by Christopher Hutton In a week filled with content bans and pro-Hong Kong protests, the gaming giant Blizzard-Activision set themselves up in the cross hairs of China and its fans due to their response to the actions of a particular Chinese eSports star. Blizzard, known for games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft, suspended Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai AKA Blitzchung from playing in tournaments due to his expression of pro-Hong Kong support. Said ideas were expressed in an interview after a tournament when Chung told the interviewers that Liberate Hong Kong was the ‘revolution of our times.’ Chung was suspended for a year from playing in the Grandmasters, one of the highest levels of competitive play that is available to Hearthstone pros. Chung also had any winnings he had received due to said win rescinded, estimated to be over $10,000 in total. The two broadcasters who interviewed Chung were also fired by Blizzard for unstated reasons. These actions led to a massive uproar from fans, calling their efforts against the player unfair and corporately interested, as well as an activity that gives into the interests of China, who has been suppressing the ongoing riots and resistance efforts in Hong Kong for over 17 weeks now. Many fans are now planning to boycott the company over their pro-Chinese policies, with a select number even going as far as to remove all data and profiles from Blizzard products. Several employees also staged a walkout, where they protested the decision by collecting around the orc statue in front of the company’s headquarters in Anaheim. “The action Blizzard took against the player was pretty appalling, but not surprising,” a longtime Blizzard employee told The Daily Beast. “Blizzard makes a lot of money in China, but now the company is in this awkward position where we can’t abide by our values.” “I’m disappointed,” another current Blizzard employee said. “We want people all over the world to play our games, but no action like this can be made with political neutrality.” When the New York Times approached Blizzard for comment, they were told that “Mr. Chung had run afoul of a rule barring players from any act that ‘brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages’ the company’s image.” A spokesman told Engadget that they are considering their options about how to handle the matter, but has said nothing since. Chung has not hosted any interviews since his suspension. However, in a Twitch stream on Tuesday, he told his followers that “Today, what I have lost in Hearthstone is four years of time... But if Hong Kong loses, it would be the matter of a lifetime.” Activision-Blizzard has a significant presence in China and other Asian countries. China supplied 12% of the 7.5 billion dollars Activision-Blizzard made last year. In addition, Tencent, the Chinese internet giant, holds a 5% stake in the company. Said actions come days after the NBA entered its own controversy after Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his own solidarity for the ongoing efforts in Hong Kong. Said tweet eventually lead to several Chinese companies cutting ties with his team. A day later, the Chinese partners of the NBA cut ties with the American League after the NBA commissioner stated that they would not censor their players or employees. Despite this, Morey deleted the tweet and offered an apology.
Sources: New York Times, CNN, Reddit, Daily Beast, NYT, Engadget, Activision, Fool, CNN, CNN Image: Wikipedia