The Call of Duty franchise game publisher, Activision Blizzard, came under the spotlight this May for their software, King’s Diversity Space Tool. King, acquired by Activision Blizzard, and MIT Game Lab designed the software and is currently in beta.
With the Diversity Space Tool, the company aims to help game developers design characters with diverse backgrounds and under-represented groups in video games. This, according to King Globalization Project Manager Jacqueline Chomatas, is a necessary step to “challenge pre-conceived notions around how characters should look and act”.
Intentions towards diversity and inclusion
Activision Blizzard acknowledged that “between 2017 and 2021 nearly 80% of the highest selling games in the world featured white, male protagonists.” With the help of the Diversity Space Tool, they hope to make a difference in this statistic.
The tool ranks a character’s designs based on their diversity score. The more diverse the character is within the software’s parameters, the higher the score. The parameters in the Diversity Space Tool include gender identity, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, and body type. It also aims to help developers identify any unknown biases made in creating the character.
While the goal was to create games that are more inclusive and lessen “unconscious bias”, the execution of the idea had people questioning the intent of the company in quantifying what diversity is. This isn’t the first time that Activision Blizzard has gotten public criticism on the topic of discrimination. To address this, the company released an editorial note regarding the matter, stating that the Diversity Space Tool is still in beta and not being used for game development.
The company also clarified that the Diversity Space Tool is only there to supplement information for the team. This would help create discussions in “identify[ing] existing norms,” thinking outside of it, and making more informed decisions to have games with “true representation”.
Activision Blizzard is still working to have better diversity and inclusion, not just in creating games but also in their culture. Their games also need characters of different ethnicities and orientations with storylines that reflect the experiences of marginalized communities that the characters represent.
The Diversity Space Tool is an attempt toward this. However, putting a number on measuring how “diverse” a character is may not be enough. According to Chomatas, the tool shows potential. Despite that, it may still be too soon to implement; we’ll just have to wait and see how much impact the tool will have in creating more inclusive games.