In the early 2000s, the US Army faced a big challenge. It needed to provide more information to prospective soldiers and reduce the number of recruits who leave during the nine weeks of basic training. In the terms that a corporate recruiter would understand, it needed to attract and select the “best-fit” candidates.
The Army found its answer in gamification. In 2002 it launched a promotional-cum-recruiting tool where candidates can download a free game called “America’s Army” (see screenshot above) and test their skills in a multiplayer first-person shooter environment to see if they’re soldier material.
America’s Army grew far beyond the original vision. Dozens of simulation applications using the platform have been developed to train soldiers. America’s Army has also been used to create a virtual experiences of being a soldier to participants at recruitment events, such as air shows and festivals. It has been licensed for Xbox, arcade and mobile applications.
More than 13 million players have registered America’s Army accounts over the years, with more than 260 million hours played on the various titles. There are thousands of players online at any time. It has been covered in thousands of media stories around the world and received many gaming industry accolades, such as “Most Realistic Game,” “Best Game of the Year,” and “Most Downloaded Game.”
And, best of all, it works. America’s Army serves the purpose for which it was designed. It’s a cost-effective marketing tool to promote the US Army and increase the number of recruits. “It provides great information,” said one teen. “This would probably spark an interest. I don’t know how I would have found out so much some other way.”
And as one game reviewer said succinctly, “Nothing beats going in and seeing what the Army really does … without actually having to do it.”
Of course, a virtual game is only a game and hardly reflects the real nature of combat. But it does seem to be an effective way to offer a glimpse into the Army experience and attract more recruits who find that experience appealing.
Multimedia Simulation Is Effective, But Costly
The US Army was groundbreaking in its use of multimedia simulation but, for many other organizations around the world, the usefulness of simulation for recruiting or talent assessment has barely been tapped. Simulating real-life job situations in a virtual environment will provide a realistic preview of the job. Just as the US Army has seen, simulations will help select applicants who are drawn to the type of role being simulated, and give them a better feel for what to expect.
The possibilities of simulation for talent assessment are limited only by people’s imagination and practicality. For instance, simulations could test how candidates for a factor manager role would tackle issues on the manufacturing floor. Or how a customer service rep would handle a difficult client interaction, or an emergency.
Any system or interaction that can be simulated in audio, video and text is a possibility, as long as there is a business case for it and the simulation would provide meaningful insight about a candidate. These assessments do seem to provide better results than simply asking candidates to play games that aren’t direct simulations of the role. These simulations are more relevant to the job and so tend to be well received by job candidates.
However, designing multimedia assessment content is much more involved than designing traditional assessment content. The content must be brought to life in scripts, visuals, and audio details. Actors must be selected and scenes created, generally working with live action or animation production specialists. Content may have to be modified for different cultures, which adds yet more time and expense to the assessment development process.