“The Diversity Space Tool is a measurement device, to help identify how diverse a set of character traits are and in turn how diverse that character and casts are when compared to the ‘norm’,” explains Chomatas. Once it establishes a baseline for typical character traits (which is done by the creative team working closely with DE&I experts), it can then weigh new character designs against it to measure their diversity. During this process, the tool can also uncover unconscious bias, such as why certain traits are seen as “male” vs. “female,” or why characters from certain ethnic backgrounds are given similar personalities or behaviors.
In this effort, the Diversity Space Tool can clearly delineate between token characters and true representation. “[The tool] identifies what stereotypical characters in different genres look like, which are not always the most conducive or representative of diversity,” says Chomatas. “It helps identify those stereotypes, while also helping creatives look closer at their designs, so they can dissect their own assumptions and presets. It also helps identify opportunities for more diverse character narratives, to ensure that we are not only creating diverse characters in appearance alone.”
By starting at the character conception stage, the tool allows King and others, to ask these important questions at the earliest possible moment, to promote more thoughtful creative choices from the ground up – which, in turn, leads to games that are more representative of their player base.
Over the past few months, King has let developer teams at Activision and Blizzard “beta test” the Diversity Space Tool, and the results have been immediate and enthusiastic.
Alayna Cole, DE&I manager at Sledgehammer Games, says the tool was tested by developer teams working on Call of Duty: Vanguard, and it left a sizable impression. “We used [the Diversity Space Tool] to figure out what ‘more diversity’ looks like across all of our characters in both campaign multiplayer and Live seasons,” says Cole. “And now we’re going to use that data going forward into the next games that we’re working on.” The Overwatch 2 team at Blizzard has also had a chance to experiment with the tool, with equally enthusiastic first impressions.
The plan is to release the tool internally across Activision Blizzard starting this summer and into Q3, with an eye towards what Chomatas calls “the ultimate goal”: Making the tool available to the industry as a whole.
“We strongly believe in the tool’s potential to change the gaming landscape,” says Chomatas.