On the weekend, Blizzard had to endure a sloppy storm – again. The reason this time around was a strange system for determining the diversity of video game characters. After Blizzard’s outside developers distanced themselves from the rating tool, a statement follows.
One of the following controversy follows
Famous video games were once widely considered a Blizzard product, but in recent years there have been scandals in the first place. The publisher doesn’t seem to have missed one fatal mistake: Even before the pandemic, a blizzard was caught in the crossfire as part of the Hong Kong protests, followed by numerous sexism scandals, a wave of resignations and, most recently, at the end of 2021, a debate over unions. The fact that there have been so many disappointing new products and delays in between all of this is almost forgotten.
The latest controversy revolves around a seemingly absurd diversity rating that developers are supposed to use to rank video game characters based on their diversity. Blizzard introduced the tool via a blog entry, but the original text and images can only be viewed via the Wayback Machine.
Blizzard awards points for race and gender
Blizzard’s own goal might be commendable. According to the blog entry, it’s about ensuring that every player can identify video game characters – and therefore said characters should not consist only of white guys with brown hair and a decent body. On the other hand, Blizzard wants to systematically ensure from now on that it always offers a variety of playable characters.
The Diversity Space Tool is a measurement tool, to help determine how diverse a set of personality traits is and thus how diverse that personality and tempo are when compared to the ‘norm’ […]. Once he bases his typical personality traits […]He can then weigh new character designs against them to gauge their diversity.
During this process, the tool can also reveal unconscious bias, such as why certain traits are viewed as “male” versus “female,” or why characters from certain racial backgrounds give similar personalities or behaviors.
Blizzard’s original blog post
However, the concrete implementation reads as a catalyst for many controversies. Because the blog entry indicates that the diversity tool can be used to score how diverse a given personality is on a scale of 1 to 10—with respect to ten criteria: culture, race, age, cognitive abilities, physical abilities, body type, beauty, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. In practice, this means that the tool assigns a degree to different races, cultures, or sexual orientations. The higher the character, the more diverse the character is in the discipline.
On a screenshot, Overwatch’s support heroine, Anna, is dissected this way as an example. The Egyptian is achieving good results for the diversity of its culture as well as for it.”Arab race” [sic!] And aging there are many points. Since Anna only has one working eye, she has an average physical ability rating. On the other hand, their slim body shape, gender difference and beauty are not so diverse. The fact that she is a woman is recognized by five points.
Criticism wanes – from the staff too
The fact that Blizzard creates not only a rating of character diversity, but also a ranking of the value of individual ethnic groups or cultures, caused a lot of uproar over the weekend. Many players were shocked, angry, or simply frustrated, especially on Twitter. Including Blizzard employees, such as the Overwatch developer.
Oh my gosh, I swear our own company is trying really hard to slay any goodwill by the actual developers who made the game
Overwatch doesn’t use that scary remote scheme, writers have eyes. Artists: They have eyes. Producers, directors and others, as far as I know, all have eyes https://t.co/WEMRf8QmBu
– Melissa Kelly 💙 (@mlktea) May 14, 2022
According to her, the Overwatch team was shocked and did not use the diversity rating at all – the Blizzard blog, in turn, stated that the Overwatch team had already tried the tool and responded enthusiastically. Meanwhile, Blizzard King is to blame – like the studio developing Candy Crush, for example.
Opinion tries to limit damage
Blizzard has now revised the blog entry and added a statement regarding the many allegations. The publisher initially backs down and points out that the diversity rating is not used in development – instead it is used for the subsequent evaluation of their own games. In addition, it is emphasized that it is important not to mistakenly use prejudices in one’s personalities. The tool helps with this as well as with the internal discourse. This is how diversity is arrangedA bridge to conversations about thoughtful inclusion in video games“.
There has been an online conversation regarding the Diversity Space Tool, particularly regarding its intent and our commitment to diversity. […]
Launched in 2016, the Diversity Space tool – currently in beta – is designed as an optional supplement to the hard work and our teams already focus on telling diverse stories with diverse characters, but decisions about in-game content have always been and will always be led by the development team. […]
The goal of using the tool is to reveal unconscious bias by identifying current norms in representation and recognizing opportunities for growth in inclusion. It is not a substitute for any other essential effort by our teams in this regard, and it will not alter our company’s diverse staffing goals. Over the past several years, the tool has been developed with the support of all of our employees’ diversity, equity, and inclusion networks, and we’ve collaborated with external partners to create an even more powerful tool.
The tool is not intended to be used in isolation; Teams will sit down with the company’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion staff to determine current standards and then discuss, educate, consult, and collaborate on how to express character representation beyond those standards. This process aims to create a conversation where our developers, with the help of the tool, challenge assumptions, evaluate options and create opportunities for authentic representation to be enhanced in our games. […]