Activision Blizzard King recently boasted about using a diversity tool to create characters, referring to Call of Duty: Vanguard and the upcoming Overwatch 2. The tool seems to have been designed to measure characters according to a number of criteria including age and gender, and establishing a diversity index. The company has now been dialing things down.
The tool was apparently designed to avoid "token characters in favor of true representation." According to the company, the tool was able to uncover examples of unconscious bias, e.g. why certain traits are perceived as "male" vs. "female" or why characters from certain ethnic backgrounds are given similar personalities or behaviors.
King has asked for diversity, equity, and inclusion managers at Activision and Blizzard beta to be tested, and the results have been instant, according to a statement. This included Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Sledgehammer Games Alayna Cole, who described how the tool was used to look out for diversity in both campaign multiplayer and live seasons. The employee added that the overwatch 2 team at Blizzard has also had a chance to experiment with the tool, with equally enthusiastic first impressions.
When the statement became known, the backlash quickly erupted, prompting Activision Blizzard King to retract some of its comments. The company also removed any reference to its diversity tool in active game development, especially regarding its intention and our commitment to diversity. The statement was apparently modified in order to clarify that this prototype is not being used in active game development.
"It is not a substitute for any other critical effort by our teams in this regard, nor will it alter our organization''s hiring ambitions."
Blizzard King has been a tense topic for workplace discrimination and misconduct. The company is currently being sued by various organizations, including the State of California, for serious allegations of sexual harassment as a result of its fratboy culture. This year alone, there have been several employee walkouts. Raven Software has continued the charge.