How many high schoolers can visualize the daily challenges of a career in the offshore oil industry? Probably very few, which renders a thriving industry virtually invisible to up-and-comers. (Or visible only through the negative limelight of an oil spill. Do you think BP is a fan of the phrase, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?”)

For oil giant Maersk, this widespread unfamiliarity, compounded with a tidal wave of retirement, exposes a clear recruitment problem.

But Maersk isn’t just going to twiddle their thumbs and wait for their talent pool to dry up. To prevent a possible worker shortage, the company has invested in the creation of a video game geared toward young people. (They used a high school science class as their test audience and it went over like gangbusters.) Call it gamification, or recruitment genius, or educational aide, but it's definitely not just "for fun." Quest for Oil simulates the types of decisions that employees – from all areas of the company – confront on a daily basis, while dazzling players with lifelike seascapes and letting them operate “the latest” technological equipment. Players immerse themselves in geography (locating oil fields), law (securing licenses), geology (analyzing seismic data), and engineering/machination (precise subsurface drilling) – all while racing against the clock and other players.

Accompanied by urgent, futuristic music (and a voiceover that rivals this iconic voice of 80s action movies), the trailer emphasizes the game's challenging, time-sensitive atmosphere:

“The North Sea – freezing winds and lashing waves – a place fit to challenge the very best we can set against it. Qatar – blazing sun and crystal clear waters – here, too, we find conditions to test the very best we can offer. And despite appearances, working here is even more difficult than the North Sea"

From a gaming standpoint, the pitch makes perfect sense, since gamers are always looking for a challenge.

From a recruitment standpoint, however, insistence on a high level of difficulty is an interesting move. If what they hope comes true -- that gamers make the leap into real life and become candidates -- the drama becomes a drawback. Freezing winds and lashing waves? I’m guessing there are few job seekers who crave high-stress situations or nasty weather. I think most people enjoy reasonable challenges in their careers, just not the same types of challenges they would confront with a virtual buffer in place.

For instance, if we apply the strategy from the trailer above, is Deadliest Catch a recruitment show for the king crab fishing industry? No, probably not -- though it might be for the show itself. Is Ice Road Truckers geared toward potential drivers? Nope. Of course, adventure will always be attractive for a select few thrill-seekers. But if the careers at Maersk are all presented as cutthroat and dangerous, does the game's message have broad enough appeal?

I find a different recruitment message of theirs far more convincing, but it's hidden in the fine print in their press kit:

We have jobs for all of you. Growth as far as the eye can see and plenty of work opportunities. The offshore industry is a rare ray of hope in a time of low growth and a scarcity of new jobs."

Maybe what I find appealing (job security!) differs from what high schoolers value (fun, excitement). Or maybe I'm just chicken.

Tags: News, Maersk, Quest for OIl, Oil and gas industry, BP, Gamification, Video game, North Sea, Qatar, Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers