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The Games People Play

By July 21, 2016No Comments

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, and whether we like it or not, Pokémon GO is upon us. For those who haven’t seen the swarms of smartphone-clutching zombies schlepping around a town near you, Pokémon GO uses your phone to create an augmented reality where “trainers” (that’s you) can catch Pokémon placed in various locations. The downloads and usage stats have been insane, eclipsing Tinder, Twitter, and steamrolling pretty much every social channel in front of it. Even to google “Pokémon GO” you’ll need several days to deal with the deluge of lazy journalism covering players getting run over, Pokémon drinking games, Pokémon dating apps, Pokémon addiction, and even people charging you money to show you how to use a f*cking app. Before the year is out, there’ll be a Herald article about a couple marrying who met whilst capturing an AR pixelated Goblin in the Domain. Mark my words.

In a similarly predictable fashion, countless recruitment blogs and LinkedIn click-bait fodder have and will be written with titles such as “10 things Pokémon GO taught us about Millennials”. There will also be a meme set to “inspirational” stock photography claiming that the creator is 92 and went bankrupt 2 years ago, only to find success through “never giving up”.

There have been however, a few posts around the practical uses of Pokémon GO to source candidates. New Zealand’s own Chris South somewhat facetiously suggested there could be future opportunities for us millennial-candidate short recruiters. Avvo, a US online legal services tech start up is even putting this to the test. By purchasing “lures” via in-app purchasing, they hope to attract rare Pokémon, which in turn will attract tech-savvy candidates to their offices. A long shot at best, and I’d be interested to see if they attract the IT talent they want, or like Aotea Square currently, will just fill the office up with spatially unaware Chinese people. Similarly, A US blogger with a slight aversion to paragraphs suggested that by hanging around the Amazon offices chasing what I can only describe as hairless digital squirrels, he’d be able to engage with Java developers. I think he’s oversimplifying “engaging” to be honest. Yes, there may be a talent pool in the vicinity, but what will his opening gambit be? “Hey mate, send me your CV and I’ll show you my Wigglytuff”.

What Pokémon GO has given us however, is what the likes of FourSquare,  promised; a geolocational app with huge engagement. The app hasn’t even launched in Japan , the country that gave us Pokemon yet. And with the Japanese psyche being what it is, I suggest we all stock up on high end appliances now. That country is about to come to a Pikachu inspired standstill. Give it two weeks,  and we’ll have middle aged business execs dressed as Charmanders uploading bass guitar solos onto YouTube.


*As an aside, Air New Zealand “gamified” there talent attraction and screening this week, with a perhaps overly-long online questionnaire to uncover “fit”. I tried to complete it, but four hours later, it still seems to be calculating my results. I suppose this is the equivalent of not hearing back from a recruitment agency? Give it a go though, it seems to be working for everyone else.

For recruiters, it would seem that like sourcing candidates and clients through twitter, many of us will be trying to hammer, batter, and cram this technology into a sales and sourcing strategy. Businesses large and small are in-app purchasing lures to bring players to their place of business. Coffee shops, insurance companies, and no doubt recruitment firms are trying to attract foot traffic in the hope that it’ll reach a Ruby on Rails developer. Currently, it’s easy to be skeptical. The people I see playing Pokémon GO around Auckland’s CBD don’t look old enough to buy a car, let alone insure one. However, as per usual, the stats say I’m wrong. Apparently 40% of  players are 25 or older. Food for thought.

What I do like however, is that it’s actually refreshingly old school. Like the recruiter creeping around the Amazon campus, we may be using technology to find these people, but we’re having to connect with them in person. When I started in recruitment, my girlfriend had just started her career as an HR nobody in an investment bank in the City of London. One day an email went round; “There are recruiters in the lobby and outside, handing business cards out to all ABN Ambro employees.”  Y’see, back then, it was the other way round. People working in investment banks were the Pokémon, us recruiters were the trainers, and we didn’t need a smart phone to find them. Like cocaine dealers, we’d just go to poncey bars in the Square Mile, or hand our cards out to anyone in a nice suit. The best “trainers” bought a Range Rover Sport and a flat in Fulham. Good times.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The creators have done the hard bit. There have been over 10 million downloads, whilst only being released in 31 countries, and there’s most of Asia still to go at. What remains to be seen is how the rest of us will use this game, and the others that will undoubtedly follow, to make a buck or two in our own industry.

Have fun weekend, and let me know if you come across an Articuno.