Zer07 and I recently sat down and watched the popular, yet controversial series, "Sword Art Online." SAO is a story of a game creator gone mad who has trapped his players in a virtual world, where death in the game means death in real life.
I was a bit hesitant to watch at first because of the gaming-centric setting, but I eventually found myself getting hooked and we watched to the end with a fair sense of satisfaction. While I did enjoy SAO, I feel very conflicted about this show. I'm of the mindset that a show should attempt to be as universally accessible as possible, and as a non-gamer, I would have needed a manual to follow this show by myself. Admittedly, I'm probably not the target demographic for this show... my gaming experience is mostly limited to Bejeweled, Super Puzzle Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, and Mario Kart!!... I don't think I would have stayed with the show if I didn't have 07 next to me explaining the intricacies of MMOs. Putting aside the heavy MMO references, however, the story is pretty compelling and had me hooked. The stakes are very high with some characters undergoing interesting psychological transformations, there is a sweet romantic storyline, and the art and animation is consistently high quality.
Anime fans seem to either love or hate this show. The second half of the show was arguably weaker than the first with an introduction of an awkward sibling romance and a less entertaining gaming storyline. (While I understand why many Western viewers might have a problem with the brother-sister romance, this is actually quite a common romance sub-genre in Japanese storytelling.)
I recommend giving this show the "3 episode rule." You can check out the full 25 episodes streaming on Crunchyroll.