The Average Gamer

Portal As A Recruitment Tool

Portal_LogoI hate recruitment. Job interviews make me incredibly nervous. Normally I babble like an idiot without really being able to focus on where my speech is going. This week I tried a different tack – I stuck to concise on-topic answers and when the 4-strong panel started nodding and writing things down, I stopped expanding on my answer. As a result, I am “guarded” and “low on client empathy” :P

Even worse than job interviews are those psychometric tests and assessment days that are so popular among banks for their graduate recruitment programmmes. Multiple-choice personality questions? Shoving a bunch of 20-somethings into direct competition and making them work as a team? Urgh.

I propose that we do away with these sorts of assessments entirely. Instead, all candidates should be made to play through the whole of Portal.

No, I’m serious. Stay with me here… no spoilers, I promise. See, the advantage of Portal as a recruitment tool is that it guides you through the mechanics of the gameplay. It’s completely newbie-friendly; there are no stupid QTE sections, the controls are simple and unlike, say, Final Fantasy, you’re never dropped into a situation that’s way too powerful for you.

Once you’ve been shown the basics and “thinking with portals”, you’re left to progress in your own time and put together the skills you’ve learned in order to solve practical puzzles. This is where the game becomes extremely useful as a microcosm of the decision-making business environment.

I finished playing Portal and then watched several other people do it. In doing so, I noticed three distinct styles of play.

The Brute Force Approach

Brute Forcers don’t really get the hang of thinking with portals. Unless forced to do otherwise, they stick to the most familiar options – walk through walls or fall from ceilings. The first solution that comes to mind will be a tried and trusted standby. If it doesn’t work, repeat and run faster this time. Only after many failed attempts do they start considering the differences between this environment and the last.

Advantages: Quick to act.
Disadvantages: Slow to try new things. Not good at creating innovative solutions.

The Analyser

Analysers stop and look around before doing anything. They consider a range of possible solutions before trying one out. If that doesn’t work as expected, they’ll take into account any new information and try something else.

Advantages: Careful, thorough decision-maker. Likely to come up with new ideas.
Disadvantages: Slow to act. Familiar problems may be solved slower due to overanalysis.

The Chancer

A chancer will guess based on how similar to to a previously-solved problem the new puzzle appears at first glance. They won’t necessarily search to see if anything is different. If the most “obvious” solution doesn’t work, they’ll try a few different ones. Only after exhausting the known repertoire will they start to analyse a new situtation.

Advantages: Quick to act.
Disadvantages: Can proceed rapidly down the wrong path. May not notice problems until it’s too late.

What do you think? Is your in-game decision-making process different from real life?

One Comment

  1. Mr Butterscotch

    9th Feb, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    My game related decision making is completely different to my real-life choices. In games, as no-one really gets hurt, I tend to have a blast running through it head first until it stops working. In real life, I’m far more measured in my approach. I suppose it comes with the territory given how much copy I write.