At this weekend’s Magic: The Gathering Mythic Championship,pro Lee Shi Tian used his moment in the spotlight to draw attention to the protests in his hometown of Hong Kong.
Tian entered the tournament stage wearing red scarf over his face, indicating his support for the pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. (Protesters in Hong Kong wear masks to obscure their identity from government surveillance and stay safe from tear gas.) Tian was also covering one of his eyes like an eye patch—another symbol of the resistance.
Running a highly aggressive red deck, Tian was one of the few top players in the tournament who swerved away from the dominant decks in the format: predominantly green and blue-based strategies dependent on ramping up to bigger creatures and effects. The popular deck type is so oppressive that some believe one of its key cards, Field of the Dead, will be banned today. Tian’s deck is only part of what made his win against Carlos Romao and entry into the Mythic Championship’s Top 8 so exciting:
In an emotional interview after his victory, Tian explained, “Life has been very tough in my hometown in Hong Kong.” Apparently overwhelmed with emotion, Tian added, “It feels so good to play as a free man!”
On October 8, Hearthstone publisher Blizzard suspendedHearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai after he voiced his support for Hong Kong on stream. Citing a Hearthstone esports rule, Blizzard also pulled his prize money. The punishment, which many consider overly harsh, spurred a huge backlash against Blizzard and resulted in a significant movement to boycott the company and its games.
Days later, Blizzard reduced Chung’s suspension from one year to six months and returned his prize money, but the damage was done: Fans are furiously suspending their subscriptions to Blizzard games, protests are being planned ahead of Blizzcon, and senators like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ron Wyden penned a stern letter asking Blizzard to reverse their decision.
One other result of Blizzard’s punishment was popular Hearthstone caster Brian Kibler announcing he would no longer be involved in the digital card game’s Grandmasters competition. He said, “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, who made a name for himself as a top Magic : The Gathering player, casted the weekend’s Magic: The Gathering Mythic Tournament.
One tweet following the tournament suggested that Twitch mods for the tournament did not remove mentions of Hong Kong from chat, and Kotaku has reached out to the original source for verification of this. After his loss to pro Gabriel Nassif, Tian wrote on Twitter, “Thanks everyone supported me, Hong Kong, freedom of speech and democracy I saw the Twitch chat and I heard it. It has been a tough period for me but it also motivated me to shine brighter.”
Today, United States Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio signed a bi-partisan letter with support from Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski addressed to Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, over the recent suspension of professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai.
“We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard’s decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong,” the letter reads. “This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech.”
Co-signed by Representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Gallagher, and Malinowski, the letter urges Kotick to “reconsider your decision to with respect to Mr. Chung.”
This is despite Blizzard president Jay Allen Brack’s statement last week that walked back some of the penalties referenced in the Congressional letter. The statement had reduced Chung’s suspension to six months and awarding him the prize money Blizzard had originally withheld.
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.
Later that week, American University’s three-player Hearthstonedemonstrated in their own way, by holding up a sign that said “FREE HONG KONG, BOYCOTT BLIZZ” during a match. When a punishment from Blizzard to similar to Blitzchung’s was not forthcoming, the team voluntarily dropped out of future tournaments. Now, they’ve been officially banned for half a year.
“Every Voice Matters at Blizzard and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and competition, and to be a place where all are welcome.”
The email goes on to state that Chambers violated a rule regarding sportsmanship and that he is banned from competition for six months from the incident.
“Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition,” Chambers tweeted. “While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules.”
In the time since Blitzchung’s ban, pressure has mounted against Blizzard from fans disappointed with a slow response to the incident. Eventually, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack released a statement insisting that the content of Blitzchung’s message played no factor in disciplinary decisions, and that it was a result of breaking a general rule that states the company can punish players for “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
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Late last week, Kotakureported that Blizzard had reconsidered its decision to withhold Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai’s prize money and ban him for a year after he showed support for the Hong Kong protesters. Blizzard is allowing the Hearthstone pro to keep his prize money and has reduced his ban to six months.
