On Oct. 8, 2019, professional “Hearthstone” player Blitzchung was banned from playing in competitive Hearthstone for one year after expressing pro-Hong Kong sentiments in an interview.
At the end of an after-match interview, Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, while donning a gas mask, said as a rough translation, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age” — an obvious reference to the Hong Kong protests for freedom against China. After this statement, he was banned for one year and all of his earnings for that season were revoked. The two casters that were involved in his declaration on stream were also fired for their involvement.
That was the start of a whirlwind of backlash. Blizzard fans from all over the world shouted in outrage over the ban. Players from all over the globe began to burn their games and delete their Blizzard accounts in rebellion to this decision.
Even Blizzard’s own staff became involved with deleting their own Blizzard accounts, including ex-Blizzard employee Mark Kern – the team lead of “World of Warcraft,” “Diablo Two” and “Starcraft.” He concluded his declaration to stop playing with this, saying, “until Blizzard reverses their decision on Blitzchung, I am giving up playing Classic WoW.” From those still inside the company, there was a protest around the infamous orc statue at Blizzard’s studio. The employees there carried umbrellas calling to the Umbrella Movement, which made the umbrella a symbol of rebellion against China. Many within the company are angered by the fact that it seems Blizzard can’t even keep to their own values.
The orc statue itself was also marked in protest. For every cardinal direction a core value of the company is written. Two of those values, “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” were covered with tape and paper in a photo supposedly taken by a Blizzard employee who said, “Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.”
It gets even crazier. After this incident, people began creating pro-Hong Kong versions of characters, the most popular of whom being Mei from “Overwatch.” Designs of her plastered in Pro-Hong Kong advocacy have become widely accepted and publicized. If you were to search for “Mei Overwatch” right now, it is currently covered in redesigns of the character wearing a gas mask and carrying an umbrella while the phrase “liberate Hong Kong” is all over her face and outfit. The goal of this is to remove “Overwatch” from search engines and computers all over China.
As much as the outrage is warranted, let’s take a step back and think about why Blizzard decided to appease the Chinese government. China at the current moment is a powerhouse of a market for many forms of media. That is why certain movies and games directly appeal to that market. A good example of this is while the “Warcraft” movie was critically panned and bombed at the box office here, it was a massive success in China. That is why companies bend over backwards to make sure that their products make it to Chinese hands. There is a huge amount of profit to be made when your products appeal to China.
That being said, the most ironic thing about Blizzard of all people being involved in this appeasement rigmarole is that it is an American company that bends to the will of a Communist nation. All the values of free speech and freedom of the press are completely ignored when there’s money to be made in a place where such things are not rights.
Blizzard has spent much of its time cultivating an image of acceptance and diversity. Tracer and Soldier 76 being gay, and other characters within other universes being more accepting of others, has made them the go-to brand for people who want freedom to express themselves.
This message now seems so ironic as Blizzard bends over backwards to censor the very people they have taught us to respect. They have told us to love and care, while simultaneously agreeing with the Chinese government that yes, these people must be silenced.
As of writing this, Blizzard has remained in absolute silence, perhaps in the hope that this whole debacle will blow over with time. The only sign of action is the message posted on a Chinese social media website where they said that the individuals responsible “dishonored” China. There are also rising beliefs that, as people try to delete their Blizzard accounts, Blizzard actively closed channels of deletion for an account.
Blizzcon, Blizzard’s own event and announcement hub, is right around the corner. Starting Nov. 1–3, it is next to absolute certainty that protests against their decision to ban Blitzchung and the casters will be broadcasted all over Blizzcon where there is little that can silence them.
All we can do now is wait and see.
Edward Park is a second-year student majoring in English education. EP909756@wcupa.edu