Blizzard retracts its controversial Hearthstone Grandmasters resolution, kind of

Responding to criticism from the media, politicians, and even its own employees over the suspension of Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, the company has confirmed that the player’s ban will be reduced from one year to six month, and his $10,000 tournament prize reinstated.

Chung was cited for a “rule violation” after expressing support for Hong Kong’s ongoing protests in a livestream broadcast from the Asia-Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters competition in Taiwan. According to Blizzard, this sort of political subversion opinion was in contravention of its ambiguously defined rules for player conduct. The two casters in the video were also fired, but like Chung have since been issued with a six-month suspension instead.

Claiming that its relationship with China had “no influence” on the original decision, Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack has now somewhat relented but also doubled down on the disingenuous position that “we want to keep the official channels focused on the game”. Disingenuous because the first thing Blizzard’s social media team did was post an apology for the incident on its Weibo account, promising to “always respect and defend the pride” of China.

As a corporate entity, Blizzard is entirely within its rights to enforce restrictions like this on its players, but that means dealing with the potential consequences of that. And a player whose voice is otherwise limited by a gross totalitarian regime using a global platform to advocate for democracy and human dignity should be encouraged, not censored. Brack’s assertion that Blizzard’s values include the necessity to “Think Globally; Lead Responsibly” is an egregious contradiction of the events here – this isn’t global thinking or responsible leadership, it’s exactly the opposite.

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