In a post-match interview on an official Hearthstone stream, Blitzchung wore a gas mask similar to those donned by the Hong Kong protesters and said, “Liberate Hong Kong. The revolution of our age!”
But as Blizzard president J. Allen Brack pointed out, Blitzchung did not break any rules during play. “We now believe he should receive his prizing,” said Brack in a statement last week. “We understand that for some this is not about the prize, and perhaps for others it is disrespectful to even discuss it. That is not our intention. But playing fair also includes appropriate pre-and post-match conduct, especially when a player accepts recognition for winning in a broadcast. When we think about the suspension, six months for Blitzchung is more appropriate, after which time he can compete in the Hearthstone pro circuit again if he so chooses.”
The Hearthstone pro has now issued his own statement about Blizzard’s revised ruling. He is grateful to the company for reconsidering its decision. However, he still thinks the six-month ban is too long and wishes the company would reconsider its firing of the two casters who hid under the desk when he voiced his support for the Hong Kong protesters.
Multiple groups are in the process of organizing protests set to take place outside BlizzCon, the annual convention held by game developer Blizzard, in response to its suspension of a Hearthstone player for expressing support for Hong Kong during a live event. Today, digital rights non-profit organization Fight For The Future launched a website and Discord to kick off its organizing efforts, and a “ProtestBlizzCon” subreddit is gaining serious steam as well.
Take one look at the internet right now, and it’s pretty apparent that people aren’t happy with Blizzard. After it suspended Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai and stripped him of his prize winnings at the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters for wearing a mask and saying “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age,” fans and industry pros alike have been vocal about their disapproval of the move, which they see as Blizzard backing down in the face of Chinese economic pressure. Today, Blizzard partially reversed its decision, returning Blitzchung’s prize money and cutting his suspension down to six months. However, it still intends to forbid players from speaking about politics at its events.
BlizzCon is Blizzard’s annual fan convention dedicated to beloved game series like Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Overwatch, and Hearthstone. Last year, it was attended by over 40,000 people, with hundreds of thousands more tuning in to panels and esports events online. It’s also a place where Blizzard developers to go to both make announcements and interact with fans. It is, in many ways, a focal point of Blizzard’s year.
Fight For The Future’s protest will take place outside the Anaheim Convention Center at noon on November 1, the first day of BlizzCon. The organization is asking protesters to bring umbrellas as a sign of solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong—who’ve adopted umbrellas as a symbol—or to cosplay as their favorite Blizzard characters.
The digital rights group decided to take up the protest banner because its central priority is to build an internet “free of interference or censorship and with full privacy,” according to its website, and Blizzard’s actions this past week fly in the face of that goal. Plus, the organization has its fair share of game-likers among its ranks, and they couldn’t just sit back and do nothing.
“We have a lot of gamers at Fight For The Future, so it was on our radar,” product director Dayton Young told Kotaku over the phone. “We’re passionate about digital rights, and we thought this was a very clear example of censorship that was very disturbing to all of us. So we wanted to promote it to people in our community and let everyone know this was taking place.”
Fight For The Future’s goal is twofold: to get developers and publishers to make a public commitment to supporting the rights of players, employees, and fans across the world, and to get Blizzard to fully reverse its decisions surrounding Blitzchung.
While Young believes that Blizzard’s statement and partial scaling back of Blitzchung’s punishment on Friday evening is a promising testament to the power of overwhelming public pressure, he doesn’t think Blizzard’s move solves the core issue, and the protest is currently set to proceed as planned.
“The heart of the matter is, they still censored a man and punished him for speaking out and advocating for his own political freedom, and that’s what they’re continuing to do,” said Young. “They’re saying this because they don’t want to upset people, but I think people are already upset by their decisions… If Blizzard’s true goal is to ensure that every player always feels safe and welcome when competing in tournaments and playing Blizzard games, then Blizzard should let players, fans, and employees know that they can advocate for their own rights without fear of reprisal.”
