For the last few years, the buzzword for game engine design has been physics, but most games didn't use it for anything more than the most basic eye-candy. HL2 showed that the model itself could actually be fun and interesting as part of the gameplay. I like to imagine doing the same thing for other fields - chemistry, for example, which has never been one of my strong subjects but would almost certainly make for amazing puzzles a la MacGyver. To some degree, this progression is already taking place; what's Spore but an expansive biology toy?
A fun and thought provoking read, even for those of us who run screaming from labs of any kind. Give me musty library stacks any day.
Anomalous Materials [The Escapist]