The field of work and bureaucracies built around the college fraternity experience (“Big Fraternity”) is set to crumble. They are too centralized and pay little attention to the needs or interests of paying student members.  This is painfully obvious in our approach to recruitment. A number of organizations and companies have provided a seemingly endless stream of blog posts, webinars, and videos on the topic of “Virtual Recruitment.” So far it seems that most are intent on adapting formal fraternity recruitment to a virtual setting. That’s a shame, because formal fraternity recruitment is – forgive my language – fucking stupid. 
Potential members will be paraded from Zoom call to Zoom call, rather than from house to house or room to room. They will enjoy (?) awkward conversations with awkwardly-lit members awkwardly hiding their White Claws just out of view. Campus professionals will hold hearing after hearing of fraternities accusing each other of violating various rules designed to level the playing field. What else should be expected? Big Fraternity is not necessarily known for innovation. 
Rather than adapt a tired, outdated, self-serving system of recruitment with an online version of that same system, we should look to how communication works in the digital age. We should adapt recruitment to today’s normal, without the hope that things will return to how they once were. What does that mean in practice?
Video Games Are An Essential Component to Virtual Recruitment
Fraternity men – and recruitment professionals – complain about video games all the time. Some think they are too nerdy. Others say that they do not allow for quality conversations to take place. Those people probably haven’t experienced much beyond Super Mario Bros. or Candy Crush. Step aside, Boomers, let me handle this one:
Video games are – in 2020 – a social experience, and more mainstream than they’ve ever been before. Nintendo’s intellectual property rivals that of Disney in terms of worldwide recognition and value. Popularity aside, video games offer a better, more entertaining way to learn about others compared to a Zoom call. Let me explain:
1. Potential members can see how well brothers work together (and vice versa)
There is possibly no greater test to a brotherhood than competition. Whether its an internal election or intramural tournament, the willingness for members to help one another will be put to the test. So, a potential member can easily determine whether the brothers of a chapter are willing to help each other and the less skilled in a team video game. Brothers, too, can get a better idea of how a potential member plays on a team. Most online, collaborative games are designed to make teamwork an essential element to victory.
2. How well does someone adhere to specialized roles or functions?
In Nintendo’s Splatoon, for example, gamers compete to cover the floor of each stage in as much of their team’s ink/paint as possible. Teams that do well usually employ a variety of weapons and roles. Some players kill opponents to prevent them from covering the floor, while others focus on covering as much area as possible. Then there are those who stand in a corner and jump around and contribute nothing to the game. (They’re called “parties” and they can be hilarious or frustrating depending on how many of your teammates take part) You can easily determine which people are there to goof off, which people can stick to a position/role, and which ones observe the playing field and act accordingly. Those are all great things to know prior to putting someone on a committee or the intramural field.
3. Assholes are Assholes no matter the venue
A poor sport will be a poor sport when playing video games. Someone who loves booze will not only slur their words, but their hand-eye coordination will be on display for the world to see. This may or may not matter – depending on the members of a particular chapter – but personalities come alive on the internet, especially when victory is on the line. Part of the farce of fraternity recruitment is that it centers almost entirely on conversations and interviews. People can bluff their way through much of this, so treat video games as a way to let others’ true colors shine. (You may also learn that your brothers need some work in this area – good for you!)
4. Creativity can shine in Video Games
Games like Minecraft, Animal Crossing, Super Mario Maker, and more encourage players to get creative. Some games emphasize developing longer-term relationships with other players to advance. These types of games can be utilized – short or long term – to explore another person’s creativity or mindset. Someone whose Animal Crossing village is covered in weeds may need assistance or may just be exceptionally lazy. A person who makes an impossibly challenging course in Super Mario Maker may have a taste for the extreme. Video games like these are easy ways to show off more of one’s creative personality.
Other, more accessible “games,” like “House Party” blend gaming with video chats. They are a better way than Zoom to practice and observe all of the above.
Things are not changing – they’ve changed. Whether or not in-person recruitment returns, we should rethink the role of video games in fraternity recruitment. It is a wonderful way – in a very controlled, rules-based environment – to identify much of what we look for in a friend or fraternity man. Video games also naturally appeal to introverts and those on the spectrum. They can make for unique or interesting ways to introduce new people to a chapter and to help them adapt to the larger group.
We should be cautious, as always. Competition can bring out the worst in some people. But as long as your chapter is not basing its criteria on “Who is the best Fortnite player?” it can probably use video games to its advantage. It’s a hell of a lot more fun than a Zoom call, and can be far more informative.
Fraternity Man Articles Referenced in this Post:
- We Don’t Need Professional Fraternity Consultants
- Too Many Responsibilities are Being Delegated to Fraternity Executive Directors
- IFC Members Pay for the NIC, They Deserve a Vote
- Partnership & Contract Transparency are Needed in Fraternities
- Formal Recruitment is Unnecessary, Unnatural & Unhelpful
- 84% of Hazing Deaths Occur at Public Schools, Should We Ban Them?