The sands of time have started running against Blizzard after a censorship policy went into effect regarding the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Earlier in the week, Hearthstone professional Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai called out for the liberation of Hong Kong in his post-match winning interview of the ongoing Asia-Pacific Grandmasters. Blizzard took down the footage soon afterwards and decided to not only ban Blitzchung but also take away his winnings. The duo casters at the time of the interview were also fired by Blizzard.
The episode resulted in a call to boycott the California-based game studio. Brian Kibler, professional caster and streamer, slammed Blizzard for an overly harsh judgment and stated that he would no longer be involved in the Hearthstone Grandmasters. Moderators of the Hearthstone subreddit have stepped down as well around the Hong Kong issue.
The common demand has so far been for Blizzard to reevaluate its stance over the Hong Kong matter and not take away the freedom of speech. Someone else who shares those principles is Mark Kern, former team lead for World of Warcraft in the vanilla era as well as former producer of Diablo 2 and StarCraft.
Taking to Twitter earlier today, he announced his support for Hong Kong and stated that the company he once loved needs to reverse its decision on Blitzchung. He also asked gamers to “rise up” against the censorship, which he described as a “laughably transparent fear of China” on Blizzard’s end.
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
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) October 9, 2019
Having worked with the old guard during the early years, Kern once stated that Blizzard has become “out of touch” with gamers. He said so after the Diablo: Immortal fiasco that took place last year. Looking back now, Kern exclaimed no surprise over how Blizzard has been digging itself deeper. The Hong Kong bit only happened now. World of Warcraft was being requested to bring back vanilla servers for years but Blizzard never gave it any importance. World of Warcraft Classic eventually happened last month and the response has been excellent. It makes you think why Blizzard couldn’t have done so sooner.
For now, Blizzard is sticking to its Blitzchung-judgement and will likely take similar actions against anyone supporting Hong Kong (or mentioning the protests) on stream. It’s why staffers have been taking extra precautions during the recent Hearthstone matches. As fate would have it, a player flashed a poster in support for Hong Kong live on stream. Blizzard had to disable player-cameras for the remaining (and possible future) matches.
The whole situation has been rolling downhill ever since Blizzard condemned Blitzchung for supporting Hong Kong in his post-match interview. There are many who agree that shouting political slogans should not happen on such platforms. However, it’s the harsh punishment that everyone agrees was unwarranted.