King's Diversity Space Tool: A Leap Forward for Inclusion in Gaming
A few days ago, Activision Blizzard published a new article titled King's Diversity Space Tool: A Leap Forward for Inclusion in Gaming. In this post, it was found out that King and the MIT Game Lab have been working together to make software in order to "create and monitor guidelines for character conception and creation".

The original post included a header called "Diversity Space Method", featuring different attributes of Zarya, Lucio and Torbjörn in a radar chart.



The Diversity Space Tool also showed a detailed breakdown of Ana and other characters from Overwatch. Ana received a score of 7 out of 10 for culture and race, and 0 out of 10 for body type, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.



The Diversity Space Tool has been criticized online by the community, after all how is it even possible to "rate" the race and sexual orientation of a character by giving it a score from 0 to 10? Blizzard employees have also criticized the tool, mentioning that Overwatch doesn't even use this "creepy dystopian chart".



In light of the controversy, the original post was updated with an editor's note which clarifies that the tool is not being used in active game development.
Originally Posted by Activision Blizzard
EDITOR’S NOTE (7:42pm PT - May 13, 2022): There has been conversation online regarding the Diversity Space Tool, particularly concerning its intent and our commitment to diversity. We’ve 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 additional context:

Started in 2016, the Diversity Space Tool–currently in beta–was designed as an optional supplement to the hard work and focus our teams already place on telling diverse stories with diverse characters, but decisions regarding in-game content have been and will always be driven by development teams. The tool was developed at King, and has been beta tested by several developers across the company, all of whom have provided valuable input.

The objective of using the tool is to uncover unconscious bias by identifying existing norms in representation and acknowledging opportunities for growth in inclusion. 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. Over the past several years, the development of the tool was done with the support of all our employee DE&I networks, and we collaborated with external partners to create an even more robust tool.

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.

Activision Blizzard is committed to reflecting the diversity of its millions of players around the world through representation and inclusion in its games as well as its employees. Our intent with this blog entry was to share an in-progress piece of our journey in this endeavor. We recognize and respect that all people may be on their own, unique point in their journey with DE&I. The Diversity Space Tool is not a definitive evaluation of diversity in game content; rather, it is a bridge in opening previously unspoken conversations into how thoughtful inclusion can happen – and thrive - in games.



We want to see ourselves represented in games, we want the barriers to access lowered, and we want games to be a welcoming environment for all. Just look at the 2019 International Game Developers Association (IGDA) “Developer Satisfaction Survey,” which asked developers what they considered to be the most important factor in the growth of the gaming industry. The most common response? “More diversity in content.” It’s not even a question anymore.

However, the question that does remain is this: How do we convert this feedback from collective desire into tangible reality? As expected, the people at King are already thinking a few moves ahead.

In 2016, King began developing a method for guarding against unconscious bias and exclusion when it came to the creation of their games and characters. At the time, this idea existed as an intangible philosophy, but the potential was obvious.

Enter the MIT Game Lab. Alongside King, the MIT techs helped turn a mission statement into tangible software that would create and monitor guidelines for character conception and creation, looking into all the ways basic elements such as gender, body type, roles (“heroes” vs. “villains”) and even such granular factors such as pose, or body movement, can suggest powerful things about a character one way or another. According to King Globalization Project Manager Jacqueline Chomatas, once MIT handed over the basic software, the team at King spent the last few years honing and developing it, mostly as a volunteer effort. People were spending their off-hours working on the tool, simply because they believed in its potential so much.

“An important principle for us at King is that all players should feel welcome,” says Chomatas. “The intention is to inspire game teams not just at King, but throughout the Activision Blizzard King network, to think outside the box and challenge pre-conceived notions around how characters should look and act. As a result, hopefully we will create more characters that break the mold, and better represent women, non-binaries and other under-represented minorities in the industry.”

How It Works

The idea of a “tool” to make characters more diverse and inclusive may seem a little hard to wrap your head around. In practice, it has to be more than just, say, a pop-up reminder that 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). It needs to become a part of the incubation process from the start, baked into the pipeline as an unmissable and consistent step - which is exactly what this tool was designed to be.

“The Diversity Space Tool is 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’,” explains Chomatas. Once it establishes a baseline for typical character traits (which is done by the creative team working closely with DE&I experts), it can then weigh new character designs against it to measure their diversity. During this process, the tool can also uncover unconscious bias, such as why certain traits are seen as “male” vs. “female,” or why characters from certain ethnic backgrounds are given similar personalities or behaviors.

In this effort, the Diversity Space Tool can clearly delineate between token characters and true representation. “[The tool] identifies what stereotypical characters in different genres look like, which are not always the most conducive or representative of diversity,” says Chomatas. “It helps identify those stereotypes, while also helping creatives look closer at their designs, so they can dissect their own assumptions and presets. It also helps identify opportunities for more diverse character narratives, to ensure that we are not only creating diverse characters in appearance alone.”

By starting at the character conception stage, the tool allows King and others, to ask these important questions at the earliest possible moment, to promote more thoughtful creative choices from the ground up – which, in turn, leads to games that are more representative of their player base.

