Activision Blizzard Announces Tool That Measures Character Diversity

The gaming industry has long had a problem with diversity, and there have been initiatives from different studios over the years to rectify the problem. But not all efforts, however well-intentioned, are good. In a blog post, Activision Blizzard detailed the decision to use a “character diversity tool that quantifies ethnicity, beauty, cognitive ability and other things that indicate ‘you’re different,’ is one of those measures that feels particularly strange, if not offensive.

Developed by King and MIT Game Labs, this diversity tool was intended to “create and monitor guidelines for character conception and creation.” King’s globalization project manager, Jacqueline Chomatas, further explained the tool’s mission, saying, “The Diversity Space tool is a measurement device, to help identify how diverse a set of character traits and , in turn, how diverse that character and cast are compared to the ‘norm.'”

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Como puede ver en la imagen a continuación, a categorías como cultura, antecedentes socioeconómicos, capacidad cognitiva, rasgos faciales/belleza y más se les asigna un valor dependiendo de qué tan lejos estén de la norma de “rasgos de carácter típicos”. Esta herramienta puede entonces “comparar nuevos diseños de personajes con [the established baseline] to measure its diversity.

Diversity Space Tool

Apparently the Call of Duty: Vanguard and Overwatch 2 development teams tested the tool and thought it was useful. Reception was “immediate and enthusiastic” and Activision Blizzard plans to release the tool internally during the summer and Q3.

Needless to say, people on Twitter have been less than enthusiastic about Activision Blizzard’s diversity tool. It’s too close to phrenology, the pseudoscience in which traits can be measured by looking at people’s skulls. There are also questions like, how is the “norm” baseline decided? Obviously, Activision Blizzard’s intentions are good: it’s trying to diversify its characters, but trying to translate diversity into numerical values ​​seems like a mistake.

Activision Blizzard has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reason. The company was sued by the state of California in 2021 for allegedly fostering a sexist work environment, and a WSJ report also alleges that CEO Bobby Kotick covered up misconduct at the company. The company has also allegedly been cracking down on unions, asking its QA employees at Raven Software not to join a union.

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Activision Blizzard is about to be acquired by Microsoft, a deal that is currently under review by the FTC.

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