Activision Blizzard Staff Criticize Company’s ‘Dystopian’ Diversity Tool

Activision Blizzard Staff Criticize Company's 'Dystopian' Diversity Tool
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Activision Blizzard staff criticized the company’s diversity tool that was revealed over the weekend.

Known as the Diversity Space Tool, it launched in 2016 and is in beta at King Mobile Studio. It is intended to increase character diversity in games, but has been criticized for downplaying diversity and reducing it to a checklist.

A blog post about the tool was shared on May 12, but has since been heavily edited. Originally it was mentioned that the Overwatch 2 team was experimenting with the tool, but that has since been removed.

“FWIW the Overwatch 2 part was removed primarily because we didn’t use it and didn’t know it existed until yesterday,” senior game designer Dylan Snyder said on Twitter.

Overwatch character artist Melissa Kelly also commented on the tool.

“God, I swear our own company is trying to tear down any goodwill that the real developers making the game have built up,” she said.

“Overwatch doesn’t even use this creepy dystopian tableau, our writers have eyes. Artists: have eyes. Producers, directors, etc., as far as I know, all of them have eyes too.”

Valentine Powell, Senior UI Engineer on World of Warcraft, said: “So, um, this is the first time I’ve seen this diversity space tool. IMO, the way we really increase representation in our games is to have various gamedevs in the rooms where decisions are made.There is no substitute for lived experience.

Activision Blizzard itself commented on the response, noting updates to the original blog post:

“We recently shared a blog post that raised questions about how we approach diversity in our games. Although the prototype tool has been tested internally, it is not actively used. Our development teams always have and will continue to generate content in games.

“We’ve updated the post to clarify the purpose of this tool, which is a small component of our larger DE&I efforts and is not intended to replace various perspectives. We regret any infraction that the original post may have cause.”

The Diversity Space tool can “distinguish between token characters and true representation” by measuring the diversity of a set of character traits, essentially revealing unconscious biases when designing characters.

However, the response to the tool has been that it cannot replace hiring various creators to ensure authenticity of representation.

“The goal of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms for representation and recognizing opportunities for growth in inclusion,” reads an additional editor’s note in the Activision Blizzard blog.

“This does not replace any other critical efforts by our teams in this regard, nor will it change our company’s diversity hiring goals.”

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