Ng Wai Chung is a professional gamer who has built a successful career playing Blizzard’s Hearthstone. He is also a resident of Hong Kong, where many people have been protesting against the Chinese government since June in an effort to maintain their legally-established freedom from the world’s largest dictatorship.
During a livestream of the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament, Chung donned a gas mask and goggles before announcing, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution for our age!” Fearing for their careers, the hosts of the livestream hid their faces during Chung’s protest, then immediately cut to commercials.
Blizzard banned Chung from participating in Hearthstone tournaments for a year, confiscating prize money he’d already won as well. To be clear, this is an American company that is punishing a Hong Kong citizen for saying he wants to have the same political freedom enshrined in the US Constitution.
But the video game giant didn’t stop there; Blizzard also announced it would “immediately cease working with both casters” who happened to be on air during Chung’s protest.
A bad excuse for a bad decision
Blizzard’s official reasoning is that Chung violated the official Hearthstone Grandmaster competition rules by, “[e]ngaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
In what bizarre universe does advocating for your own basic freedoms — like the freedom to protest, or to elect your own leaders — bring you into public disrepute or damage Blizzard’s image? These statements only apply if Blizzard is more concerned with appeasing a brutal dictatorship than supporting the values shared by the people who make, purchase, and play their games worldwide.
Blizzard’s real motivation
Just this week, Chinese companies have suspended ties with the NBA after a basket team executive tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters. And the authoritarian government scrubbed South Park from its tightly-controlled Internet after the raunchy cartoon lampooned Chinese censorship.
Clearly, Blizzard took note; the multi-billion-dollar digital entertainment company doesn’t want to risk access to the lucrative Chinese marketplace. The personal liberty of its own customers and Esports participants, however, is expendable.
Tell Blizzard what you think
Public outcry has been swift, as people everywhere have criticized Blizzard for its terrifying willingness to appease the Chinese government. Blizzard employees even staged a walk-out today to ensure that the world knows not everyone in the company is complicit with its corporate strategy.
We’re asking you to show Blizzard that the real damage done to its corporate image was done by Blizzard itself. Here’s how to help: