Activision Blizzard – makers of video games such as Overwatch and Call of Duty – recently unveiled a new software program aimed at increasing the diversity of their game characters. And let's just say ... people have opinions.
The “Diversity Space Tool,” as the company called it, was developed to measure the diversity of in-game characters as they’re being developed.
The software creates a numerical score for each character based on their characteristics, such as:
- Gender identity
- Body type
- Sexual orientation
The software was originally hailed by the company as “a leap forward for inclusion in gaming”, one that would help avoid “tokenism, stereotypes, and exclusion” and create a cast of game characters that's as diverse and representative as possible.
Upon its launch, however, critics lambasted the tool – calling it creepy and mildly dystopian.
Some people claimed that a numerical score isn’t the way to drive diversity; rather, the people who design the games should come from diverse backgrounds — and authentically drive diversity within the games. One early architect of the software also spoke out against the way the company was using the tool, saying that it was never meant to put a score on diversity or replace “common sense” when creating new game characters.
Reading about the controversy got us wondering…
? Is it a good idea for video game companies, movie studios, and other media companies to "track" or "manage" the diversity of their characters using data systems?
? Are diverse characters inauthentic if they aren’t created by people who come from the same backgrounds?