Although organizing efforts only began in earnest today, Fight For The Future has already reached out to numerous subreddits and various other involved parties via Twitter and other platforms, Young said. He’s happy to work with other groups organizing protests at BlizzCon, which will likely benefit them, seeing as Fight To The Future has helped organize digital and physical actions including the 2012 SOPA/PIPA internet blackout and physical protests against San Francisco-based company Salesforce’s support of ICE.
“I think hopefully we’ll be able to use that experience to help these gamers who are interested in getting their voices heard actually find a way to effectively protest,” said Young. “It’s fantastic for us to make tweets, it’s fantastic for us to make statements, but also putting something together, collaborating with each other, showing that we’re all together on this—I think that will be very successful in grabbing Blizzard’s attention.”
The two moderators of the ProtestBlizzCon subreddit come from a very different background. Neither of them have experience organizing protests, but they felt like something needed to happen, and they were worried it wouldn’t otherwise.
“I didn’t feel like one would happen,” said one of the moderators, “TheStableBoy,” whose first name is Adrian. “For me it’s been a personal experience in a sense. Both my parents grew up in San Francisco and told me stories about times they went protesting,” he said in an email. “Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m the right person, but who does in most situations? I just want to make sure something at least happens, regardless of it’s just me alone standing outside. Basic human rights should be a given.”
The subreddit’s other moderator, Mel “Kazemel89″ Thomspon, had been watching things unfold in Hong Kong for months and didn’t like what they saw from U.S.-based companies like Apple, Google, and the NBA. For Thompson, Blizzard was the last straw.
“What is happening are horrible human rights violations and suppression,” Thompson told Kotaku in an email. “When Blizzard, whose games and mottos support heroes and freedom, and [who] has stated on their company grounds [that] every voice matters, took away Blitzchung for simply saying he supports Hong Kong as the revolution of our times, I was shocked… He never used any foul or extreme language about China. It shows how companies are willing to say they support diversity and heroes until it doesn’t pay.”
Blizzard’s Friday evening statement didn’t change Thompson’s mind, either. He called the situation “ridiculous,” saying that “Blizzard has shown its true colors and now is trying to put the genie back in the bottle.”
Already, the ProtestBlizzCon subreddit is awash with sternly worded condemnations of Blizzard and the Chinese government, as well as creative protest ideas. Adrian and Thompson are planning to adopt some of those, many centering around the Overwatch character Mei, who has become a symbol of resistance in Hong Kong. Thompson said the protest will likely feature “shirts, banners, and flyers that have memes, images, and art of Overwatch’s Mei supporting Hong Kong.”
“We have one Mei cosplayer we are trying to support and get to BlizzCon to protest Blizzard and support Hong Kong outside the Anaheim Convention Center,” he said. “We are looking into ideas on how to donate or fund her into getting there.”
Adrian and Thompson are aware, though, of how zealous some video game fans can get (and allegedly already have gotten, in this case) when it comes to companies making moves they’re ardently opposed to. They do not want their subreddit or the ensuing protest to devolve into a movement of hate, harassment, or racism.
“We want to ensure it’s on point and polite, because not everyone knows yet or doesn’t have all the facts on the situation, and lots of misinformation is out there,” said Thompson. “We also don’t want this to become a subreddit of hate against Chinese people; lots of mainland Chinese suffer under the CCP government, such as Uighur Muslims who have lost their rights because of their religion… So far this subreddit hasn’t become extremist, and I’m glad that most people who have joined support protesting Blizzard in legal and well thought-out plans to gain awareness.”
Fight For The Future’s Young said that his organization, too, will do everything it can to “discourage” poor behavior during BlizzCon protests. The staff of the Anaheim Convention Center have also been paying attention to these nascent organizing efforts, and they believe they’re prepared to facilitate both the convention and nearby protests.
“As a major visitor city, we have significant experience hosting high-profile events,” a spokesman for the convention center told Kotaku in an email. “The Anaheim Convention Center works closely with event organizers and the Anaheim Police Department to ensure a safe experience for both attendees and those who may want to peacefully express themselves.”
