Activision Blizzard présente un outil pour améliorer la diversité des personnages dans ses jeux

Activision Blizzard présente un outil pour améliorer la diversité des personnages dans ses jeux

Activision Blizzard recently posted an article dedicated to King’s Diversity Space Tool. It is a software intended to ensure a certain diversity in the characters of the studio’s video games. Basically, you enter a whole bunch of data on a character and the tool tells you if it is well balanced or if it has biases that may offend some of the players.

The company explains that the King developers want to avoid certain stereotypes in this way. Since the beginning of development in 2016, the software has evolved a lot and if it is still in the beta phase, it has still been tested on Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty: Vanguard. Eventually, it will even be used by all Activision Blizzard studios.

As soon as the article was published, some voices were raised, criticizing the fact of leaving the choice of diversity to a software as well as to the data which allows the latter to say if a character is too this or not enough that.

In an update, Activision Blizzard clarified that the software has not been actively used and that it is “simply” a tool to support teams responsible for diversity, equity of inclusion.

EDITOR’S NOTE (7:42 pm PT – May 13, 2022): There have been conversations online regarding the Diversity Space Tool, particularly regarding its intent and our commitment to diversity. We have edited this blog post to clarify that this prototype is not 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 add-on to the hard work and focus our teams already have on telling diverse stories with diverse characters, but decisions about in-game content have been and always will be taken by the development teams. The tool was developed by King, and has been beta tested by several developers in the company, all of whom provided valuable input.

The goal of using the tool is to uncover unconscious biases by identifying existing standards of representation and recognizing opportunities for growth in inclusion. It does not replace any other essential efforts of our teams in this regard, and will not change our company’s recruitment objectives for diversity. Over the past few years, the development of the tool has been done with the support of all of our DE&I networks of employees, and we have worked with external partners to create an even more robust tool.

The tool is not intended to be used in isolation; teams meet with company DE&I personnel to identify existing standards, then discuss, educate, consult, and collaborate on how a character’s portrayal is expressed beyond those standards. This process is meant to create a conversation where our developers, aided by the tool, challenge assumptions, evaluate choices, and find opportunities to foster authentic representation in our games.

Activision Blizzard is committed to reflecting the diversity of its millions of gamers around the world through representation and inclusion in its games and in its employees. The purpose of this blog post was to share some of our journey in this area. We recognize and respect that each person may be at a unique point in their journey with DE&I. The Diversity Space Tool is not a definitive assessment of diversity in game content; rather, it is a gateway to opening up previously unspoken conversations about how thoughtful inclusion can happen – and thrive – in games.

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

However, the question that remains is: How to convert this return of collective desire into a tangible reality? As expected, the folks at King already have a head start.

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

This is where the MIT Game Lab comes in. Alongside King, MIT techs helped turn a mission statement into tangible software that would create and control guidelines for character design and creation, looking at all the ways basic elements like gender , body type, roles (“heroes” versus “villains”), and even such granular factors as pose, or body movement, can suggest powerful things about a character one way or the other. According to Jacqueline Chomatas, King’s Globalization Project Manager, once MIT handed over the basic software, King’s team spent the last few years refining and developing it, mostly on a volunteer basis. People spent their off hours working on the tool, simply because they believed in its potential.

“An important principle for us at King is that all players should feel welcome,” says Chomatas. “The goal is to inspire gaming teams, not only at King, but across Activision Blizzard’s King network, to think outside the box and challenge preconceptions about how people look and behave. characters. As a result, we hope to create more characters that think outside the box and better represent women, non-binaries, and other underrepresented minorities in the industry.”

How does it work

The idea of ​​a “tool” to make characters more diverse and inclusive might seem a bit overwhelming. In practice, this must be more than just a reminder that between 2017 and 2021, nearly 80% of top-selling games worldwide had white, male protagonists (according to research by Diamond Lobby). It should be an integral part of the incubation process from the start, integrated into the pipeline as a consistent, unavoidable step – and that’s exactly what this tool was designed to be.

The Diversity Space tool is a measuring instrument that helps identify the diversity of a set of character traits and, therefore, the diversity of that character and actors relative to the “norm”. “, explains Mr. Chomatas. Once he has established a baseline for typical character traits (which is done by the creative team in close collaboration with DE&I experts), he can then assess new character designs against this baseline to measure their diversity.During this process, the tool can also highlight unconscious biases, such as why certain traits are considered “masculine” or “feminine”, or why characters of certain ethnic backgrounds have similar personalities or behaviors.

In this context, the Diversity Space tool makes it possible to clearly distinguish perfunctory characters from real representatives. “[L’outil] identifies what stereotypical characters look like in different genres, which aren’t always the most conducive or representative of diversity,” says Chomatas. “It helps identify those stereotypes, while helping creatives look more closely their creations, so they can dissect their own assumptions and pre-selections. It also helps identify storytelling possibilities for more diverse characters, to ensure that we’re not creating characters that are diverse just in appearance.”

By starting at the character design stage, the tool allows King and others to ask these important questions as early as possible, to promote more thoughtful creative choices from the start – 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 the Activision and Blizzard developer teams “test” the Diversity Space tool, and the results have been immediate and enthusiastic. The objective is to continue testing the tool internally in order to obtain initial feedback within Activision Blizzard this summer. “We strongly believe in the potential of this tool to change the landscape of video games,” says Chomatas.

Beyond the game

Although the Diversity Space tool was designed for use in game character design, Chomatas believes it has broader applications across all entertainment and media platforms. “Traits and metrics are applicable to broader entertainment verticals including TV, film and literature. The only change required when used in these verticals would be the base traits, which would need to be calibrated to be relevant to the genre and universe in which each character exists.” Chomatas admits the app is still evolving – and, in fact, it’s designed to continually evolve as “standards” change and platforms evolve. In the end, we get out of it what we put in it, and what we choose to take out of it.

“Like anything, it’s just a tool that provides information,” says Chomatas. “It’s up to the teams that create the characters and the games to apply them.”

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