What started out as a small solidarity act by the Chinese Hearthstone professional Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai showing support to his people quickly turned into a snowball that continued to roll and get bigger breaking Blizzard’s door open, with their wrong attitude handling the situation and the negative reaction of the player community towards it. Now, the US company has to deal with Congress officials themselves
If you are not familiar with what happened, Blitzchung was playing in one Hearthstone tournament when he shouted in a post-match interview “Restore Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Time!” In a clear sign of his support for the Chinese-administered Hong Kong region, which seeks to achieve separation from the Asian state.
The phrase is one of the most frequently spoken among the protesters, and has led to several arrests in China, prompting Blizzard to fear that the player’s speech could cause particular damage to thier field of work in the Asian country. Although the company’s distancing itself and its competitions from meddling in the political aspects is understandable, it is the way it was handled that has angered the entire gaming community. Apparently, the company (initially) withdrew all the player’s prize money from winning the game tournaments, estimated at $10 thousand dollars, in addition to banning him from competing for a year and expelling the hosts in the interview as well.
Of course, this act was enough to inflame the anger of many supporters of freedom of speech, and although Blizzard took steps such as returning the money that Blitzchung made in an attempt to calm the situation, the issue was so grand that it has reached the U.S Congress , With a number of officials sending a joint letter to the CEO of Activision Blizzard.
Marco Rubio, Rob Wyden and representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski have sent an open letter to CEO Bobby Kotick, criticizing the company ‘s attitude with the situation, demanding it adhere to American principles such as freedom of thought.
“You and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access,”
The letter addresses some other details, such as the need to reconsider the penalties for “Blitzchung”, but Blizzard has already reduced the penalty to a six-month ban from competition before receiving the letter. Whether it will be enough to calm the situation or not is something we have to wait to see. It has become bigger than the player himself who has officially apologized to Blizzard and understands the situation, but the community is still in the fight against the company in support of Hong Kong.
The annual BlizzCon conference will be launched very soon in early November, so we may see additional precautions that Blizzard will take to prevent people from rioting in the light of recent developments.