Australian Defence Force

Category Five

Australian Defence Force

Category Five


Changing perceptions about a career in the military.

More than a VR experience, Category 5 is a next generation recruitment platform that doesn’t just reach the new generation, it changes their perceptions about a career in the military.

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Category 5 is a first of its kind VR recruitment experience we created with HostHavas for Defence Force Recruiting. Over five months we carried out the mission of reimagining a defence recruitment method that surpassed distributing pamphlets at job fairs and open days. With the intention of onboarding engineers, ADF wanted to reach a new generation of recruits and change their perceptions about a career in the military. Category 5 was developed to expose future recruits to the predominant humanitarian activities they would undertake in their role, shifting the traditional and unrealistic assumption that they would only be engaging in combat. 

Radio room concept image.
Frame grab from in-game.

It was serendipitous that VR technology emerged at the beginning of the project’s development which opened up a huge amount of opportunity for us to generate excitement and interest among future recruits. Thanks to the dexterity of VR, we saw this immersive technology allow us to take on a first person perspective and create first hand user experienced tasks for participants that gaming technology could not provide. To build the experience we carried out an extensive amount of research with army, navy and air force personnel to represent a true and accurate reality of what a recruit would experience first hand on the job. The early stages of exploration were used to test game-play mechanics, artistic styles and game development engines. We experimented with a heavily stylized world and a more photorealistic world while applying the scrum methodology of software development to workshop visual and game mechanics testing.

Concept frame from the initial prototype level

When we completed Category 5, it emerged as a highly effective piece of technology that would see ADF witness a 300% increase in recruitment expressions of interest across Australia. The experience ended up being set in the aftermath of a tropical cyclone and positioned the user to lead the relief effort, putting the users perceptions and problem solving skills to the test by undertaking a series of tasks. The experience would then assess how you play and recommend a series of job roles suitable to your skill set.

Custom built VR kit

Category 5 is now touring the country with up to 15 different locations active. The project became one of the first ever commercially made VR experiences in Australia and was in development before a VR headset had even been put into market. Not only did we create this piece at the forefront of VR development, but we also saw ourselves introducing VR to the general public for the first time. VR is now firmly embedded in our society’s fabric and our commitment to this game changing new medium has seen us launch a Nakatomi VR division to take on board future projects. We continue to nurture and invest in this product alongside the ADF. We make constant hardware and software improvements, and even created custom designed Activation Kits to accompany the equipment. Our Activation Kits aim to enable rapid setup and pack down while informing users on the process of VR even if they were unfamiliar with setups.

"I had a flashback to my last operation."
John Cotteral
RAAF Wing Commander