More than anything, Adrian wants “a peaceful protest” that raises awareness of the recent actions of both Blizzard and other companies that have similarly turned a blind eye to China’s handling of Hong Kong. Despite the number of people who’ve already rallied to their cause, though, they aren’t certain there’ll be much of a turnout when the time comes.
“I say that because the Area 51 [event] had about two million people, and it turned out to be 100-ish?” Adrian said. “I know people joined the sub for the memes and shitposts, but me personally, I hope for it to at least inform others of what’s been happening.”
“Many have posted of already deleting their Blizzard accounts to show their protest and that they support Hong Kong,” Thompson said. “So hopefully in the coming days, as more people become aware, we can have enough members to have a big enough protest to make a change.”
“We’ve seen this wave over the past couple days of people making games, people doing cosplay, people making their own parody Hearthstone cards,” said Young. “It’s great to see people exercising their freedom of expression. It’s very important for them to do that. Activision-Blizzard and other game companies need to know that this isn’t going to just go away.”
In the statement, Blizzard president J. Allen Brack explained that while Blizzard tries to uphold company values that focus on diversity and global thinking, it also wants to keep esports events focused on games. Blitzchung broke a rule, but Brack insists that the specific words he said weren’t the issue.
“The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made,” wrote Brack. “I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision. We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.”
Brack went on to say that, since Blitzchung did not break any rules while playing the actual game, he’ll get to collect his prize money after all. However, he’ll still be suspended. Now, though, the suspension is six months instead of a year.
“We now believe he should receive his prizing,” said Brack. “We understand that for some this is not about the prize, and perhaps for others it is disrespectful to even discuss it. That is not our intention. But playing fair also includes appropriate pre-and post-match conduct, especially when a player accepts recognition for winning in a broadcast. When we think about the suspension, six months for Blitzchung is more appropriate, after which time he can compete in the Hearthstone pro circuit again if he so chooses.”
Same goes for the commentators who were on duty at the time; their suspension, too, has been reduced to six months.
“Moving forward, we will continue to apply tournament rules to ensure our official broadcasts remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views,” said Brack. “One of our goals at Blizzard is to make sure that every player, everywhere in the world, regardless of political views, religious beliefs, race, gender, or any other consideration always feels safe and welcome both competing in and playing our games.”
But, as has been stated multiple times by fans, players, and commentators throughout the week, it’s hard to square this kind of faux-neutral political stance with the games Blizzard creates and the values it espouses. This is a company whose games are full of heroes fighting for freedom and equality, and China’s handling of Hong Kong has been anything but. All political statements are not equal—especially where human rights violations are concerned—and it’s disheartening to see a company with Blizzard’s legacy stand behind that kind of false equivalence in a time when games are, more than ever, intertwined with culture. Reducing Blitzchung’s suspension is a step in the right direction, but in the face of all this, it’s still hard for the company’s games and statements not to ring hollow.
Brack opened his statement by saying that two of its core values—“Think Globally; Lead Responsibly”—apply here. But this isn’t global thinking or responsible leadership. It’s reactivity and fear of reprisal. It’s an abdication of responsibility at a time when it’s needed most.
In the days since Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai received a one-year suspension from the Hearthstone esports scene following his support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong in the middle of a stream, the community has become a hotbed for politically charged discussion. The scene’s subreddit—where a large portion of community news is shared and broken—is filled to bursting with pro-blitzchung and anti-Blizzard sentiments. One of the moderators, citing dissatisfaction with Blizzard’s response to the blitzchung incident, has stepped down from his role. Since then, the blitzchung ruling has become the Hearthstone community’s elephant in the room, with silence on the matter becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Now, after a period of soul-searching, responses have begun to flood in from some of the most visible members in the scene.
