Video game developer Blizzard Entertainment is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard finally broke its silence after banning a popular virtual card game Hearthstone professional player for voicing support for the protests in Hong Kong. The company says in a long statement that it will reduce player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung’s one-year suspension to a six-month suspension, and it will recover the prize money that it has withheld from it.
Blizzard insists that its initial decision was not affected by its relationship with China. “The particular views expressed by Blitzchung were not a factor in the decision we took.
I want to be clear: our relationship in China has had no impact on our decision, “J writes. Allen Brack, Ceo of Blizzard Entertainment.
Last Sunday, Blitzchung, whose real name is Ng Wai Chung, appeared on a Twitch broadcast after competing at the Hearthstone tournament. Blitzchung finished his remarks by reciting the iconic slogan of the Hong Kong movement, “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of our day.” At the time, he was wearing a gas mask and dark goggles, evoking the equipment that protesters wore during months of street protests.
Blitzchung, who lives in Hong Kong, was given a one-year ban on Blizzard’s tournaments for his acts. The organization also relinquished its 2019 winnings, which were said to be $10,000.
But Brack also says that, after assessing the situation and listening to the audience, “six months for blitzchung is more reasonable, after which time he can participate again on the Hearthstone pro circuit if he wants to do so.” He goes on to say, “There is a risk of taking the conversation away from the intent of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast.”
Brack says that Blizzard will continue to enforce these rules in the future “to ensure that our official broadcasts stay focused on the game and are not a forum for divisive social or political views.” To put it mildly, that is not the response that protesters had hoped for.
Riot Games, the developer of the popular e-sport game League of Legends and a branch of the Chinese gaming company Tencent, expressed a similar sentiment earlier today when it came to the controversy. Riot says broadcasters must “refrain” from commenting on or debating “sensitive issues” on the air during League of Legends e-sports events.
Yet Fortnite developer Epic Games, in which Tencent has also invested, says that he will not punish players for political speech.
Have a look at the tweet:
At the time, the company claimed that Wai Chung had actually violated the rules of its competition.
“While we stand by our right to express individual opinions and beliefs, players and other competitors who choose to compete in our sporting competitions must abide by the official rules of competition,” Blizzard said in his statement. The rule in question forbids players to do anything that “brings them into public disrepute, offends a portion or a group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard’s reputation.”
Despite Blizzard’s best efforts to say otherwise, the ban did not shed a positive light on support for freedom of speech and political expression. It also took place in the middle of a contentious standoff between the NBA and China, which insulted Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the Hong Kong demonstrators.
The NBA eventually led Morey to a downturn in the league and the Rockets ‘ relationship with the country— its largest foreign audience and a source of substantial television, shareholder, and sponsorship funding.
It’s not certain whether Blizzard’s new statement or his reduction in suspension would win over many critics. Brack is obviously trying to take a very narrow line when he says, “One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, anywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, sex or any other factor, always feels safe and welcome to compete and play our games.”
It is also important to see Brack defend Blizzard’s ideals, like “Every Voice Matters,” when that principle obviously flies in the face of the Chinese government’s position on political expression and criticism.
“Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our culture to share their views in the many places available to express themselves,” Brack writes.
“Nonetheless, the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and a place where everyone is welcome. In support of this, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game. In this situation, the voice that seems to resonate most is that of China, even if it doesn’t have to officially speak up to get Blizzard to act accordingly.