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Activision Blizzard staff criticise company's "dystopian" diversity tool

"I swear our own company tries so hard to slaughter any goodwill the actual devs who make the game have built."

Staff at Activision Blizzard have criticised the company's diversity tool that was revealed over the weekend.

Known as the Diversity Space Tool, it was started in 2016 and has been in beta at mobile studio King. It's intended to boost the diversity of characters in games, but has been criticised for belittling diversity and diminishing it to a checklist.

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

"FWIW, the portion about Overwatch 2 was removed mostly because we're not using it and didn't know it existed until yesterday," said senior game designer Dylan Snyder on Twitter.

Overwatch character artist Melissa Kelly also commented on the tool.

"God I swear our own company tries so hard to slaughter any goodwill the actual devs who make the game have built," she said.

"Overwatch doesn't even use this creepy dystopian chart, our writers have eyes. The artists: have eyes. Producers, directors, etc, as far as I know also all have eyes."

Valentine Powell, senior UI engineer on World of Warcraft, said: "So uh, this is the first I'm ever seeing about this diversity space tool. IMO, the way we truly increase representation in our games is to have diverse gamedevs in the rooms where decisions are made. There is no substitute for lived experience."

Activision Blizzard itself has 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. While the prototype tool has been tested internally, it is not in active use. Our dev teams have always and will continue to drive in-game content.

"We have updated the post to clarify the purpose of this tool, which is one small component of our broader DE&I efforts and is not intended to be a replacement for diverse perspectives. We regret any offense that the original post may have caused."

The Diversity Space Tool can "delineate between token characters and true representation" by measuring how diverse a set of character traits are, essentially uncovering unconscious biases when designing characters.

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

"The objective of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms in representation and acknowledging opportunities for growth in inclusion," reads an additional editor's note in the Activision Blizzard blog post.

"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."

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Ed Nightingale avatar

Ed Nightingale

Deputy News Editor

Ed has an interest in streaming, people and communities, and giving a voice to marginalised people.