Earlier this week, the streamer and Hearthstone esports shoutcaster Brian Kibler published his own thoughts on the matter in an extensive blog post. While he voiced understanding toward Blizzard’s decision to act on the politicization of one of their broadcasts, he expressed concern that Chung’s punishment—in this case a one-year suspension and revocation of prize money—greatly outweighed the crime. To end his blog post, Kibler announced that he would not be casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon, an event that’s scheduled to happen later this month. “I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision,” Kibler said in his post. “Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”
Kibler’s decision is noteworthy because it’s the first to come from the most visible quotient of the Hearthstone community—the streamers themselves. But Kibler’s initiative seems to have been the catalyst for a wave of streamer action. In the aftermath of his post, another top Hearthstone streamer, Octavian “Kripparrian” Morosan, published his own TwitLonger post weighing in on the blitzchung story, which is particularly notable considering his past refusal to bring any political discussion into his streaming content whatsoever:
…I want to be clear that I support those protesting in Hong Kong. With such a large part of their country pushing for change, they are, and deserve to be on the right side of history.
I haven’t been involved with competitive esports Hearthstone for years now, but Hearthstone for me is much more than their esports division and their recent poor decision making. I invite Blizzard to reconsider their position. Sure, they are in the entertainment space, so they want to keep anything that isn’t about Hearthstone out of their official broadcast, but the penalty on Blitzchung and the casters seems just too over the top. All of us who have spent the best part of our lives on Battlenet expect better out of Blizzard.
The next day, the pro player William “Amnesiac” Barton, another competitor in the Hearthstone Grandmaster League, tweeted his support for Chung’s actions and denounced Blizzard’s ruling. “I recognize that my decision to speak up may have consequences, but I believe it’s important to stand for what you think is right, and stand for the rights of others when they can’t necessarily do so themselves.”
Following that, the shoutcaster Nathan “Admirable” Zamora threw his hat into the ring, saying that he too would not be casting any more Hearthstone Grandmasters events for the rest of the season and through BlizzCon later this month. “Blitzchung’s actions to support Hong Kong speak to me far more than I could have imagined,” he said in a tweet on Thursday. “It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, and to make sacrifices in the process. His actions are inspiring to me, and I support him wholeheartedly.”
Meanwhile, the shoutcasters Simon “Sottle” Welch, Alex “Raven” Baguley, and Darroch Brown all decided to continue casting Grandmasters games in accordance with their existing contracts while vocally disapproving of Blizzard’s actions. “I fully support Blitzchung’s right to protest and have immense sympathy for his cause and for the plight of the Hong Kong people,” Welch said in a tweeted statement on Thursday. “However, in light of the recent revelations that one or more casters will be stepping away from Hearthstone, I would like to affirm that I fully intend to fulfill my contracts with Hearthstone Esports and am open to work with them in the future.”
In contrast with Barton and the casters, players and streamers have been slower to respond. While some immediately voiced that they were puzzled by the blitzchung verdict, a significant majority declined to say anything at all, opting instead to continue streaming and publishing as usual. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the pro streamer and Hearthstone Grandmasters competitor Paul “Zalae” Nemeth said that he had been experiencing pressure to “make huge career/financial sacrifices to support a political cause on the other side of the planet that I know almost nothing about.” In general, the trend toward silence suggests that many others harbor a similar instinct to approach the issue with caution.
As the situation developed further, Nemeth retweeted both Brian Kibler’s blog post and Admirable’s statement—suggesting solidarity with their decisions to step down from Blizzard casting. The popular Hearthstone streamer Jeffrey “Trump” Shih acted similarly, retweeting Kibler’s announcement post and thanking him for his decision to act on the matter. In response to Simon “Sottle” Welch’s post about continuing to participate in Hearthstone-related activities despite his disapproval for their actions, Shih responded with the closest he’s gotten to a statement yet: “It’s basically the same decision I’m making.”
Thursday afternoon, in a Hearthstone-related news show called Omnistone, 2014 Hearthstone world champion James “Firebat” Kostesich weighed in on the matter. While he didn’t mention the Hong Kong protests explicitly, he voiced concern over Blizzard’s dramatic response: “Murdering a guy’s Hearthstone career, or attempting to anyways, off of that is… it’s very hard to see… Using a player as an example for some sort of thing, it doesn’t make me feel good.”
