Blizzard Entertainment, known as the creator of Diablo, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch, recently punished professional Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung for expressing his support for the protestors in Hong Kong during a post-game interview. The decision sparked a backlash from many that believed Blizzard was siding with China, which has come under fire recently for its censorship and human rights abuses.
The Daily Wire reports that Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack released a statement Friday night addressing the company’s decision to suspend Chung.
“At Blizzard, our vision is ‘to bring the world together through epic entertainment,’ And we have core values that apply here: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and importantly, Every Voice Matters, encouraging everybody to share their point of view. The actions that we took over the weekend are causing people to question if we are still committed to these values.”
According to Brack, Chung’s decision to comment on the Hong Kong situation was a violation of the company’s rules that prohibit pre- and post-match interviews from addressing anything outside of the game itself. He suggested that the company values freedom of speech and expression but said that official broadcasts must be “about the tournament.”
Although Blizzard reduced Chung’s punishment, Brack claims that the company will continue to enforce the company’s rules pertaining to pre-and post-game interviews.
“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,” he said.
Gaming company @Blizzard_Ent, which banned a prominent player this week for speaking out in support of Hong Kong demonstrators, has this statue and accompanying plaque outside its Irvine, CA, campus pic.twitter.com/LxIqBA4H2L
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) October 8, 2019
Per The Verge, Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, echoed Blizzard’s statement when it chimed in on the controversy earlier today, suggesting that broadcasters must not address sensitive topics during League of Legends e-sports events. According to John Needham, the global head of League of Legends e-sports, this decision is to keep the focus of broadcasts on the game, sport, and players.
Conversely, Fortnite creator Epic Games has publicly said it will not punish players for political speech. The move is notable because Epic games receives investment from Chinese gaming giant Tencent, which also has stake in Riot Games.
Public support of Hong Kong protestors has been divisive. The NBA’s recent lack of support for General Manager Daryl Morey’s support of the protestors has sparked criticism from many, including Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Yang also criticized China’s decision to ban NBA streams, calling the move “ridiculous.”