Kleiner Perkins Partner Bing Gordon: LinkedIn Is A Game, And Your Job Will Be Gamified

"Gamification is a system of creating meaning," the venture capitalist tells Fast Company. When done right, it helps people to do their work better.

It's hard to say whether Bing Gordon grew up with gaming or gaming grew up with Bing Gordon.

After a youth spent ranging about--hitchhiking to every state aside from Hawaii--he became a part of video game history with Electronic Arts in 1982. He grew with the gaming company that became a juggernaut, presiding as chief creative officer from 1998 to 2008, when he left to join Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the mega VC firm that, fittingly enough, invested in EA back in '82.

Bing Gordon

Now Bing--who's contributed to Fast Company--sees how everything is becoming gamified, including your (and my) career, as he recently explained to us. Below we pick up just after I ask Bing if LinkedIn is a game--to which he replied with a "yeah" and a look of surprise, so startling was my naiveté.

He then proceeded to drop more digitized knowledge. Enjoy.

LinkedIn uses that completion bar for filling out your profiles as an automator and it works.

Of course you want to fill out something--and what do I get for it? LinkedIn doesn't give you scoring system, but if you pay premium you get access to more data so other people can score you.

I think we're seeing that mass market education has been a game for a long time and the scoring system is grades which are arbitrarily made up and sold convincingly to the participants as if they mattered. Then there's a kind of survival game for the whole institution. The currency in the education system is grades.

One of the things we found about online games is you always need to have two currencies. One currency is usually respect or fame and another one; one is based on time and the impact and the other is based personal achievement. The education game doesn't really have two currencies for the user yet. It has lasted surprisingly long.

Journalism is becoming increasingly gamified

...and we see journalists have to act like machine learners with success based on clicks. At its worst machine learning can lead to spam, because (with) machine learning, it tends to be easier to gauge results in the short term. You know, we've depended on humanists for long-term scoring systems, and it's very difficult to get long-term scoring systems built into the machine. It's personality and values that create it.

I'm optimistic that long-term value creation is going to be metered in the short term and it's going to emerge. I think it's actually right now it's an art to be able to do it. I think it's going to increasing quantifiable.

The way you could tell somebody who does it is if they can talk in a thoughtful way about value creation in the instant, and Jeff Bezos talks about it as measuring inputs, not outputs. So can you figure out what are important in inputs--and you can measure the inputs per cycle, get it measured on a computer in milliseconds, microseconds. You can measure it inter-personally. I think it was at the Atlantic (note: it was the New Yorker), maybe four years ago, trying to compare the difficulty of picking a good schoolteacher and the difficulty of picking a good NFL quarterback.

It turns out, put a camera on our schoolteacher, they seem to keep all their students in the moment, as if they have eyes in the back of their head. I think it's going to turn out to be very scalable. In games, you think about World of Warcraft, you think about Madden, every game cycle you can create experience value. So you get instant feedback about how you're doing there (note: that's the essence of intelligence and habit formation, too), you get instant feedback what's going on. In The Sims, in every relationship moment, a score comes out of it.

I suspect we're going to increasingly see that in other walks of life.

You're going to be able to tell. So, a next generation you is going to show up, somebody is going to go "Well dude, you get a raise if somebody likes you and you gotta get some stories published and don't suck or I'll have to fire ya." That's usually what you get in a job like yours when you show up. Somebody goes, "get to a million points this year." And you go, "How do I do that?" and they say "You know, go look at the FAQ and you'll figure it out."

And how do you get it? Well, you know, every article published you get a point a word. Every link to it gets a 10% multiplier and if you get an award on it, you get a Pulitzer, that's a million points right there. You get nominated, that's a million points. You win it, its 5 million points, so basically you can do nothing for four years.

Then you say, "What do I get when I get a million points?" And they say,"You level up, you get a +1 sword which is a byline," and then you get "Okay, that's kind of cool," and then at some point you go "You know what? Now that I got the +1 sword I want to change the rules slightly because the architecture of the scoring missed a little bit."

Because it turns out, well, I was getting a million points and I am in this beat and I didn't get the scoop or I didn't get the great article. We have to put that in. Or maybe I got a million but somebody else might, same job, somebody else got 10, "I didn't know 10 was possible. Nobody told me 10 was possible."

If you clearly define those kinds of metrics, people's likelihood of success goes up.

If they are under age 35, actually no, even old people get it--they know how to beat the Medicare system--and if you can make it clear to understand.

Now your hope is the rule system you have and the feedback system you have, the feedback is clear and the rules are appropriate.

If you came into a job and somebody said, "A million points? 500,000 as if I like you." It's like oh, shit. And you say, "What do I have to do to for you to like me?" Well, a bottle of wine every Monday would help and it's like "you mean, so the number of clicks on my articles or the Pulitzer of the business journalist work, none of that matters? "Yeah, It's worth kind of half but if I don't like it you're gone." It's like ew, gross, but thanks for telling me.

[Image: Dmitrii Vlasov on Shutterstock]

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