It’s easy to see why streamers might feel as if they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Recently, a statement emerged from the Taiwanese pro player Chen “tom60229″ Wei Lin, who won the Hearthstone World Championship in 2017. Like Nemeth, Lin was also pragmatic in his approach to the situation, and while he criticized Blizzard’s actions as “inappropriate and irrational,” he said he would withhold his full statements until after he was done competing in the current round of tournaments. “Only then I will do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said…After all, in the moment of competing in tournaments, I do not think there is any meaning in saying and doing anything.”
Throughout the scene, streamers are posting their recent streams to YouTube as they normally do, with Brian Kibler and Kripparrian themselves posting Hearthstone stream videos as recently as today. The difficulty of taking a huge career risk in the wake of a corporate blunder may be part of the reason Kibler himself encouraged onlookers to refrain from passing judgement on streamers and other high-profile members of the Hearthstone community. “Do not take your anger out on the other casters, or streamers, or employees of Blizzard,” he said in his post. “This is not the kind of decision that comes from the rank and file.”
Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang, a former mainstay of the Hearthstone community who has since moved on to Teamfight Tactics, acknowledged the difficulty streamers in the scene face in approaching the issue. In a tweet on Thursday, he showed empathy toward Hearthstone streamers while adding a bit of his signature snark:
Unfortunately, streamers and pro players may find it increasingly difficult to avoid involvement as the situation continues to develop. Already, Twitch chat and YouTube comment sections are overflowing with controversial discussions about Blizzard and Hong Kong. Jason “Amaz” Chan, a community mainstay who recently began streaming Hearthstone again after a hiatus, says he cut off his stream early on Tuesday when his chat section was overrun with comments about Hong Kong: “I’m obviously aware of the Hong Kong issue right now, and I follow it quite a bit. My family lives there, so how could I not. I still find it very annoying that my chat gets spammed with ‘FREE HONG KONG’ every now and then.”
For now, the streamers mentioned have yet to respond to Kotaku’s requests for comment. We will continue to monitor the situation as more people speak out and BlizzCon approaches.
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
With all the protests going on in Hong Kong, League of Legends casters appear to be avoiding saying the team name “Hong Kong Attitude” and seem to even be catching themselves when they do. Riot Games, however, says that it has not banned casters from saying “Hong Kong.”
Chinese conglomerate Tencent owns Riot and has a stake in Blizzard.
Below is a clip of recent instances in which casters appear to be correcting themselves before saying the team’s full name:
During the match, however, the team’s full name was clearly visible on stage. So is there an explanation for the awkward use of “HKA”?
League of Legends spokesperson Ryan Rigney issued this statement:
The three players— Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark, and a third player who simply goes by his online handle, TJammer,—held up the sign on Wednesday, following Hearthstone developer Blizzard suspending Blitzchung for making a statement in support of protesters in Hong Kong. After the incident, Blizzard and tournament organizing partner Tespa booked American University into their next scheduled match, sans any sort of punitive measures. Today, the three players said they’re going to forfeit the match and cease participating in tournaments.
“We feel it’s hypocritical for Blizzard to punish Blitzchung but not us,” the players told USgamer. “The response from Blizzard shows that as soon as the messaging is out of the view of China, they don’t care about ‘political’ messaging.”
During the now-infamous Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters stream that kicked off this week’s Blizzard controversy, Blitzchung wore a mask and said “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” In response, Blizzard suspended him for a year and put a hold on his prize money. The American University players purposefully echoed his message in a show of solidarity, but so far, Blizzard seems to be treating it like business as usual.
These players join a host of pros, commentators, and fans in protesting Blizzard’s decision making. Blizzard, meanwhile, has now backed itself into an impossible corner. If it suspended the American University players, fans would’ve inevitably been even more furious than they already are. But in its silence, Blizzard has created an obvious double standard—one that is simply too egregious for some players to abide by.