Sharing and Caring

Over the past few months, King has let developer teams at Activision and Blizzard “beta test” the Diversity Space Tool, and the results have been immediate and enthusiastic. The plan is to further test the tool internally for preliminary feedback across Activision Blizzard starting this summer. “We strongly believe in the tool’s potential to change the gaming landscape,” says Chomatas.

Beyond Gaming

While the Diversity Space Tool was designed for use in game character conception, Chomatas also sees it as having broader applications across all entertainment and media platforms. “The traits and measures are applicable to wider entertainment verticals including TV, film, and literature. The only change required if used in these verticals would be the baseline traits, which would need to be calibrated to be relevant to the genre and universe each character exists in.” Chomatas admits that the application is still evolving – and, in fact, is designed to continuously evolve as “norms” shift and platforms change. In the end, you get out of it what you put into it, and what you choose to take from it.

“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.”
This article was originally published in forum thread: King's Diversity Space Tool: A Leap Forward for Inclusion in Gaming started by Lumy View original post
Comments 790 Comments
  1. Delever's Avatar
    This is something that I wouldn't even be able to imagine in the wildest of dystopian scenarios. I am amazed.

    EDIT: This is not an attack toward the devs since they also claim to not use this. Whoever came up with this though... I have no words.
  1. Grim32's Avatar
    Who in their right mind thought this was a good idea? And who the hell thought it was a good idea to post publicly about this?!
  1. Au-burn's Avatar
    Why make this uber SJW tool when their devs are already super woke? Some weird pr stunt.
  1. Myradin's Avatar
    So, looking at Torbjorn's stats, a skinny young white straight white guy would be 'bad', but an old, short, muscled guy would score pretty decent, even if he didnt have a robot arm?
  1. kranur's Avatar
    Jesus fuck ...

    I wonder if someone makes a game with 1 character ... will that fuck up of a tool tell the developer to make that char with fat body, skinny legs, black legs, white torso, asian head, hermaphrodite and belong to a few different religions?
  1. Maell's Avatar
    *grags popcorn*

    This thread should be fun
  1. schwarzkopf's Avatar
    The tool is missing a significant parameter - prevalence.

    If 66 year old black, autistic, gay women represent 0.1% of the community as a whole - then the game should represent them similarly.

    It becomes tokenism when you have 100% of the characters from 2% of the population.
  1. Arafal's Avatar
    Ah yes, turning representation into a min-max spreadsheet, what could possibly go wrong?

    This is the dumbest possible idea anyone could've come up with.
    Good fucking lord.
  1. saixilein's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Au-burn View Post
    Why make this uber SJW tool when their devs are already super woke? Some weird pr stunt.
    Even worse is that they promoting this tool with things like "our OW devs already uses it!" and they all they that its a lie.

    Blizzard is so fucked up. I cant wait for the day when this deversity sh1tshow goes down again. Its so annoying.

    In the end it does more dmg to diverse people then helping them. Like the idiots who call 24/7 about your skincolor and your origin ethnic origin. This people say they fight against racism, but in the end they push racism to the max.

    braindead clownworld.
  1. UnifiedDivide's Avatar
    Yeah, this was a really smart thing to post. Does MMO-C really need the type of engagement this will bring? Just link the closed thread and be done with it lol
  1. dragi's Avatar
    It's so horrible...it's so detached from reality that i can't find right words. STOP making politic, start producing games.... making tools like this doesn't delete what happened in company...
  1. Azmoden's Avatar
    I'm a straight white cis-genderd male, and I'm sorry (and apparently pretty boring as well...)
  1. Okacz's Avatar
    Hope it's going to be a part of Role Queue. Wanna play as straight, wait 30 minutes.

    Also now we know why over 50% of OW cast has amputated (and roboted up) limbs. Gotta farm that Phys Ability score, and the bar is set quite high. Losing one eye? 4/10 at best, you casual.

    Small edit: similar tools were used in pretty much ALL large mobile gaming companies, and a lot of AAA studios as well for some time now. Difference is, nobody is insane enough to reveal them to the public, as it's literally a converter of diversity into money and serves to monetize the customers even more. Blizzard is the only batshit crazy company that though this would look good on the press releaseDD
  1. Lilithvia's Avatar
    MMO-C, Edge hacked Lumy again. The ratio is already starting on Twitter
  1. Mic_128's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by schwarzkopf View Post
    The tool is missing a significant parameter - prevalence.

    If 66 year old black, autistic, gay women represent 0.1% of the community as a whole - then the game should represent them similarly.

    It becomes tokenism when you have 100% of the characters from 2% of the population.
    So what, then they should be represented by a foot?
  1. Zalraki's Avatar
    In China they have the social credit system to monitor their subjects

    And now in America they have this... They're going to trial it in games first, then Facebook/Twitter and soon after roll out the final version in real life.
  1. Deadite's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Azmoden View Post
    I'm a straight white cis-genderd male, and I'm sorry (and apparently pretty boring as well...)
    I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.
  1. SirPaper's Avatar
    Will this result in better character creation for WoW?
  1. Myradin's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Azmoden View Post
    I'm a straight white cis-genderd male, and I'm sorry (and apparently pretty boring as well...)
    According to this if you are old or have muscles (possibly overweight?) you're okay.
  1. Morgaith's Avatar
    Jesus what is this travesty?

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