Bing Gordon on videogame design thinking

May 1, 2011

Only in one universe do the world’s farms produce more strawberries than corn, rice, sugar beets or soybeans.

That universe is Farmville, the Facebook app whose other major product seems to be astonishing statistics. Statistics like that there are 30 times more people farming imaginary fields on Facebook than working on real farms in the United States. Or that the people doing that imaginary farming (including 18 million people who play this social media-based game every single day) spend 70 million hours a year doing it. Or that the company behind Farmville, Zynga, pulled down twice as much profit in 2009 as did Facebook itself.

It seems pretty safe to say that a few years ago, not a whole lot of people would’ve predicted that things would go this way. That Bing Gordon did—or more precisely, that he saw the potential in a company like Zynga to do big, counterintuitive things—is part of what makes him interesting.

Gordon spent a decade as Chief Creative Officer at Electronic Arts before moving to become a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm that had invested in EA, and is now home to the much-discussed iFund, which specifically aims at innovations for the iPhone and iPad. (Full disclosure: NewSchools cofounder John Doerr is also a partner at Kleiner.) Gordon, a wide-ranging intellect whose work has spanned off-Broadway acting to academia, is now an evangelist for the “videogamification of everything.” And having touched EA products from Sim City to Tiger Woods Golf, he probably has an uncommonly clear idea of what that means.

The blurring of lines between some online learning efforts and video games is a hot topic. Moreover, a cadre of education innovators is excited about new systems where students prove mastery of online lessons and earn Scouting-style “badges” for each area they’ve mastered. With ideas like these fast on the rise, the time is ripe to hear not just about how Silicon Valley is thinking about the future of games and social media, and how they intersect with education. Whether “the videogamification of everything” inspires delight or foreboding for you, it’s an important moment to hear from the leading figure in the field—not just about games, but about the entrepreneurship behind them. That’s why  Bing Gordon will be the keynote speaker on the evening before the NewSchools Summit. The talk concludes our Community of Practice Day (an event just for organizations in our philanthropic portfolio), but this event will be open to everyone attending the Summit. If you’re coming to the Summit, come hear Bing Gordon! 5 pm sharp at the Hyatt SFO.