I began playing World of Warcraft when I was a suit for Pearson. Though I worked my way up to a L20-something Paladin, the daily 4 hours as a commuter and on the phone, and 10 hours at the computer and on the phone killed my interest in grinding higher. Still, WoW was compelling and deep, and I acknowledge was my gateway drug to playing and working with the new – and next – generation of MMORPGs and virtual worlds.

From the beginning I saw beyond games’ entertainment value to their high potential to be used as teaching and learning simulations. That led me to the first several Serious Game Summits that were held in Crystal City, MD just across from the Pentagon. From the spook-to-wonk ratio of attendees there, it was clear the military-industrial complex was on to the potential of games to train, too. In a Presidential season with both sides all puffed up about their ability to defend the country, the constitution and the borders, Wired reports today that:

American military and intelligence communities are increasingly worried that would-be bin Ladens might gather in a virtual world, to plan a real-life attack. But the spies haven’t given many details, about how it might be done. Now, a Pentagon researcher has laid out how such a terror plot might unfold. The planning ground is World of Warcraft. The main target of this possibly nuclear strike: the White House.

There’s been no public proof to date of terrorists hatching plots in virtual worlds. But online spaces like World of Warcraft are making some spooks, generals and Congressmen extremely nervous. They imagine terrorists rehearsing attacks in these worlds, just like the U.S. military trains with commercial shoot-em-up games. They worry that the massively multiplayer games make it incredibly easy to gather plotters from around the world. But, mostly, virtual worlds are nerve-wracking to spies because they’re so hard to monitor. The accounts are pseudonymous. The access is global. The jargon is thick. And most of the spy agencies’ employees aren’t exactly level-70 shamans. Continues here >>>

At first I rolled my eyes thinking here’s more fodder for the haters to bash all video games. But all that palaver about terrorists training in WoW got me to wondering: which Presidential or VP candidate can see WoW’s nefarious underworld better from their home state: Obama-Biden or McBush-Impalin?

More importantly does saying you can see something — Russia, polar bears thriving in the melt, or World of Warcraft — mean you understand its subtleties and nuance, or is that only maya, the dangerous illusion?