It's probably no surprise, with me slapping Dewey and Vygotsky all over my site, that I'm a fan of the whole learning-by-doing schtick. What might be less clear is what exactly constitutes "doing" these days.
Does sitting in a basement playing video games constitute doing? Oh yes it does. In some ways, it can open up a much richer learning environment in which to do (and learn) things than might otherwise be available. It's difficult to explore real caverns, lead or participate in monster-hunting expeditions, fly an airplane (or spaceship, or whatever), when you're 10 and living in a city. But to do so virtually, is very possible.
Is it important to learn these things? Well, yes and no. Learning to kill monsters isn't so useful right now, but learning to lead a group of people -- that's pretty important. And learning to think on your feet, to make do with what you have, to plan, to fail, to regroup, to try again, to persevere. These things are important. And to win the respect of real people, to be a respected person in a community -- well, I'll speak more on that when I talk about Identity.
Having said this, I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of sitting in a dark basement killing virtual monsters. I like to move my body, and I like to be outside, more connected to my environment. That's part of the reason that my research is on GPS-enabled Augmented Reality Games. In my view, it's the best of both worlds. Real landscape and virtual artifacts in a compelling narrative. At least, that's my vision of it.
Learning by doing -- broadly defined to include mixed and virtual realities. Are these good? Yes. Can they be better? Yes -- if they are physically active, and situate the body in its environment (bonus if it promotes a love and respect of nature).