Blizzard Entertainment is amongst a number of companies facing protests and growing unrest from fans and consumers as they clamp down on actions they believe endangers their relationship with the profitable market of the People’s Republic of China.
The inciting incident that sparked outrage involved Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, a pro Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, who ended a stream with a positive statement supporting the people of Hong Kong in their demonstrations and protests against the local police and government. In the stream, Blitzchung donned similar headwear to the protestors (An
action which is currently being outlawed in Hong Kong) and said, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” This, Blizzard states, violates the competition rules and have removed him from Grandmasters, withheld his prize money for his participation, and a ban from taking part in Hearthstone esports, “for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020.”
This has led to multiple protests against Blizzard itself, including thirty members of its own staff who reportedly walked out from the Activision Blizzard offices in California and stood carrying umbrellas as a symbolic gesture of union with those in Hong Kong.
This action has also been joined with the more subtle covering of, “Think Globally,” and, “Every Voice Matters,” from the company values list that the company have placed outside their office.
The boycott continues, as veteran Hearthstone player and caster Brian Kibler announced that he would no longer be casting the Grandmaster finals at Blizzcon unless something changes. Dubbing the punishment given to Blitzchung as, “incredibly harsh,” and, “completely overboard to an extent that feels completely unwarranted and unfair.”
His departure has come as a complete shock to fans since he is one of the largest members of the Hearthstone community. Kibler has not shied away from the public, however, and is currently streaming Magic: The Gathering Arena on Twitch.
The fan community has taken it upon themselves to protest the actions of Blizzard by subverting a character from their Overwatch series of games and transforming them into an icon of the Hong Kong movement. The character of Mei originates from Xi’an, China and through this metamorphosis the fans are demonstrating not only their distaste with
Blizzard but with the actions of the People’s Republic of China.
This has been combined by the general display from many Hearthstone players that they have become disenchanted, that they no longer feel like they can support the free to play but micro- transaction heavy, game and have posted videos of themselves uninstalling the application.
The response from Blizzard themselves has been limited since their ruling on Blitzchung, and, although they have been approached for a comment from multiple organisations, they have so far refused to address this growing turbulence. Blizzard, of course, are not the only company who has been accused of censoring their players.
Riot Games, who are currently in the midst of streaming the League of Legends: World Championships 2019 have been accused of curtailing its streamers from saying, “Hong Kong,” and instead reducing it to its initials of “HK.” Riot Games, through Ryan Rigney, have defended their actions by stating on twitter:
“To make this as explicit as possible, we aren’t telling anyone to avoid saying “hong kong.”
We’d just rather the team (Hong Kong Attitude) be referred to by its full name. There’s been some confusion internally about this as well and we’re working to correct it.”
This hopefully will not be an issue that will disrupt the ongoing championships, and that the attitude of holding international companies to account for their actions is understood as an overall positive step to be taken by consumers which will ultimately lead to more responsible behaviours.