Activision Cuts Back Disturbing Diversity Tool

Promises it’s not in active use.

Activision was in the news again this week and shockingly it’s for something people found disturbing and somewhat sociopathic. Activision Blizzard King put out a tone deaf and rather concerning blog post proudly detailing how they’ve been working with MIT to create a “Diversity Space Tool” to ensure their games are more diverse. What does this entail? Some really racist stuff.

More specifically it involves giving numerical values to concepts like race, culture, and “cognitive ability”, the latter of which the tool itself appears to refuse to quantify at this point. What does any of this mean? Why does Ana’s culture of Egyptian have a greater numerical value than Lucio’s culture of Brazilian? What gives one sexual orientation a better score than others?

Naturally conversation on the internet over the last day or so has been about how dystopian and rather racist it is to boil a character down to “Arab” and then post the arbitrarily determined value of that race on a board to compare all the character’s races and how they match up to a literal numerical value system. Perhaps a group of (presumably) educated people might have seen the inevitable problem with not just creating a system that says some races are more valuable than others, but proudly posting about how you created it online.

The system literally creates a point value for physical disabilities. Ana having one eye gets her a 4, but being slim and curvy gets her a 0 in body type and having a “slightly aged” face only a one on the woman scale. Lucio’s ethnicity rating is higher than his race rating, and Zarya as a buff woman gets more body type points than Torbjorn as a diminutive man with robot limbs.

Thankfully the diversity tool has been pretty much roundly rejected from all sides of the political spectrum. Nobody seems particularly shocked that a company like ABK would go about this in the most dehumanizing way possible, and yet many are still disgusted by the extent. The most obvious explanation is that the tool is being set up as the fall guy, something management can point to and blame when the company is accused of lacking diversity. “We can’t be racist, our tool says adding an Arab put our race figure to an 8!”

For ABK’s case, it shows that the company will do pretty much anything other than hire a diverse group of thinkers to manage the company. Going as far as building a computer program to tell them they need more characters with disabilities to hit a magical threshold where the internet might stop yelling at them. It only serves to confirm the theories of those who criticize forced diversity; that the people pushing it only care about the idea as far as they can tick a box on a chart with no care for the actual people behind it. Having an algorithm tell your company how many ethnics and what quantity of physical and cognitive disabilities they should be saddled with to meet quotas. A tangible way of avoiding tokenism that literally boils your roster down to tokenism.

And this tool has been in development for years, meaning ABK was working on a tool to improve diversity in their games at the same time that company management was creating one of the most hostile and abusive workplaces for women and other marginalized employees.

The blog post has since retracted the photos above and clarified that this isn’t in use in any of ABK’s games. At the moment, at least. Unless you discount the implications that the company used the tool for Call of Duty Vanguard and Overwatch 2. Meanwhile Activision Blizzard continues its efforts to bury unionization efforts in a shallow grave. They’re a company that truly cares about their employees.

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