- Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind video games like “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch,” is under scrutiny for its decision to punish an esports player who voiced support for protesters in Hong Kong.
- Chung Ng Wai, the esports athlete better known as Blitzchung, shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” in Chinese amid a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored “Hearthstone” tournament in Taiwan.
- Blizzard responded by stripping Blitzchung of his prize money and barring him from “Hearthstone” competitions for one year. Blizzard said Blitzchung’s comments had violated the competition rules by damaging the company’s image.
- Upset fans and supporters of the Hong Kong protests have blasted Blizzard’s decision to punish Blitzchung, and many have vowed to stop supporting Blizzard entirely.
- Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon also weighed in: “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A single act of protest during a video-game competition in Taiwan has garnered international attention and a massive backlash against one of America’s largest and highest-profile video-game companies.
Blizzard Entertainment is facing major criticism after punishing Blitzchung, a Hong Kong-based esports competitor who voiced support for Hong Kong’s protesters during a Blizzard-run event on October 5. Blitzchung, whose real name is Chung Ng Wai, is a grand-master-level player in “Hearthstone,” Blizzard’s very popular digital card game.
During Blizzard’s official broadcast of the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters competition, Blitzchung appeared in a post-match interview wearing a gas mask. As the broadcast ended, Blitzchung shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” with the apparent support of the two tournament broadcasters.
[BREAKING] Hong Kong Hearthstone player @blitzchungHS calls for liberation of his country in post-game interview:https://t.co/3AgQAaPioj
@Matthieist #Hearthstone pic.twitter.com/DnaMSEaM4g
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Read more: California-based game company Blizzard bans pro esports player and confiscates his prize money after he voices support for Hong Kong protesters
Hong Kong has been under a condition of civil unrest for more than four months. Millions of people have marched to demand sovereignty from mainland China and protest increasingly poor socioeconomic conditions. The ongoing protests have already garnered international attention, with the territory’s increasingly complex relationship with China’s communist government as a core issue.
Tencent, one of China’s biggest companies and the largest video-game publisher in the world, owns a 5% stake in Blizzard’s parent company, Activision Blizzard.
Blizzard responds with a one-year ban, withholding Blitzchung’s prize money
Blizzard responded to Blitzchung’s comments by stripping him of any prize money he would have earned for the tournament and barred him from “Hearthstone” competitions for one year. Blizzard also said it would no longer work with the two broadcasters who were interviewing Blitzchung during his comments. The company deleted the match and interview footage from its official channels as well.
“Hearthstone” has an international tour, offering $1 million in prizes for top-level players this year. Blitzchung had earned at least $3,000 from his wins so far, with the potential to earn more in the competition’s playoff rounds.
In the blog post announcing Blitzchung’s ban, Blizzard said “we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,” but Blitzchung’s comments were apparently deemed to be harmful to the company.
Blitzchung himself seems to be standing by his comments: “I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something,” he said, according to a statement shared on Twitter by Victims of Communism, a human-rights group.
Fans pledge to boycott Blizzard as critics suggest a bias toward China
Blizzard’s decision has sparked outrage from Americans, who say Blitzchung’s comments should be protected as free speech — especially given that Blizzard is an American company. Supporters of the protests in Hong Kong accused Blizzard of compromising its principles to protect its business interests in China.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon was one of the many voices that came to Blitzchung’s defense, accusing Blizzard of censorship.
“Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party,” Wyden tweeted. “No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”
.@Blizzard_Ent thank you for assuring that I will not purchase another game from you so long as you stand against the people of #hongkong fighting for their democracy, their lives and their place in the world. I guess money erases any sense of shame you should have over this
— Sarfaraz (@LacesNjoysticks) October 8, 2019
Upset fans have flooded Reddit message boards for Blizzard’s most popular games with posts calling for boycotts of Blizzard. The main subreddit dedicated to Blizzard titles, “r/Blizzard,” was set to private mode by the moderators because of the intense backlash.
The Blizzard subreddit has been made private. Really sleazy–if you’re going to do something villainous, you can’t flee from the lumps you’re going to take from it.
— Sam Sykes (@SamSykesSwears) October 8, 2019
Kevin Hovdestad, a former Blizzard employee, said on Twitter that the backlash seemed to be brewing internally: Someone covered up two of the company’s key values — “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” — enshrined on a statue at the company’s headquarters.
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.
Both the “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
— Kevin Hovdestad (@lackofrealism) October 8, 2019
Blizzard is the latest American company to face criticism for its relationship to China. The NBA is also embroiled in its own controversy involving Hong Kong and China after the Houston Rockets general manager Darryl Morey shared a tweet in support of the protests. Morey later apologized and deleted the tweet, but the situation has strained the league’s relationship with China.
SEE ALSO: California-based game company Blizzard bans pro esports player and confiscates his prize money after he voices support for Hong Kong protesters
Join the conversation about this story »
NOW WATCH: How Area 51 became the center of alien conspiracy theories