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Following the pro-Hong Kong protest statements from professional Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai and Blizzard Entertainment’s suspension of the player, a collegiate team performed a similar act in solidarity. After initially not being punished, the team protested by quitting the tournament, and were later banned.
On October 8th, the American Collegiate Hearthstone Championship had a match between Worcester Polytechnic Institute and American University. Towards the match’s conclusion, American University held a sign stating “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizzard“. You can find a video of the match here (via a third party upload) with the incident occurring at 51:34.
The feed to then cuts away to the Worcester Polytechnic team only, and unconfirmed reports that while interviews were supposed to be conducted with both teams, only Worcester Polytechnic were interviewed.
On October 10th, one of the team’s players took to r/Hearthstone. The player revealed that they had not been punished, and feeling this was hypocritical compared to what happened to Blitzchung- they quit.
“I am making this post because we received no retribution for our actions. TESPA kept us in the tournament and gave us another match.
This shows Blizzard’s hypocrisy in how it treats different regions. They are hesitant to suppress free speech when it happens in America, on an English language stream, but will throw casters’ and players’ livelihoods under the bus if they are from Hong Kong or Taiwan. It should also dispel the idea that Blitzchung was punished for bringing politics into Hearthstone, because our message was clearly political and we weren’t touched. Blitzchung was punished because China was watching.
To clarify one point, our protest was in no way comparable to Blitzchung’s. He, and all Hong Kongers, are putting so much more on the line than we did. Unlike him, we also suggested boycotting Blizzard, while his message was purely in support of human rights. Yet he is the one Blizzard targeted.
This update matters because it suggests Blizzard doesn’t want to enforce censorship in front of a western audience. Yet I’d be curious to see how they would react if every stream had “Free Hong Kong” appear on the cams. Could they continue to ignore the outcry of their entire community, or would they get a call from Tencent about the content they were broadcasting? Statements like Amnesiac’s, which force Blizzard to respond, are exactly what is needed to pressure them.
In sum, there doesn’t seem to be any punishment for supporting Hong Kong on stream. And it would be very inconvenient for Blizzard if we did. They can’t keep the cams off forever, especially at BlizzCon.”
American University’s next match (on October 15th) then marked them down as a “No-Show.”
On October 16th, Blizzard punished the American University team, banning them from Hearthstone tournaments (even those operated by a third party) for six months. Casey “Xcelsior” Chambers posted an email he had received from Blizzard to Twitter. Xcelsior seemed happy with the decision however. “Happy to announce the AU Hearthstone team received a six month ban from competition. While delayed I appreciate all players being treated equally and no one being above the rules.”
The email cites rule 7.1B of the tournament rules (pages 9 and 10). Under “Conduct” and “Sportsmanship and Professionalism” section 1B:
“Participants shall treat all individuals watching or participating in a Tespa event with respect. Participants may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another Participant, Tespa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive. Players may not use obscene gestures or profanity in their account names, player handles, team names, game chat, lobby chat or live interviews. This includes abbreviations and/or obscure references.”
The email Xcelsior received went into more detail:
“Every Voice Matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the game and the competition, and to be a place where all are welcome.”
“Every Voice Matters” is one of Blizzard’s “company values“. These values are even embossed around a statue of an orc outside their HQ. That motto along with “Think Globally” were covered in protest, possibly by Blizzard’s own staff during a walk-out protest.