Blizzard Controversy

In defense of Activision/Blizzard Entertainment

All right, so if you spend any amount of time in the online gaming community or at least aware of eSports, then you’ve no doubt heard about Blizzard Entertainment and the hot water it’s currently in.

The internet has all but called for Blizzard’s public execution after the company publicly denounced a Chinese Hearthstone player who recently won an international tournament.

China is facing an unprecedented time of civil unrest right now. Hong Kong is in an uproar over its treatment by the Chinese government. The people of China who are opposed to its authoritative government lead by President Xi Jinping, are pushing essentially for freedom. They want a democratic government and the right to free speech above all. The Chinese government is notorious for suppressing the freedom of its people and censoring all forms of expression.

Nevertheless, China also has is a massive market for gaming companies like Blizzard. ESports has a huge following in the region. So when professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung “blitzchung” voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests in an interview following his win, Blizzard immediately went into defense mode.

Not wanting to damage their Chinese market reputation, the company revoked the prize money owed to Chung and suspended him from participating in Hearthstone competitions for at least one year.

Naturally, the internet proceeded to explode and the hashtag “#boycottblizzard” began trending on Twitter.

Now I know, we all hear about “internet outrage culture”, and I’m going to try to not tow the party line on that, but this slamming of Blizzard is uncalled for and illogical.

I want to make it known right now, that I in no way, shape or form support the practices of the Chinese government, and I fully support what the people of Hong Kong are fighting for. But, Blizzard is not in the wrong.

First, Blizzard is a game development company. That company is a business and a business’ purpose is to make money and protect their markets. Given that, you cannot fault Blizzard for not wanting to involve itself in a political controversy that has the potential to harm international relations between the U.S. and China. Blizzard never stated that it supports the Chinese government, so for people to make that leap in logic is patently ridiculous. It ‘s like if someone were to say, “I don’t care for Chinese food”, and then getting called racist against Chinese people. How does someone make that incredible leap in logic?

Secondly, I would say that this Hearthstone player abused his platform. The interview he was participating in was about the tournament he just won. At no point was he asked about what his opinion on the Hong Kong protests was. He should have been more aware of what the purpose of his exposure was. Instead, he simply assumed he had more influence than he really does. You are a Hearthstone player, calm down buddy.

It’s the same kind of deal when celebrities get on a stage at award shows and complain about Donald Trump. I do not tune into the Oscars to hear what Steven Spielberg thinks about Trump. I did not ask, and neither did anyone else.

Third, it is not Blizzard’s job to protect this player, or to advocate for his cause. Again, Blizzard is a game developer and a business over all else. It is not Blizzard’s responsibility to get involved with international controversy, especially if it has the potential to hurt its markets. If Blizzard started protecting or advocating for all of its tournament winners, it would cease to be a game company–it would become just another political forum. That’s what Reddit is for.

Now, did they have to take Chung’s prize money and suspend him, no. I believe the company has since returned the prize money and reduced the time of the suspension, but that’s not enough for the outraged.

Blizzard has continued to be blasted on social media which has forced the company to cancel its Nintendo Switch release party for Overwatch at the New York City Nintendo Store with its upcoming Blizzcon event also facing threats.

If people need to be outraged, they should be directing it at the Communist Party of China (CPC) alone. I’m not condemning the player for what he said either. He is entitled to his views just as much as I am. But, I think he could’ve voiced his views in another way or another place in a different context. Doing it in the context of Blizzard’s event was reckless. I’m certain other outlets wanted interviews with him, which would have been more appropriate for comments like that.

Now, Blizzard’s not completely off the hook either. The more tactful way to handle the situation would have been to issue a formal statement making it clear that the company is in no way affiliated with matters relating to the political policies of China’s government.

So before you go on Twitter and spam that hashtag, just consider the other side and its implications. I don’t really expect to change your minds with this piece, but as a Blizzard fan who’s not outraged, from a moderated point of view I felt it might be beneficial to share my position on the issue.

Thanks for reading.

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