Activision Blizzard, the folks behind such games as World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, is the latest company facing backlash after actions many believe were kowtowing to China.
Blizzard is now facing an avalanche of criticism after suspending a professional Hearthstone player at one of their tournaments and making him forfeit the $10,000 prize money he won.
The player, Chung Ng Wai, was interviewed during a live broadcast and expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters, saying, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a slogan of the protesters.
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Not only did Blizzard punish the player as we previously reported, but they suspended him for a full year and also fired the casters who were doing the interview, judging them part of the offense. Blizzard said they will not work with them in the future.
It gets much worse.
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) October 8, 2019
Chung said he didn’t regret what he did. “Today, what I have lost in Hearthstone is four years of time,” Chung said, referring to the years he spent playing the game, according to the New York Times. “But if Hong Kong loses, it would be the matter of a lifetime.”
Blizzard players were not happy. They flooded the forums such as the one for World of Warcraft, bashing Blizzard’s decision and posting support for human rights, criticism of China and Blizzard, and support for Hong Kong. While Blizzard said their objection was to political expression on the broadcast, they reportedly deleted those posts while leaving up posts that supported their decision.
Some are now calling for a boycott of Blizzard.
So @Blizzard_Ent suspended me from the @PlayHearthstone forums for posting “Free Hong Kong and Free @blitzchungHS.” I bought and played nearly every blizzard game for the past two decades and love all of them. But I’m not buying anything else from @Blizzard_Ent! @BlizzardCS! pic.twitter.com/IHmjrmFmE5
— Grant Kidwell (@GrantKidwell) October 8, 2019
in tonight's Collegiate Hearthstone championship, American University held up a "Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard" during the broadcast, which was quickly cut away by Blizzard pic.twitter.com/Y9eXtLfuGw
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 9, 2019
brian kibler, former hearthstone winner & current blizzcon commentator has backed out of blizzcon in protest of blizzard's actions.
this is a very good post. https://t.co/i855xyg7hA
— systemd 👻🎃 (@randileeharper) October 9, 2019
Perhaps the most significant name calling for a boycott and cancelling his World of Warcraft subscription was Mark Kern, who led the team that created the game.
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) October 9, 2019
From NY Times:
In an interview, Mr. Kern said China was a major source of revenue for the gaming industry, and he knew he was “closing many doors” careerwise by speaking out on Twitter.
But Mr. Kern, who lived in Hong Kong as a teenager, said the company’s actions were “a deterioration of Blizzard values that really broke my heart.”
“It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for,” he said.
Blizzard isn’t the only company embroiled. The NBA is also facing backlash for appearing to toady to the Chinese and apologize for a pro-Hong Kong statement made by Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets. South Park mocked China for their censorship and is now banned from Chinese platforms.
People are beginning to wake up to China’s influence curtailing free speech, but the encroachment has been going on for some time. It’s time for people to be loud and verbal that we, as Americans, will not tolerate it.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed and blasted Blizzard’s actions.
“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”