Activision Blizzard has introduced a tool to improve character diversity in its games

Activision Blizzard recently posted an article dedicated to King’s Diversity Space Tool. This is software intended to ensure a certain variety of characters in studio video games. Basically, you enter an entire set of data on a character and the tool tells you if it’s well-balanced or if it has biases that could offend some players.

The company explains that King’s developers want to avoid certain stereotypes in this way. Since the start of development in 2016, the software has improved tremendously and if it is still in beta phase, it will still be tested with Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty: Vanguard. Eventually, it will still be available to all Activision Blizzard studios.

When the article was published, some voices were raised, criticizing the fact of leaving the choice to vary a software as well as the data that allows later to tell if a character is the same. it is or is not enough.

In an update, Activision Blizzard clarified that the software is not yet actively in use and that it is “simply” a tool to support teams responsible for diversity, equity of inclusion.

EDITOR’S NOTE (7:42 pm PT-May 13, 2022): There have been conversations online about the Diversity Space Tool, especially about its purpose and our commitment to diversity. We edited this blog post to clarify that this prototype is not being used in active game development. We would like to add the following comment for more context:

Starting in 2016, the Diversity Space Tool – which is currently in beta – was designed as an optional add -on to diligence and targeted our teams who were already there telling different stories with different characters, but the decisions about the content of the game have been made and always have been. will be taken by development teams. The tool was made by King, and beta tested by several of the company’s developers, all of whom provided valuable input.

The goal of using the tool is to expose unconscious biases by identifying current patterns of representation and identifying opportunities for inclusion growth. It will not replace any other significant efforts of our teams in this regard, and will not change our company’s recruitment objectives for diversity. Over the past few years, tool development has been done with the support of all of our DE&I employee networks, and we have partnered with outside partners to create a more robust tool.

The device is not intended to be used alone; teams meet with the company’s DE&I personnel to identify existing standards, then discuss, educate, consult, and collaborate on how a character’s description is expressed beyond the standards. This process is intended to create a conversation in which our developers, assisted by the tool, challenge assumptions, evaluate choices, and look for opportunities to improve the true representation of our games.

Activision Blizzard is committed to showcasing the diversity of millions of players around the world through the representation and inclusion of its games and its employees. The purpose of this blog post is to share some of our travels in this area. We recognize and respect that everyone can be at a unique point in their journey with DE&I. The Diversity Space Tool is not a definitive analysis of the diversity of the game; rather, it is a gateway to open up previously unspoken conversations about how thoughtful inclusion can occur – and develop – in games.

We want to see ourselves represented in games, we want barriers to access to be reduced, and we want games to be a welcoming environment for everyone. Just look at the 2019 “Developer Satisfaction Survey” from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which asks developers what they consider to be the most important factors in the growth of the game industry. The most common answer? “Lots of variation in the interior”. No more questions.

However, the question that remains is: How does this return of collective desire into a tangible reality? As expected, the King’s men are already getting started.

In 2016, King began creating a way to guard against unconscious bias and segregation in the making of their games and characters. At the time, this idea existed as an intangible philosophy, but the potential was clear.

This is where the MIT Game Lab comes in. Together with King, MIT technologies have helped create a mission statement that can be seen as software that creates and controls instructions for design and character creation, looking all the way to the basics. elements such as gender, body type, roles (“heroes” versus “villains”), and even granular factors such as pose, or body movement, can suggest strong things about a character in one way or another. According to Jacqueline Chomatas, King’s Globalization Project Manager, when MIT delivered the basic software, King’s team spent the past few years refining and developing it, mostly on a voluntary basis. People spend their hours working on the tool, simply because they believe in its potential.

“An important principle for us at King is that all players should feel welcome,” Chomatas said. “The goal is to encourage gaming teams, not just at King, but across Activision Blizzard’s King network, to think outside the box and challenge preconceptions about how people look and behave. character. As a result, we hope to create more characters that think. out of the box and better represent women, not binaries, and other minorities not represented in the industry. “

How it works

The idea of ​​a “tool” to make the characters more diverse and engaging can seem a bit of a burden. In practice, it should be more of a reminder that between 2017 and 2021, almost 80% of the world’s best -selling games will have white, male protagonists (according to research by Diamond Lobby). It has to be an integral part of the immersion process from the start, integrated into the pipeline as a consistent, inevitable step – and that’s exactly what this tool was designed for.

The Diversity Space tool is a measurement instrument that helps to identify the diversity of a set of behavioral traits and, therefore, the diversity of that behavioral traits and actors in relation to the “norm. . “, explained Mr. Chomatas. Once he has established a baseline for typical character traits (created by the creative team in close collaboration with DE&I experts), he can examine new character designs against this baseline to measure their diversity.During this process, the tool can also highlight unconscious biases, such as why certain traits are considered “male” or “female”, or why some characters are considered “male” or “female”. ethnic backgrounds have similar personalities or characteristics.

In this context, the Diversity Space tool makes it possible to clearly identify perfunctory characters from real representatives. “[L’outil] identifies what stereotypical characters look like in different genres, which isn’t always the best or representative of diversity, ”Chomatas said.“ It helps identify stereotypes, while helping creatives be creative. look closely at their creations, that they may dispel their own speculations. and pre-selection. It also helped identify storytelling possibilities for many different characters, to make sure we didn’t create characters that looked different. ”

By starting the character design stage, the tool allows King and others to ask these important questions as early as possible, in order to develop more thoughtful creative choices from the beginning – that is, in turn. , lead to games that are more representative of their player base.

Sharing and caring

Over the past few months, King has allowed developer teams at Activision and Blizzard to “test” the Diversity Space tool, and the results have been immediate and enthusiastic. The goal is to continue testing the tool inside to get initial feedback within Activision Blizzard this summer. “We strongly believe in the potential of this tool to change the landscape of video games,” Chomatas said.

More than the game

Even if the Diversity Space tool is designed to be used in game character design, Chomatas believes it has a wider application across all entertainment and media platforms. “Traits and metrics apply to a wider range of entertainment verticals including TV, film and literature. The only necessary change when using these verticals is the standard traits, which need to be calibrated to be related to the genre and universe in which each character exists. ” Chomatas admits that the app is still evolving-and, in fact, it is designed to continue to evolve as “standards” change and platforms evolve. Ultimately, we get from it what we put into it, and what we choose to take from it.

“Like anything, it’s just a tool that provides information,” Chomatas said. “It’s just up to the teams that create the characters and games to use it.”

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