Activision-Blizzard creeps out the internet with its ‘Diversity Space Tool’ as union-busting continues

    
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Friday afternoon, Activision-Blizzard proudly trotted out a dev blog talking up the creation of a “Diversity Space Tool” that the company has apparently been developing since 2016, described by King Globalization Project Manager Jacqueline Chomatas as “a measurement device, to help identify how diverse a set of character traits are and in turn how diverse that character and casts are when compared to the ‘norm.'”

The tool, which was developed in cooperation with the MIT Game Lab, assigns different numerical values to a variety of traits including age, race, culture, body type, sexual identity, and socioeconomic background among other things against so-called “typical character traits,” then weighs new character designs against the tool’s values to literally “measure diversity.” The intention of the tool, according to Chomatas, is to “identify what stereotypical characters in different genres look like, which are not always the most conducive or representative of diversity.”

Reaction to this tool across the industry can be charitably described as active revulsion, as various developers, games writers, and a wide variety of fans pointed out the monstrous, dehumanizing, and dystopic implications of the tool. “It doesn’t shock me that a company run by a man who admits to threatening to murder female subordinates would participate in a program that literally divides race by some quantifiable value,” reads one spicy reaction by fellow blogger Connor of MMO Fallout.

Interestingly, the original post, which last night featured a variety of images of the Diversity Space Tool’s interface, has since been scrubbed and edited for “clarity,” as the company notes the tool is not yet being used in active game development and shares additional context (while also making sure to not mention the removal of all the images originally included in the blog, which you can still see here and here).

“The objective of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms in representation and acknowledging opportunities for growth in inclusion,” the company’s follow-up now says. “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. The tool isn’t meant to be used in isolation; teams would sit down with company DE&I staff to identify existing norms and then discuss, educate, consult, and collaborate on how a character’s representation is expressed beyond those norms. This process is intended to create a conversation where our developers, assisted by the tool, challenge assumptions, assess choices, and find opportunities for authentic representation to be fostered in our games.”

The reveal of this tool is also likely yet another smokebomb to cover ABK’s continuing attempts to bust the union being formed by Raven Software QA workers. Management teams at Raven have reportedly been sending messages and holding town halls; one such town hall held on April 26th said that voting in favor of a union formation would “impede game development and affect promotions and benefits,” followed by an email the next day that simply read, “please vote no.” According to insider reports, the effort appears to have had the opposite effect, convincing more workers to vote.

sources: ABK website, Twitter (1, 2, 3), The Washington Post via Eurogamer
Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial gaming company owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In 2021, the company was sued by California for fostering a work environment rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the company as employees strike and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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