Paige FTW: The Price of Politics

I would be remiss if I did not touch briefly in this space about the big Blizzard-China controversy that has occupied much of the gaming world’s attention these past few weeks.

The details are thus: Blizzard banned Hearthstone pro Blitzchung, aka Ng Wai Chung, a Hong Kong native who also sits among the elite in the Asia-Pacific area in the game.

In Hong Kong, in case you live under a rock, there have been long-lasting, massive protests against the Chinese government that still keeps a firm thumb on the former British colony. It was triggered in June by a Chinese extradition proposal, but the movement has only garnered more attention and influence since. The Chinese government is not happy, and it has been taking out its anger on anyone — entity or person — who dares to align themselves with the protestors. 

During an official Twitch livestream, Blitzchung did exactly that. He put on a gas mask and goggles and uttered the chant, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times!”

Immediately, Blizzard cracked down, claiming that in doing so, Blitzchung violated a rule that prohibits tourney participants from the following: acts that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages the Blizzard image.”

So they banned Blitzchung from esports competition for a year, confiscated his tournament winnings and also fired the two Taiwanese streamers who were interviewing him.

There was … pushback. Anyone following the parallel scandal wreaking havoc on the NBA has seen the intense public disgust for the “cowards” who kowtow to Chinese money (and demands) over what is right or just. The Chinese gaming market is growing, and no developer wants to be banned from the glittering golden prize.

But at what cost do we earn these blood diamonds?

Blizzard has since returned Blitzchung’s prize money and reduced his ban to six months. Blitzchung, in return, politely said he would no longer use Blizzard platforms to express his political opinions.