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Diversity Tool
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Activision Blizzard have shared details about an internally developed and employed tool to quantify character diversity in their games, for the purpose of improving it.

Which has been met with unfair criticism from people who approve of efforts to improve diversity but raise a range of irrational objections to the method.

That said we have our own criticisms.

Numbers Aren't Evil

Many of the most powerful and beneficial applications of mathematics involve quantification of various phenomena in the world, eg. from their post:

... between 2017 and 2021 nearly 80% of the highest selling games in the world featured white, male protagonists (according to a study conducted by Diamond Lobby)

Gamers might share a general impression that white, male protagonists are over-represented but a concrete, objective measurement of that phenomenon is more useful in efforts to understand it and also to persuade others of the need for change.

Having mathematically established that straight white, male protagonists are grossly over-represented, it makes perfect sense for a numerical system which aims to improve diversity to award these qualities a big fat zero.

That's what the tool does.

It doesn't enshrine straight white males as the centre of the universe.

As representation improves, straight white males earning a zero might no longer make sense and the tool would need to be updated accordingly and their blog post refers to that.

Importantly the purpose of the tool isn't to maximise this score for every individual character.

It is to quantify the qualities of every character in a game and allow developers to see an objective, overall picture of character diversity and also for each quality.

Which can help to guard against tokenism, i.e. dropping a small number of "diverse" characters into a game, pointing to those and saying, "Yeah, we're covered."

Is the Tool Legitimate?

Judging by what information has been made available - eg. images originally included with but later deleted from their blogpost following backlash - it seems like a genuine attempt.

It would be interesting to hear the opinion of reputable academics who for research purposes develop, use and assess measurement tools.

Which brings us to the curious involvement of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gaming software developer giant Activision apparently didn't seek academic expertise in development of measurement tools which you might find in psychology, sociology or mathematics.

The software developer sought what they themselves in this blogpost describe as "basic" software assistance from the MIT Game Lab.

Then invoked the highly regarded MIT name in their post introducing it.

We regard this with some cynicism.

Beyond Gaming

Activision end their blogpost by suggesting that their tool has potential applications beyond gaming.

It certainly could.

Today we posted a "classic" current example of problematic concept art for a sci-fi film which is seeking funding assistance via GoFundMe.

But Activision end on a point we disagree with:

“Like anything, this is simply a tool that provides insights,” says Chomatas. “It’s up to the teams that create the characters and games to apply them.”

It is the responsibility of management to both set and enforce guidelines.

Tools like this can make that incredibly simple - eg. every game must achieve a minimum average score of X for character diversity and an average score of Y across every character quality.

Perhaps rather than an internally developed tool by and for one company what we need is a freely available one which can be applied to every game to generate this data.

[ Main Image: King's Diversity Space Tool. Credit: Activision via Wayback Machine. ]


Alt, Eric (May 12, 2022). King's Diversity Space Tool. Activision Blizzard.

Alt, Eric (May 12, 2022). King's Diversity Space ToolActivision Blizzard via Wayback Machine.