In an effort to stop misinformation regarding its diversity statistic, Activision Blizzard recently issued a clarifying statement. The number of non-white people in senior leadership positions had been exaggerated and does not accurately represent the company’s demographic composition.
Activision Blizzard has released an update and clarification regarding their diversity report. The company published a blog post on March 7th, 2019. Read more in detail here: activision blizzard diversity report.
Activision Blizzard has published a follow-up comment and modified their blog post to explain that the Diversity Space Tool is not presently being utilized in active game development and has only been tested internally, after community outrage.
The initial tweet was received with a lot of ridicule and accusations from a public that was already distrustful owing to Activision Blizzard’s recent string of issues. Fans and industry insiders alike complained that the concept felt performative at best and promoted tokenization at worst, with examples images appearing to reduce elements of diversity to simple numbers – seemingly arbitrarily considering one character more “cultural” or “sexually oriented” than another.
While some of this could be attributed to the system’s poor explanation, which only hinted at aggregating the scores of a group of characters (in this case, Overwatch) to determine which characters and traits were outside of the “average” established by the rest of the cast, the images in particular raised several questions that were not adequately addressed in the post.
While we can deduce that Ana’s “ability” score of 4 is higher than the “average” score of a largely non-physically disabled cast of characters in Overwatch, the now-deleted images don’t explain how these numbers were arrived at or provide much context for why Egyptian and Arab are ranked 7 or what those scores mean.
The amended blog article now includes a comment from the editor reinforcing the points made in the ATVI tweet, including that the tool is intended to assist uncover patterns and areas of bias, and that no current game production teams are using it. However, the Call of Duty: Vanguard and Overwatch 2 sample photos, as well as assertions that both production teams had evaluated the tool internally with “positive initial impressions,” were deleted. A remark stating the tool will be provided internally throughout Activision Blizzard this summer, as well as the intention to make the technology accessible to the rest of the video game industry, has been removed as well.
Our old article still has the original content in its entirety.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR (7:42 p.m. PT, May 13, 2022): The Diversity Space Tool has sparked discussion online, notably over its purpose and our commitment to diversity. This blog post has been updated to indicate that this prototype is not under active development. For more context, we’d like to add the following comment: The Diversity Space Tool–currently in beta–was created in 2016 as an optional addition to our teams’ hard work and commitment on producing varied tales with various characters. However, choices about in-game content have always been and will continue to be made by development teams. The tool was created at King and has been beta tested by a number of developers around the firm, all of whom have contributed significant feedback.
The objective of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms in representation and acknowledging opportunities for growth in inclusion. It is not a substitute for any other essential effort by our teams in this regard, nor will it alter our company’s diversity hiring goals. Over the past several years, the development of the tool was done with the support of all our employee DE&I networks, and we collaborated with external partners to create an even more robust tool.
The tool isn’t meant to be used in isolation; teams would sit down with company DE&I staff to identify existing norms and then discuss, educate, consult, and collaborate on how a character’s representation is expressed beyond those norms. This process is intended to create a conversation where our developers, assisted by the tool, challenge assumptions, assess choices, and find opportunities for authentic representation to be fostered in our games.
Activision Blizzard is committed to reflecting the diversity of its millions of players around the world through representation and inclusion in its games as well as its employees. Our intent with this blog entry was to share an in-progress piece of our journey in this endeavor. We recognize and respect that all people may be on their own, unique point in their journey with DE&I. The Diversity Space Tool is not a definitive evaluation of diversity in game content; rather, it is a bridge in opening previously unspoken conversations into how thoughtful inclusion can happen – and thrive – in games. —
We want to see ourselves represented in games, for obstacles to entry to be removed, and for games to be a friendly atmosphere for everyone. Consider the results of the 2019 International Game Developers Association (IGDA) “Developer Satisfaction Survey,” which questioned developers what the most significant component in the gaming industry’s growth was. “More content variety,” is the most popular reaction. It’s no longer even a question.
The challenge remains, however: how can we translate this input from communal desire into actual reality? The guys at King, as predicted, are already planning a few steps forward. When it comes to the production of their games and characters, King started establishing a system for protecting against unconscious prejudice and exclusion in 2016. This concept existed as an intangible ideology at the time, but its promise was clear.
Come inside the MIT Game Lab. Along with King, the MIT techs helped turn a mission statement into tangible software that would create and monitor guidelines for character conception and creation, looking into all the ways basic elements like gender, body type, roles (“heroes” vs. “villains”), and even granular factors like pose, or body movement, can suggest powerful things about a character in one way or another. According to King Globalization Project Manager Jacqueline Chomatas, the team at King spent the previous three years improving and developing the core program, primarily as a volunteer effort, once MIT gave it over. People were working on the tool in their spare time just because they believed in its potential.
Chomatas states, “An key value for us at King is that all gamers should feel accepted.” “The goal is to encourage gaming developers throughout the Activision Blizzard King network to go outside the box and question preconceived preconceptions about how characters should seem and behave.” As a consequence, we intend to develop more characters that defy expectations and better reflect women, non-binaries, and other underrepresented minorities in the business.”
How Does It Work?
The concept of a “tool” to create characters more varied and inclusive may be difficult to grasp at first. In actuality, it needs to be more than a pop-up reminder that over 80% of the world’s best-selling games had white, male characters between 2017 and 2021. (according to a study conducted by Diamond Lobby). It has to be included into the incubation process from the beginning, as an unmissable and constant step – which is precisely what this tool was created to do.
“The Diversity Space Tool is a measurement device, to help identify how diverse a set of character traits are and in turn how diverse that character and casts are when compared to the ‘norm’,” explains Chomatas. Once it establishes a baseline for typical character traits (which is done by the creative team working closely with DE&I experts), it can then weigh new character designs against it to measure their diversity. During this process, the tool can also uncover unconscious bias, such as why certain traits are seen as “male” vs. “female,” or why characters from certain ethnic backgrounds are given similar personalities or behaviors.
The Diversity Space Tool can easily distinguish between token characters and actual representation in this attempt. “identifies what stereotyped characters in various genres look like, which aren’t usually the most welcoming or reflective of diversity,” Chomatas explains. “It aids in the identification of stereotypes while also assisting designers in dissecting their own assumptions and preconceptions.” It also aids in the identification of chances for more varied character storylines, ensuring that we are not only generating different characters in terms of look.” By beginning at the character creation stage, the tool enables King and others to ask these critical questions as early as possible, encouraging more mindful creative decisions from the outset — resulting in games that are more reflective of their player base.
Sharing and Concern
Over the last six months, King has allowed developer teams from Activision and Blizzard to “beta test” the Diversity Space Tool, with positive results. Starting this summer, Activision Blizzard plans to further test the technology internally for early feedback. Chomatas adds, “We passionately believe in the tool’s ability to revolutionize the gaming scene.”
Outside of Gaming
While Chomatas envisions the Diversity Space Tool as having wider applicability across all entertainment and media channels, it was created for use in game character creation. “The characteristics and metrics are relevant to a broader range of entertainment verticals, such as television, cinema, and literature.” The basic qualities, which would need to be adjusted to be appropriate to the genre and world each character existing in if employed in these verticals, would be the only alteration necessary.” Chomatas acknowledges that the app is currently changing – and that it is intended to do so when “norms” alter and platforms change. Finally, you receive what you put into it and what you choose to take from it.
“Like everything else, this is just a tool that gives you insights,” Chomatas explains. “It’s up to the teams that make the characters and games to put them into practice.”
The “upgrade all conduits to 200” is a solution that has been suggested by Blizzard. The company has issued an update and clarification regarding the diversity space tool.
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