as educators.
Games like these are especially important for kids who don't like to read. My 6-year old asks to stay up later at night so that he can read longer. That is unfortunately not the attitude of many of his peers and only becomes more rare as kids get older. Yet literacy is so vitally important to everything they will encounter in school and beyond, I say break out the games if they inspire them to read.