Blizzard Hong Kong


Know Your Meme

Blizzard’s apparent pro-Chinese tendencies have gotten them marked as a pseudo-Chinese satellite organization, as seen in this flag.

Alexander Yagoda, Co Editor-in-Chief

As far as video game companies go, Blizzard has always been on the bleeding edge of things, essentially pioneering the modern MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game with their massively popular “World of Warcraft”. The game has been so successful, it pioneered the way forward for another major breakthrough by Blizzard: online trading card games. Blizzard’s game “Hearthstone” is an online card game in the same vein as “Yu-Gi-Oh!” and “Magic: the Gathering” that released in 2014. As the first majorly successful online card game ever created, Hearthstone’s monetization model of paying for cards that are then used to play the game has left the game unmatched at the top of online card games, raking in over $40 million per month. With a large player base and a thriving e-sports community, there was little that could happen to knock it off its pedestal. Unfortunately for Blizzard and other organizations like the NBA and the general institution of democracy, China had other plans.

For the last few weeks, protesters in Hong Kong —a specially administered region of China with a separate system of laws— have been rioting in the streets to protest a proposed extradition bill that would allow the government of Mainland China to arrest and punish political dissidents in Hong Kong, which they were previously unable to do because of its standing as a specially administered region. Because of the Chinese police’s reaction to the protests with the use of tear gas, protesters began wearing gas masks, and such masks have become a symbol for the protests.

Enter Wai Chung “blitzchung” Ng, a professional Hearthstone player from Hong Kong who was participating in the Asian – Pacific division of the Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournament. During a post-game interview on Oct. 5, Ng wore a gas mask like the ones worn by those protesting in Hong Kong and voiced his support for the protests, saying “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” a slogan of the Hong Kong protests. He was swiftly banned from participating any further in Hearthstone tournaments and the two casters interviewing him were fired.

“Blizzard has made a very large misplay here,” senior Kevin Monjarrez said.

Now, some might wonder “Why would someone get banned from a game published by an American, supposedly pro-democracy, company for supporting a pro-democracy protest.” The answer, unfortunately, is China, and even worse, Blizzard. As someone who has argued both sides of almost every political issue and can be considered an expert in hot takes, even I can’t rationalize Blizzard’s actions against Ng and the two casters. Their punishments have since been reduced, but only after a crazy amount of public outcry against Blizzard.

“I used to play Blizzard games like ‘Overwatch’, but I have stopped because it’s a bad game and made by a bad developer,” senior Nicolas Saliamonas said.

China is an extremely controlling country. In China, media censorship is taken to an extreme and the Chinese government controls essentially everything that enters the country. One such thing that can be prevented from being accessed within the country is video games. As one of the fastest growing economies and the most populous country, China is a market that any business, video game or not, wants to have access to. So, the most likely reason for the blitzchung ban is to remain in good standing with the Chinese government and keep Blizzard’s games being sold in China, as the loss of the Chinese market would be bad for the company’s bottom line. Understanding the reasoning for their actions, we can now ask whether or not Blizzard’s support of Chinese dictatorial policies are within the realm of legitimate business strategies.

“Is it a reasonable or in any way defensible thing to have done?” Absolutely not.

As I mentioned earlier, I have not been afraid to make hot takes before, and I still cannot find any reason to support Blizzard after all this. The obligation of a company to act in the interests of its shareholders should be its number one priority, which is something I am almost always fine with, but this kind of hostility from one of the largest companies in the world towards an event that has become the modern embodiment of the survival of democracy and freedom is something I can’t feel anything towards except for extreme condemnation. With all that said and done, people have begun to boycott Blizzard, which is probably the only positive of today’s cancel culture. So in reference to both Blizzard’s impending financial failures as the boycotts kick in around new game season and their actions in response to their defense of anti-democratic policies, I can easily say “That wasn’t very cash money of you, Blizzard.”

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