The furor over Blizzard’s ban of a Hong Kong Hearthstone pro player and apparent firing of two Taiwanese commentators has only increased since its widespread coverage yesterday.
Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung wore a gas mask to a post-match interview on Blizzard’s official Taiwanese stream. He then shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our age!” as the casters literally ducked behind their desks. Blizzard then cut the stream and wiped the videos, announcing that it’d be banning him for a year under a vague competition rule that allows Blizzard to ban pretty much anyone for anything. It also clawed back his competition winnings and booted him from the tournament, while apparently then firing the two Taiwanese commentators, one of whom told journalists he was completely blindsided by both the segment on which Ng appeared and the dismissal.
As Vice put it, Blizzard’s move quickly became an “international incident” as first gaming websites and then major US and EU news organizations like CNN, The Washington Post, NPR, and the BBC picked it up. Even politicians weighed in; US Senators Marco Rubio (R) and Ron Wyden (D) both denounced Blizzard’s decision as caving to censors.
And players made their voices heard. The #boycottblizzard hashtag is still a flurry even this morning. The Hearthstone subreddit has been on fire; scroll on through and every post is about the incident, and a prominent moderator left in disgust over Blizzard’s actions too. The WoW sub has shunted all commentary on the topic into a single massive thread full of people declaring they’re canceling their WoW subs. A solidarity thread on the official Hearthstone forums has been allowed to stand so far. (The equivalent World News thread on Reddit, note, was bizarrely removed from the sub once it began trending under the “Misleading Title / Not Appropriate Subreddit” rationale. Yeah.)
Overwatch fans have expressed their own anger at Blizzard by transforming the cutesy scientist character Mei, who is depicted as Chinese in the game, into a “symbol of the resistance.” A massively upvoted Overwatch play-of-the-game spoof gif on the HighQualityGifs subreddit mocks Blizzard as “China’s Lil Bitch.”
Blitzchung himself, and to a lesser extent the commentators, are being hailed as heroes, as Blitzchung told multiple publications that he knew he’d suffer harm and threats to his personal safety but considered his protest the right thing to do to bring attention to the plight of Hong Kong, whose citizens have been in full-fledged protest this year (among other years) over what they characterize as Chinese encroachment on their rights. “I spent 4 years on Hearthstone so I only lost 4 years of my life, but if HK loses it will be forever,” he said on a stream.
Blizzard has still not actually issued any additional responses, nor have we seen any sort of organized walkout of employees; in fact, there doesn’t seem to have been much protest from inside Blizzard apart from someone (heroically) covering up the “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” values symbols on the studio’s Irvine campus. RPS did report this morning on a Reddit thread purporting to show Blizzard staff holding an “umbrella” protest on campus.