Activision creates a ‘diversity tool’ for Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty

Activision creates a ‘diversity tool’ for Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty

Overwatch 2 characters are rated based on gender identity, body type, ability, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and more through Activision Blizzard's Diversity Tool.

Image: Activision Blizzard

Today, Activision Blizzard met its daily oopsie quota by blogging about how the publisher’s subsidiaries apparently they have been using a special tool to help develop more “diverse” characters. Apparently he thinks he can pull this off without, I don’t know, talking or hiring fringe developers. Why rely on pesky, fallible humans when we have powerful data to tell us that we’ve reached enough Diversity Points to start a new video game culture war? The numbers don’t lie. I mean, look at this. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The well-designed chart tells it all, clearly and calmly.

Damn, I’m glad that technology allows us to solve racism, sexism, ableism, and all the other problems facing video games. Who knew it was so easy? When Jeff Kaplan said he “would hate for diversity to feel complacent, like we had this spreadsheet with a bunch of checkboxes,” Activision Blizzard really took it to heart. Okay, not really.

I’m being sarcastic, but in many ways it’s hard to contain how irritating this is. It’s not just that someone thought a problem with this complex could be solved with a glorified Dungeons and Dragons character sheet that doesn’t make any damn sense. And it’s not just that Blizzard is in the midst of a slew of apparent “diversity” disasters right now, including accusations of sexual harassmentinability to recruit either retain marginalized talentY ongoing union tensions.

But it’s likely that multiple people not only built this thing, but also wrote the blog, were interviewed for it, and then signed on to share it with everyone else. The internet reaction to the post and the tool it describes has been one of complete disbelief, and rightly so. Consider the fact that no one there saw this coming, in the midst of all the other complete PR disasters. What does that say about Activision’s actual ability to address the rampant issues that have been under public scrutiny for the past year, and that the publisher has repeatedly promised to fix? Right now, it seems that no one in charge is really capable of that, if this is what they come up with.

And make no mistake, this is a public relations disaster. I’m not saying this just because I don’t agree with the basic premise that you can, as the blog post says, use a handy tool to magically and quickly “dissect your own assumptions”, avoid “token characters” and achieve “true representation”. by identifying “more diverse character narratives” that go beyond “appearance alone.” Human beings struggle with these things not because we are mere mortals who cannot understand the pristine logic of 1s and 0s, but because achieving a better world is a process, and a painful one. You can’t speed it up. The moment you try to take a shortcut is the moment you no longer engage with the real problem.

While solving these problems may involve tools, Activision Blizzard has repeatedly shown that it is at a stage where it needs more education, guidance, and mentorship from real people with soft skills to help establish a basic understanding of what diversity means. even before you can think. about creating a tool like this. When a company like this takes years to introduce a black woman in a video gameI cannot believe in good faith that it has the ability to “measure” what the hell diversity is or means, much less implement it well.

But even if we take things on their own terms, it doesn’t make any damn sense. Can you look at any of the visualizations shared in the blog post and tell me what they might mean?

A visualization of Activision Blizzard's new diversity tool.

Screenshot: Activision Blizzard

I guess there is some logic to it, possibly one that is only explained and known to people who use the tool regularly, but even suggestion that you can list something as “skill” is complete nonsense. What is skill 0? What does it mean when the image in the blog post says that someone has “sexual orientation: 0.357”?

How can you even put that in front of someone and not feel fucking weird about what you’ve done or what you’re saying?

While this is not important, the example use cases cited in the blog post will not be convincing to the average person. there is vanguard Call Of Duty, a game that Activision not only has he tried to distance himself frombut one that the chuds actively hate because it has diversity. So your other example is surveillance 2a game that has almost everyone asking, “why does this exist?” Are these fair reasons for rejecting a thing fair? No, certainly not. But they are adding on top of an already horrible looking pile. No one is going to say, “Ooo, they used this to the Obligations that disappointed everyone!” Once again, the levels of marketing failure here are unfathomable.

So yeah, it’s not the most convincing way to package what it is Already a tough sell for people who want change but don’t think it can be achieved through representation alone. Nor for those other people who think that simply putting a woman in a video game is inherently too political.

However, perhaps this was unavoidable. Technology, in many ways, is the most extreme manifestation of whiteness and capitalism, structures that are actively invested in defining, codifying, and archiving identity markers for the sake of maintaining power and profit. The outcasts are not perceived until it is useful, and only in the most denigrating terms, for bullshit purposes. Identity is key to achieving those goals. After all, if you can develop a system to, say, define things like gender or race, I might use that information to “inform” larger options, like making sure your character designs are diverse in more complex ways.

In reality, more often than not, data like that is used to surveil, incarcerate, and surveil identities that are put under the microscope, often by people outside of their own communities. In this case, whether or not the entities collecting the data realize it, its most direct effect will be to better equip them to deflect criticism from the very parties they say they want to empower. It’s funny how that works.

Why hire more people of color when you have a bit of software that already tells you what to consider or, worse yet, can make you think you already know what’s what? Do you really have to ponder your biases if the character you came up with spits out a 3, 4, and 5 on the computer diversity scale? Those are pretty good numbers, my friend! Now that we’ve got that figured out, it’s time to move on to some quality time developing realistic horse balls. The Pole is king.

“The traits and measures are applicable to broader entertainment verticals such as television, film, and literature,” the blog reads. “The only change required if used in these verticals would be the basic traits, which would need to be calibrated to be relevant to the genre and universe in which each character exists.”

Activision Blizzard’s blog post ends by saying that it’s ultimately just a tool, and at the end of the day it’s still up to the people behind the wheel to make the decisions. But not before betraying a larger vision of a world that lives under the rule of his tool, and therefore of his master logic.

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