Despite Apology, Blizzard’s Hearthstone Player Ban Will Stay

During the opening of Blizzcon 2019 company president J. Allen Brack gave a bit of an apology about acting in haste to the Hearthstone player ban and the caster ban as well saying, “We moved too quickly in our decision making, and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about, there’s really two things: The first one is that we didn’t live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves. And the second is that we failed in our purpose. And for that, I am sorry, and I accept accountability.”

What was clearly lacking from that apology was any announcement that anything was going to change. PCGamer later got the opportunity to sit down with Brack during Blizzcon and find out more, including the fact that Blizzard is not going to go back on the ban.

PC Gamer: I wanted to revisit the statement you made at the beginning of the opening ceremony yesterday. You said Blizzard is “committed to everyone’s right to express themselves in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places,” and you made a commitment to do better going forward and that your actions are going to matter more than words do. Are you going to be repealing the punishment against Blitzchung and the two Taiwanese casters involved in this incident?

Allen Brack, Blizzard president: We are not.

Why?

So, one of the things that we talked about in the commitment to expression about all kinds of ways and all kinds of places, is the fact that we’re huge believers in free speech, and we’re huge believers in free expression. We have a long history of that being part of the culture of the company for employees. That’s certainly part of the culture of the relationship that we have with the community. And so employees are free to post on their social media accounts. If you think about the people that we have that are esports athletes, our Grandmasters, or anyone who is participating in esports, they’re free to say and do whatever they want on their social channels. I feel like we have a far more open set of guidelines and policies than really any other traditional sport that takes a view around making sure that all of the people stay on message. And so, that’s how we think about free expression and how we’ve contextualized it.

We want the official broadcasts, which are a small percentage of the overall content that gets created, to be about the games. And we want those to be focused on the games. Again, it’s not about the content of Blitzchung’s message. It’s about the fact that it was not around the games. If we hadn’t taken action, if we hadn’t done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue. That’s just a path that we don’t want to go down. We really want the content of those official broadcasts to be focused on the games, and keep that focus.

 

With regards to the casters being reinstated, you’ve admitted that this situation was mishandled on Blizzard’s behalf. I’m wondering why that same sort of forgiveness isn’t being extended to the casters? Considering Blizzard admits it mishandled this situation, why haven’t you decided to be more graceful with them and their punishment?

We have been more graceful. The initial reaction was that we would not work with the casters anymore. In our revised statement, we came to the conclusion that it felt like the casters and Blitzchung, we wanted to align their penalty. So we’ve come out and said they have a six-month penalty.

 

He also goes on to say that the Weibo post that talked about defending the pride of China was written by NetEase and was not approved by Blizzard at all. They also talk about the casters and why they are still being punished. If you are a fan of Blizzard or you know someone who is I highly recommend you read the interview on PCGamer. It will quickly make you forget the damage control that is Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.

 

Source: PCGamer

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Blizzcon Protest Now Being Organized

On Friday, after 5 when most news writers, including MMOGames had packed up and gone home for the day Blizzard made a statement that backpeddled their heavy handed ban of professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung. Now a Blizzcon protest is being organized by the non-profit organization Fight for the Future and the Protest Blizzcon subreddit. Yes, there’s now a subreddit.

The Protest Blizzcon subreddit has a GoFundMe campaign running at the moment with the plan of getting hundreds of Hong Kong flags for protesters at Blizzcon. They’ve already raised $3,285 though they were only asking for $3,000. The campaign is still running so there is still time to donate if you’re interested.

“This is not going away,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, “Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it. They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated.”

Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, added, “Gamers deserve to know which companies are willing to engage in censorship on behalf of authoritarian regimes and which companies will defend basic freedom of expression. Blizzard has engaged in blatant censorship and should immediately reverse its decision to ban Ng Wai Chung, restore his tournament winnings, and repair its relationships with the livestream casters. No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights. And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe.”

In case you missed it, on Friday Blizzard made a statement saying that Blitzchung would be receiving his tournament prizes and that his ban, along with the ban on the two casters has been reduced to six months. They also said that Blizzard’s decision to punish them had nothing to do with their business in China. But, Blizzard fans and gamers were unconvinced by this statement, especially as a social media post from Blizzard on Weibo was translated and it vows to protect the national dignity of China was being shared on Reddit, Twitter, and other English focused social media sites.

 

It’s unclear right now how many people will be attending the Blizzcon Protest but we will continue to follow the news as it comes.

 

Source: Fight for the Future, Protest Blizzcon Subreddit

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Blizzard Says They’re Assessing the Situation Surrounding the Banned Hearthstone Player

Blizzard has said in a statement to Engadget that they are “assessing the situation for now” in regards to all of the backlash they’ve received after punishing professional Hearthstone player blitzchung for showing his support for Hong Kong during a post-match interview. Since then the backlash against Blizzard has continued with the popular hashtag #BoycottBlizzard trending on social media and hundreds canceling their subscriptions and deleting Blizzard games from their PCs.

The backlash has included Blizzard employees who took part in a small but noteworthy umbrella protest at Blizzard Headquarters. US Senator Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden have also both expressed concerns. Rubio took to Twitter to say, “China [is] using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in US politics today is gone.” While Wyden said, “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”

Caster Brian Kibler has announced that he wouldn’t be participating in the upcoming Hearthstone Grandmasters. Nathan “Admirable” Zamora, another Hearthstone caster has said that he also won’t be participating in the Masters or Grandmasters.

Gods Unchained developer Immutable is offering to donate up to $100,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties non-profit online, $1 for each average viewer watching Gods Unchained on Twitch. This is because the EFF has offered to reimburse blizchung’s lost prize money.

It is a strange day when US Senators from different sides of the aisle and thousands of gamers all agree on something, and that day is here. While Blizzard’s statement is underwhelming, to say the least it is at least an acknowledgment that they have noticed the boycott and all the backlash and they are listening.

 

Source: Engadget via GamesIndustry

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Blizzard Boycott Making Waves Online with Hashtag #BoycottBlizzard

Whichever social media platform it is you like you use you’re sure to find #BoycottBlizzard getting a lot of attention at the moment. Posts using the hashtag show players unsubscribing from Blizzard games and uninstalling them as well as sharing memes that are both anti-Blizzard and anti-China.

The boycott comes after Blizzard banned pro Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and taking away all of his tournament money from this season after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests during an interview. They also fired the two casters who were interviewing him at the time.

A picture from Blizzard Headquarters shows part of the statue outside is covered, specifically the parts with the company’s core values that say “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters.” Later a group of Blizzard employees gathered at the statue carrying umbrellas, a symbol of the protests in Hong Kong.

One of the teams during the Collegiate Championship held up a sign supporting the Hong Kong protests and calling for a boycott of Blizzard. This little protest has been removed from Blizzard’s archives and so far there haven’t been any repercussions for their actions.

Now, Brian Kibler, a long-time pro caster has quit the Grandmasters in protest of Blizzard’s ban. In a statement made on BMKGaming, 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. That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. 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.”

In response to Blizzard’s actions, Twitter has been turning Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protesters with images like the one seen below.

So far Blizzard hasn’t made any official statements about the boycott but this is unlikely to be the end of the story.

 

Source: Twitter, Rock Paper Shotgun, BMKGaming via Polygon

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