For the odd person that doesn't know what a lingua franca is, it is an alternative means of communications (language or otherwise) to what is normal for the people communicating. For example, English currently serves as the lingua franca of international business and diplomacy - primarily because of the American global economic impact - and other countries have attuned for that. When countries and businesses internationally talk business, they do it in English. A lingua franca is kind of like a reserve, or go-to, means of communication when all else fails.
Bing Gordon, the legendary video game exec, has called gaming a "social lingua franca" where millions of people go to share experiences, and start and continue connections with people. Surely games are still the purest form of entertainment, and players may not even realize it, but through all the trash-talk and profanity, they are communicating through a means they never normally would. It's an amazing thing how much gaming can bring people together - especially couples.
He likened the rise of this phenomenon to the rise of interactive PC games, when back in the 80s PC was never seen as an interactive platform. The one reference he makes is to FarmVille: "Facebook is not designed to be an interactive app host. There is still some awkwardness to it." And there is, as most gamers feel uneasy about playing the game, but it is bringing completely different people to enjoy and celebrate the same experience. And that to me it is an amazing thing.
I shouldn't even be comparing myself to Mr. Gordon as he is legendary in the industry on both the business and development side of things - but I have seen this also. Normally, and especially on Xbox Live where this is commonplace, you would never see a 13-year-old and an adult who had no previous relationship argue about anything. This is sad, of course, to hear this stuff, but it does happen, and on first-person shooters these kind of confrontations have become notorious. But these two individuals are communicating when they normally wouldn't, and that is a perfect example of what Mr. Gordon is talking about. Simply put, video gaming is acting as a link or a common focus between people, and this is seen in MMOs quite a bit. People who have had no past contact coordinating twenty-five people who have also probably never met each other in real life.
And the best example of all, is the rise of realistic, interactive digital worlds like Second Life. In this game players create pixelated avatars in their own image or not, and can basically live life as he/she sees fit - date, own a business, go to work; the game is a dumbed-down version of Surrogates, or the Sims on crack.
But the real question, and one I think all people that play video games should ask themselves, is if this idea catches on, what else is gaming capable of? What else can gaming turn into? I can't wait to find out.