Former Blizzard Producer Mark Kern Joins #BoycottBlizzard

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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, the internet has erupted in support of the Free Hong Kong movement, and condemnation of Blizzard.

Soon after the incident, #BoycottBlizzard began on social media. Along with condemnation of Blizzard’s action, others showed they were unsubscribing from Blizzard’s MMO World of Warcraft.

In addition there were memes and satirical images- usually centered around Blizzard kowtowing to the Chinese government, or recreating the iconic image of the Tienanmen Square Massacre recreated in Word of Warcraft or with Hearthstone cards.

One surprising addition to the boycott was former Word of Warcraft Team Lead Mark Kern. He expressed his dismay after retweeting our CEO and founder Brandon Orselli’s comments on the incident.

The following is a transcript of several tweets (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

“Aw fuck it.
I just saw the penalties Blizzard levied on the player. There is keeping politics out of games, then there is grand standing to appease the Chinese Communist Party.
Fuck Blizzard. You screwed up and traded your players in for dollars.”

“You realize I was born in Taiwan and lived in Hong Kong, right? And that I am Chinese?
You still want to lecture me about why I shouldn’t be pro Hong Kong?”

“Hey, when do we start the tariffs on all the Chinese mobile apps and games flooding our market and mining our data?
Let’s start today.”

“I wonder if any streamers will speak out against Blizzard, or if they will covet their Blizzard access over freedom and human rights.
Keep me posted over the next couple of days. Would love links to any Blizzard streamers who either speak out, remain silent, or try to defend this crap.”

“Blizzard has made PR blunder after PR blunder. Why hasn’t the whole PR team been fired yet?
You think you do…
China hur dur!”
[In reference to Blizzard’s disastrous Diablo Immortal announcement]

“Remember when American companies used to take a stand and refuse to censor for China, like google over 10 years ago?
Now they are be doing backwards building spy devices for them.”

[Upon being asked “Are they even the same people that were there when you were working for them?”]

“The memes must flow.
But seriously, I’m sick of China running games and entertainment.
Blizzard is China’s now.”

Kern eventually declared he had joined the boycott and cancelled his World of Warcraft Classic subscription.

Kern also revealed that he was “removed” from a company he founded after Blizzard because he refused to take an alleged “kickback bribe” to accept investment from Chinese companies. Kern also claims that unspecified Chinese companies had paid various publications to run negative stories about him to ruin his career.

In addition, Kern alleges that thanks to Chinese government subsidies, Chinese corporations have gained a dominant hold over western entertainment and technology industries via investments.

“This hurts. But until Blizzard reverses their decision on @blitzchungHS I am giving up playing Classic WoW, which I helped make and helped convince Blizzard to relaunch. There will be no Mark of Kern guild after all.
Let me explain why I am #BoycottBlizzard

I am ethnically Chinese. I was born in Taiwan and I lived in Hong Kong for a time. I have done buisiness with China for many years, with serveral gaming companies there.
So I think I have a valid perspective here, having been a Team Lead at Blizzard and having grown up in Asia.

I have watched China slowly take over as the dominant investing force in gaming and movies over the years. It’s a shame US companies never believed as strongly as China and Asia in investing in games, but this allowed China to have unprecedented influence over our media.

Chinese game companies have grown huge not just because of market size, but because the government subsidizes them. They get free land, free offices, and huge infusions of cash.
This cash was and is used to do expand and buy up stakes in US gaming companies

I’ve seen firsthand the corruption of Chinese gaming companies, and I was removed from a company I founded (after Blizzard) for refusing to take a 2 million dollar kickback bribe to take an investment from China. This is the first time I’ve ever spoken pubically about it.

I’ve also seen how American company reps in China have been offered similar bribes to get licenses for large AAA titles. Not everyone refused like I did.

Chinese companies tried to ruin my career with planted press stories. Money is often paid for favorable press in China and some of that money flows here to the US as well.
Unfortunately, money talks. China has succeeded in infiltrating all levels of tech, gaming and more.

Unfortunately, US and European companies are loath to take risks and invest in game companies legally as much as China was. China remained one of the few places mid tier studios could get funding.
So again, China influence grew. I’m sure this is the same for movies as well.

But now we are in a situation where unlimited Communist money dictates our American values. We censor our games for China, we censor our movies for China.
Now, game companies are silencing voices for freedom and democracy.
China is dictating that the world be authoritarian.”

Kern’s words ring strongly after NBA Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey showed his support for the Hong Kong protests, resulting in the Chinese government refusing to broadcast NBA games in China. Since then NBA officials have been doing their best attempts at damage control. South Park‘s “Band in China” episode also mocked entertainment companies such as Disney attempting to appeal to Chinese government censors.

There is also an extensive list of actions companies have taken to avoid upsetting the Chinese government in the last few years. Including the denial of Tibet and Taiwan as ever having been independent nations (even referring to Taiwan as its own country by accident), mentions of the Tienanmen Square Massacre, giving cloud and smartphone encryption keys to Chinese authorities, removal of intentionally pro Hong Kong comments and works, and firing employees for supporting the Hong Kong protests.

One incident had Tiffany & Co. removing and apologizing for an advert of a model with her hand over one eye, after claims it was supporting the Hong Kong protests. At least one protester had been blinded in one eye after being shot by police. Other changes not on the above list include the remakes of Red Dawn and Top Gun compared to their original counterparts- making North Korea the villain instead of China in the former, and removing Japanese and Taiwanese flags in the latter.

Back in late 2018, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege had a patch to make the game appropriate for release in “Asian territories”- removing sexual, violent, and gambling based content such as models and icons. After review bombing and community outcry, the patch was rolled back.

Kern’s posts continue, lamenting how Blizzard used to be, and making it clear he would be taking a stand against Chinese influence; even if it meant he would lose investments, or be unable to launch his new MMO Em-8ER in China

“Of all the companies in the world, Blizzard is the LAST company I ever expected to give in to China’s demands.
Blizzard was always about “gamer first” and “don’t be greedy.”
At least, it was when I was there.

It’s one thing to keep politics out of games, which I am still a proponent of doing. It’s another to unfairly and harshly punish voices that speak out against corruption, against abuses of human rights, and freedom.

I take a huge risk by saying this. China monitors all social media and I know this means that we will probably never get an investment from China for my new MMO, and probably never get a license to operate there.

But enough is enough. I stand with Hong Kong, and I oppose Blizzard’s obvious and laughably transparent fear of China.
It’s time for Blizzard to grow the spine it used to have, and to do what’s right for gamers once again.
Gamers, rise up.

And yes, this means I will be refusing any deal for Epic exclusivity. The money comes from Tencent. Em8ER will never be an Epic game store exclusive. This might mean we never make a dime, but more is at stake now than just games. A line has to be drawn, and I’m drawing it now.”

Kern finished, showing he had cancelled his World of Warcraft Classic subscription. In the “Please tell us more about why you are cancelling your World of Warcraft subscription” field, Kern put “I made this game with the team. I am opposed to Blizzard’s fear of China and the silencing of Blitzchung. I am calling on Blizzard to stand up for what is right.”

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

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Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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