As far as what Derek was saying about "The Sims" and the like, I have to agree that there is little benefit to be derived from it.
I worked the night shift for two years at a sorta-techie job on the west side, and I worked with a lot of social outcasts/computer nerd types. I befriended a couple of the guys who worked there, but it immediately became clear that once you got them away from a computer screen, they had no social experience whatsoever. They all played "Sims" for at least three or four hours every day, and one of them frequently missed work or stayed up all night in order to "upgrade" his character. They had little to no interest in doing anything that didn't involve a computer.
The more they played the game, the less they interacted with others. The less they interacted with others, the more cynical they became of people in the outside world. The more cynical of other people they became, the more they played the game. And so on.
Civic engagement, as well as everything else, goes right out the window with these guys. Politics, religion, social issues all go right out the window. They feel so alienated from those types of discussions that they eventually just stop caring and invest more time in the games. It's a self-catalyzing system, and it's not pretty.