One of the challenges with AGI research is the holistic nature of the goal: it's nearly impossible to make significant progress by narrowly focusing on a single aspect of cognition. Perception/recognition, actions/behaviors, emotions/pleasure/pain, memory, consciousness/metaconsciousness/self-awareness are all integral components of the cognitive process. Because of this complexity and interdependence, some researchers espouse the embodiment argument, which states that an AI system must be situated in some physical (or physically simulated) structure to achieve true cognition. The argument is that, for animals, the body plays such a critical role in shaping cognitive function that it will be nearly impossible to replicate successful cognition in computational systems without including some type of body implementation.
Historically, researchers have turned to robotics to satisfy their embodiment needs. I, however, am a fan of simulations, which have many advantages (including cost and simplicity) over hardware robotics. Furthermore, I believe that relatively simple simulation systems such as gaming frameworks could provide an excellent testing ground for various cognitive theories.
Imagine a cognitive implementation of the mind, where each item in a low-level sensory array (think of groups of nerve endings in your hands, or the optic nerves in your eyes) was simply assigned to parts of a 3D model in something like the Unreal Engine. When the 3D model encounters objects in its simulated world (by bumping into them, or having them enter its field of vision) it can select and perform actions in the world, creating the feedback loop necessary for learning to occur. The complexity of the arrangement could easily be scaled up or down as one's research dictates and hardware capabilities allow. Furthermore, the simulator could (and should) be built in a decoupled way, such that the cognitive implementation (the "brain") could be unplugged and easily swapped with another in order to test various implementations.
Think it sounds silly to use games for serious research? Cyril Brom, from Charles University in Prague has in fact already pursued significant research along these lines.