Activision Blizzard King recently boasted about using a diversity tool to create characters, specifically referring to Call of Duty: Vanguard and the upcoming Overwatch 2. The tool appears to have been created to rate characters according to a set of guidelines including age and gender, establishing what many critics have been referring to as a diversity index. The company has now been winding things down.
Apparently the tool was created to avoid “symbolic characters” in favor of “real representation”. According to the company, the tool was able to uncover examples of unconscious biases such as “why certain traits are seen as ‘masculine’ versus ‘feminine,’ or why characters of certain ethnic backgrounds have similar personalities or behaviors.”
“For the past few months, King has allowed the Activision and Blizzard developer teams to ‘beta test’ the Diversity Space Tool and the results have been immediate,” the company said in a statement. This went on to quote Sledgehammer Games Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager Alayna Cole who described how the tool was used to “discover what ‘more diversity’ looks like across all of our characters in both the multiplayer campaign and the seasons in live”. Cole added that “we’re going to use that data in the next few games we’re working on.” The statement ultimately noted how the “Overwatch 2 team at Blizzard also had a chance to experiment with the tool, with equally enthusiastic first impressions.”
When the statement became known, backlash quickly came from all sides, leading Activision Blizzard King to retract many of its claims. The company also removed any reference to using its diversity tool in active game development from the initial statement. Activision Blizzard King noted how there has been “conversation online about the Diversity Space Tool, particularly about its intent and our commitment to diversity.” The statement was apparently changed to “clarify that this prototype is not being used in active game development.”
“The goal of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms in representation and recognizing opportunities for growth in inclusion,” the redacted statement reads. “It is not a substitute for any other essential efforts of our teams in this regard, nor will it alter our company’s diversity hiring goals.”
Activision Blizzard King has been at the center of an ongoing controversy over workplace abuse and misconduct. The company is currently being sued by various parties, including the state of California, over serious allegations of sexual harassment as a result of its “fratboy” culture. There have been several employee strikes in the past year alone. The movement toward unionization continues apace, with Raven Software workers leading the way.
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