Are online games the future of graduate recruitment?

From the moment I first picked up the controller of a Nintendo Entertainment System as a wide-eyed youngster, I understood the impact that computer games would have on my life. Never has there been an invention, a medium, more detrimental to personal success and aspirations. Their power lies in their ability to create a false sense of achievement whereas in reality you have achieved nothing; the fact that you managed to complete Metal Gear Solid in less than three hours is not going to help you in your quest for success. So when I heard that L’Oreal had created an online ‘business’ game to aid their graduate recruitment, I thought that this is it, it’s finally here: a productive computer game.

Reveal is the latest in a long line of ‘business games’ produced by L’Oreal, to aid them in their bid to attract the hottest graduate talent. Dubbed ‘the first multi-vocation talent detector’, it claims to separate the wheat from the chaff whilst suggesting possible livelihoods for the player. During the game, the hapless applicant takes the role of a new recruit at L’Oreal’s Head Office in Paris. Here they are set a variety of tasks by a group of increasingly bizarre characters, supposed to address several potential career paths. There appear to be many evangelists who believe that this technology is ‘the future’, whereas others have dismissed the process as a gimmick. I decided that the only way in which I could pass judgement was to give it a go myself.

The first thing that struck me about Reveal is its distinct style. Somewhere between Pokémon and semi-erotic manga, I couldn’t seem to fathom the link between the game and L’Oreal, stylistically speaking. The result is a game in which the L’Oreal testing labs are portrayed as a place of a truly threatening and nefarious nature, and I was left wondering when I was going to have to save the world from a debilitating super virus; albeit one that leaves you with gloriously, silky, smooth hair of course.

Upon beginning the game, I needed to assign myself an avatar. Most of the options were of fairly standard fair but one in particular stood out.

What I can only assume to be a product of L’Oreal’s animal testing in the early 80s; I was amazed to see that these animals are now being considered for graduate marketing roles. That aside, in choosing this as my on-screen icon, I’m moderately sure that I have been disregarded from the hiring process before it has even begun.

The other characters didn’t appear to fair much better with notable mentions going to a facsimile of Brittany Spears in the video for Toxic, and a cone-headed barman named Tim.

The ‘game’ itself played out a little like a cross between Broken Sword and a choose-your-own-adventure novel, extra points if you know what either of those are. You are required to question characters for information and scour rooms for clues, whilst every now and then being asked droll questions about account management. The game feels drawn out and monotonous, and after playing for half an hour I felt as though I would have preferred the questions without all of the contrived dialogue.

This is clearly a brazen attempt to be ‘down with the kids’ with the tagline for the whole project (What R U up 4?) being excruciatingly cringe-worthy. I acknowledge the attempt to make recruitment a more exciting process, but judging by this wayward effort there is still a lot of work to be done.

Thomas Riegel, L’Oreal’s director of recruitment explains the motivation behind the project: “We had the idea because the concept of the ideal career path has changed from 10 years ago. Then the goal was to become a senior manager on a steep career ladder; today, it’s flexibility. Graduates want to choose when and how they work, and don’t necessarily want to be in an office face-to-face with colleagues.” This may be true, but I personally like recruitment to be concise and to the point. The game draws out the process and takes the total time of application to upwards of an hour. I’d rather spend this time crafting intelligent and relevant answers instead of ordering imaginary beverages in a cafeteria.

Riegal goes on to say that “students in the UK don’t do many internships and often don’t have a clear idea of what’s available to them.” I think that this is slightly naive of him as students and graduates are increasingly partaking in internships as a way of bridging the gap between university and their first job. Inspiring Interns offer internships over a variety of sectors, the majority of which can lead to full time employment; all without the aid of a pink critter and an insufferable barman.