People who lack vision might call Pizza Hero a mere video game.
If they do, they're seeing only a slice of—no joke—what could be an extraordinary development in our society. We are talking about Pizza Hero, a pizza-making video game from Domino's that can be downloaded for free on the iPad. But we are also talking about so much more.
We are talking about a piece of software that could change how the American labor force finds work. And, if not that, it might at least change the way we order our pizzas.
Pizza Hero is ostensibly a simple pizza-making video game. (Download it for free from the App store.) The player's goal is to make pizzas quickly and tidily. You rub your fingers on the screen of an iPad to roll some dough. You slide your fingers in a few more circles to spread the sauce, then sprinkle some cheese with the tap of your fingertips. You poke toppings into place. Finally, you put the thing in the oven (bonus points if you shove your iPad forward while you do this... again, I'm not joking; they programmed that in there.).
To play Pizza Hero is to fail at it often, which may reflect the high pizza-making standards of the Domino's Pizza company. It also makes for a punishing game, one that compliments your sauce technique in the same virtual breath that your topping-placement sucks. This game has a low tolerance for pizza crust that isn't a perfect circle, and you will be forced to trash your whole pizza if you fail to evenly sprinkle the cheese.
There are good reasons why this game is so rough on its players. Its players are, you see, prospective Domino's Employees…
Innovation #1: You Can Get a Job If You Play Well
In an idea they may have borrowed from the 1984 nerd-classic movie The Last Starfighter, Pizza Hero doubles as video game and job-training tool. If you pass its introductory challenges and its "Two Pizza Throwdown" mission (your task: make a couple of pizzas), you'll be prompted to apply for a job at Domino's. The app loads the real Domino's career page, with links to a job application.
In The Last Starfighter, the teenage hero discovered that the spaceship-shooting arcade game he played in his trailer park was actually a recruitment tool for fighting in an intergalactic war. That was fake. Pizza Hero is real and could winnow the field of potential Domino's pizza chefs to only those who have excelled using pizza-making simulations. It doesn't technically do that, but it could.
Veteran pizza-makers may scoff that rolling virtual dough on an iPad screen is not predictor of dough-rolling talent in the real world. They might be right, but what will they say when UPS starts hiring people who excel at route-mapping in driving games? Who will laugh last when banks shortlist job applicants who earned a high-score in some delightful iPhone money-counting game? Surely, a man or woman's love for quest-management in Skyrim or Tiny Tower can be channeled into a career in the non-virtual world.
If you can make perfectly circular pizzas on your iPad, I believe you've got a shot at doing it well in real life Domino's, too.
Innovation #2: You Can Make a Virtual Pizza To Order a Real One
In the old days, you had to tell the people at the pizzeria what kind of pizza you wanted. In modern times, Domino's let people assemble the pizza they need delivered on their website. You click around on a picture of crust, adding toppings. Then you order.
Pizza Hero takes pizza-ordering to its next amazing level. From the game's front menu, you may select "I want to make my pizza by hand." Then, using the same dough-spreading and topping-plopping techniques you mastered elsewhere in the game, you can assemble a pizza… then click to order it. Virtual pizza done, the real thing shows up.
If this seems like more hassle than just calling up Domino's and telling them what kind of pizza you want, you're right. This is a superfluous, overly complicated way of doing something, the pizza-ordering equivalent of yelling barely-recognized voice commands at your phone instead of just dialing the number. At least this option puts you vaguely back in touch with the labor required to make your pizza. They should do this kind of thing for people who are buying diamond rings.
Pizza Hero has been with us since late last year. The job-application element only kicked in this month, a Domino's official tells me.
Domino's social media specialist Phil Lozen doesn't serve up download stats for the game, but he says "we've been extremely happy with the downloads and the rankings we've gotten for the app." He's happy that Pizza Hero has a four-star review ranking and proud to say that gamers have put more than two million pizzas in the game's oven.
But has anyone gotten hired from this thing?
"We're only a week into the campaign so too early to tell as far as how many new hired," Lozen said, "but we have indeed gotten some applications from Pizza Hero, which is exciting!"
I salute the innovations in Pizza Hero. Anything to battle the unemployment problem in America, I say. And anything to make ordering pizza more interesting!