Three Hearthstone players from American University in Washington, D.C. have received six month bans from official Blizzard tournaments.
The players held up a “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz” sign during their Hearthstone Collegiate Championship match on October 8th. When no immediate punishment came, the team voluntarily dropped out of future tournaments. However, judgement was eventually passed. Casey Chambers, a 19-year-old Hearthstone player, posted the notice to Twitter on October 16th. A Hearthstone admin wrote that “Every Voice Matters at Blizzard” — it’s one of the company’s published values — but that the official broadcast is off-limits for these statements.
The situation started last week when pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai spoke in support of Hong Kong citizens currently embroiled in months-long protest with the government. During a livestream of the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters, Blitzchung called for a liberated Hong Kong and a “revolution of our age.” As a result, he was initially banned from competitive play for 12 months and had his prize money revoked. The decision sparked immediate outcry against Blizzard, including demonstrations from workers on Blizzard’s campus in Irvine, California. Blitzchung’s suspension has since been reduced to six months and his prize money returned, but this isn’t the stance change people are looking for.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack addressed the suspension in a letter posted on October 11th. He said Blizzard’s relationships in China “had no influence” on the suspension. Brack also addressed the company’s values — particularly, “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” — as players and employees questioned its commitment to them. Brack said Blizzard “absolutely is” committed to its values. They certainly are committed to something…
The revolution Blitzchung spoke of hasn’t quite come about yet, but this certainly is a mess of our age. Blizzard seems determined to hold fast to its stance against speaking strong political views on its official channels (especially those that threaten its lucrative Chinese foothold) no matter how bad its reputation gets. BlizzCon’s in a couple weeks, and I can’t wait to see what the fans have cooked up by then. This ride’s only gonna’ get bumpier, folks. Strap in.