Popular Hearthstone professional, streamer, and tournament caster Brian Kibler today issued a statement that he “will have no involvement in Grandmasters,” unless “something changes” following Blizzard’s decision to ban Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai from the tournament circuit.
Kibler, a regular presence on the Hearthstone competitive commentariat posted a blog today, expressing concern at the “incredibly harsh” punishment meted out by Blizzard to Chung. Earlier this week, the company banned Chung for a year, and confiscated his Asia-Pacific Grandmasters earnings after he shouted “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a slogan associated with the current pro-democracy protests.
Blizzard’s actions, which are closely tied to the company’s commercial ambitions in China, have been met with outrage. Some have called for a boycott on the company’s products. Protests have followed from Blizzard employees and Hearthstone competitors.
Kibler’s blog acknowledged that Chung had broken tournament rules, but said that the context of the political situation in Hong Kong, and Activision Blizzard’s Asian ambitions, could not be ignored.
“I won’t pretend to understand either the intricacies of the geopolitical situation in China and Hong Kong or the full extent of Blizzard’s business interests there,” he wrote. “But to me this penalty feels like it is deeply rooted in both. The heavy-handedness of it feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself.”
Kibler, 39, has been professional card game player for more than two decades, with multiple Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering tournament trophies. He’s also a regular caster and commentator.
“That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with,” he added in his blog. “When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”