May 25, 2022

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Activision Blizzard’s new ‘Diversity Space Tool’ receives a lukewarm reception from developers

Activision Blizzard today announced a tool that it plans to roll out across its teams in the coming months. called “Diversity space toolAnd unlike other game development tools, it is not used directly to create game content, but rather to assess the diversity of game characters and determine this diversity in numbers and spider outlines.

The tool was apparently created by the team at candy crush Developed by King, and tested on games like Call of Duty: Vanguard, which featured an international team of diverse personalities battling the Nazis in World War II. Also tested by Monitor 2 who expressed “optimistic impressions.

There is a lot of goodwill behind this new tool. Jacqueline Chomatas, Director of the King Globalization Project, explained in an Activision Blizzard blog post that the tool’s purpose is to assess game characters as they iterate, to help show their creators that stereotypes may be expressed that reinforce classic ideas of sexism, racism or other biases.

Dubbed the Measuring Apparatus, Chomatas explained that the tool aims to “quantify how diverse the set of personality traits is and thus how diverse this personality and stereotypes are when compared to the ‘norm’.”

King employees also seem to have taken the time to develop this tool in their spare time as a “voluntary” effort, which doesn’t bode well for a company that claims this is an attempt to prioritize diversity.

Again, there is a lot of goodwill here. But game developers on social media are mostly expressing negativity in the wake of the Activision Blizzard announcement. If you research how the tool works, things get very uncomfortable very quickly.

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Chomatas’ explanation of how the tool works highlights a fundamental complaint many game developers have: All characters played through the tool are judged on a “rule,” and that “standard” appears to be a strong-bodied, white, and gender-compatible man. straight. Character diversity scores are increased when you deviate from this description.

screenshot of Note and watch Egyptian medical sniper Anna highlights how disturbing this is. They are labeled on a number of axes that are grouped into a spider diagram, and are labeled on them. Being Egyptian gives it a “culture” score of 7, as it does for an Arab. Her age (60 years old) also makes her seven, and her physical ability (only one eye) is rated at 4.

Her “cognitive ability” is rated at 0, indicating that whatever Anna’s cognitive ability is, she is part of the “baseline” against which other characters can be judged.

I can’t express enough how upset I am about writing that paragraph. I tried to write three paragraphs It highlights how Anna’s normative “cognitive ability” shows the dangers of creating such a standard and omitting each because of how attractive they all are.

Why is Al Qaeda so favored?

Michael Wechau, Story Designer at Phoenix Labs, Strictly called how It was strange to create such a system that judges the characters against the norm. He noted, “This tool assumes that the white man is the basis on which ‘scores’ are obtained through deviance, which in itself reinforces rather than re-imagines models that are currently not comprehensive.”

It doesn’t help that many of the scales chosen by King and Activision Blizzard uncomfortably reflect the realistic beliefs of racists and bigots. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century enjoyed the study of physiognomy in the nineteenth century. A practice where one’s intelligence (or cognitive ability) is supposed to be related to the size and shape of one’s skull.

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By some chance (not a coincidence) phrenology experts It will be considered the skulls of non-white groups Such as Native Americans or Black Americans as deviants, which is often used to justify atrocities such as genocide or slavery against said groups.

It is possible that the person who added “cognitive ability” to this list was not trying to make the same connection. But treating those with cognitive disabilities (or simply different ones, with different measures of cognitive ability) as deviants still has consequences for people today.

With so many game developers talking about the battles they had with company executives to diversify their staff, this tool seems like an uncomfortable natural extension of the game industry’s toxic logic about non-white, non-male characters.

This week only, Developed by Respawn Entertainment They talked about the reaction they allegedly received When they called to portray a black woman as a heroine Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. in 2020, A former writer at BioWare described complaints from its creative director about adding another Asian character to the game’s cast.

Activision Blizzard says that the Diversity Space Tool can “clearly delineate between tokens and a real representation,” but in fact it might do the exact opposite.

The advertisement of this tool also becomes severely You are uncomfortable Weigh it against your Activision Blizzard account all year round With a host of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination against the company.