Just finished Ender's Game. All throughout it, I could not help but reminisce about the hours spent in Descent and Quake III Arena and the spatial awareness they hammered into me (I was never a top player, but I always had this knack for hitting opponents with well-aimed rockets, even if we were both in mid-air...).
It made me realize how I missed squad games. Free-for-alls are fun, sure, but playing CTF in the space maps against other human players was the most fun I ever had in front of a computer. It wasn't the kind of game where strategy could be finely honed, but it sure made you develop quick assessment and tactical skills.
But even if you de-emphasise the Battle Room, the book is very good indeed - my only regret is that it took me so long to finally get to read it. I understand how it may seem scary, inhuman and militaristic to some, but Ender's internal strife drives home the point that kids do know there is a lot more to things besides games.
And yes, I believe that kids what are not coddled into self-indulgence do think that way - it's just as stupid to assume children can't understand what's happening around them as it is monstrous to train them for battle.
But the truly interesting part is when you start trying to match our current reality to the book. Besides the eerie similarity of the "public nets" to political blogging, take America's Army, for instance.
I will leave you to make up your own mind about it (as always), but it does smack of the Battle Room more than a bit. A distributed, worldwide, virtual Battle Room that may be the training grounds for quite a few Enders.
For the record, I think that any kid with enough brains and freedom to think for him/herself will be able to distinguish between a game (any game) and reality - and that pretty much all of them will reach much the same conclusions as Ender did regarding warfare.
But I will leave the matter at that, since there is plenty of evidence lying around that we, as a society, have a very broad spectrum of opinions regarding how best to rear our young...