In a recent blog post, Activision Blizzard unveiled a Diversity Space tool to rate the diversity of characters created in a game. Since then, the tool and its intentions have been publicly criticized, following which the publisher has taken a U-turn.
Irrespective of the criticism, the way the tool has been made doesn't serve the very purpose it has been created for.
A recent blog post showcased the Diversity Space tool, which King and MIT Game Lab have jointly developed. The tool is designed to help tell designers how diverse a certain game and its characters are. As promising as it sounds, fans have also pointed out a major issue at the very core. Since then, Activision Blizzard has made major updates, making the tool an indicator only.
Activision Blizzard's Diversity Space tool has a lot of promise but is a flawed model
The Diversity Space tool showcased by Activision Blizzard will compare the characteristics of a character based on certain parameters. These parameters will help determine how diverse a character is in a video game. It will also help differentiate between a truly diverse character and a default one.
The tool is also set to uncover hidden biases when one links a certain feature to a particular race or gender. Hence, this could be helpful to developers when designing a character, and this is how Activision Blizzard initially pitched it. However, a discussion over Fanbyte mentioned a major flaw in this model.
As noble as it may sound, the process is still limited and linked to certain parameters. If something like diversity is measured using distinct parameters, there could always be things that might go wrong.
The point raised by many fans as to why it might not work involved the limitations of the model. As they suggested, hiring diverse creators will help solve the problem. Every diverse individual offers something different, and allowing them to be creative can easily ensure diverse characters in video games.
Moreover, Activision Blizzard won't be limited to ideas and parameters when real-life individuals are involved in the process. In comparison, software tools are far more restricted and will ultimately judge the nature of a created character based on the set parameters.
Since the furor, Activision Blizzard has gone back on their word and has added a new note.
"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."
In all fairness, the new note seems better for the company, which has been under a lot of heat recently. Over the last year, several lawsuits have been filed against the company over its handling of gender-based crimes in its offices. The anger has been against higher officials, including CEO Bobby Kotick, who was accused of not dealing with the problem properly.
Using a tool to judge something as individualistic as diversity in a time like this will likely do nothing but increase the masses' anger. Moreover, the entire idea feels quite dystopian, and the chances of things going wrong are much higher than the other way involving real people.
It's good that Activision Blizzard is trying to improve its image and wants to diversify the characters in its video games. However, going with a software tool might be completely wrong, and one would hope that when it comes to making truly diverse characters, the company will employ eligible people.