REDWOOD CITY, Calif.
Bing Gordon is 53, happily married, two daughters. In other words, he is not what you expect when imagining the hard-core computer gamer who's awake at 3 a.m., living it up on Earth & Beyond, an online role-playing sci-fi galaxy reminiscent of the Final Frontier.
In this world -- where the Asteroid Belt Alpha is the Route 66 of the solar system, where interaction with other players is key -- you can be a warrior, an explorer, a tradesman.
Pointing the way: William "Bing" Gordon, whose creativity has helped make Electronic Arts the world's leading interactive game publisher.
(Randi Lynn Beach For The Washington Post)
Gordon plays a tradesman, building and trading equipment for spaceships. But when he ran into a problem, trying to build a shield during one of his sessions, he asked for help. So 25-year-old Karim Mahrous, a fellow tradesman, stepped in. For more than three months -- several times a week, sometimes way beyond midnight -- the two played Earth & Beyond.
Gordon, as he tells it, was impressed at how good Mahrous was; Mahrous, as he tells it, was first skeptical of Gordon.
Is this guy in a midlife crisis, glued to a game this late?
"He asked me what I was interested in," Mahrous remembers of that night in February 2003. " 'Video games,' I typed.
"Then he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. 'Play video games,' I typed.
"Then he started questioning my school background," says Mahrous.
"Then he said I should apply to Electronic Arts.
" 'Yes, I have,' I typed with a winky face, sort of like a joke, 'but nobody wants me there.' "
Gordon typed back, "I know some people."
William "Bing" Gordon is standing in the star-studded studio lobby of Electronic Arts -- the world's leading interactive game publisher, a surefire hitmaker in the $7 billion industry.
There's Aragorn with a sword, 007 with a gun, Tiger with a golf club.
But the real star, at least in the hallways here, is Gordon himself. The chief creative officer is decked out in green cargo pants, matching black, pink and green shirt and socks, and doing his jaw thing, unlocking it and locking it as he speaks in a low, grainy voice. "Be lifestyle," he says, "to make lifestyle."