- Activision Blizzard has been dealing with a wave of criticism after punishing a professional gamer for supporting the protests in Hong Kong.
- Fans have now taken steps to boycott Blizzard games, accusing the California-based studio of prioritising its relationship with China over protecting free speech.
- In an attempt to further disrupt Blizzard’s relationship with China, people have started using the Chinese character Mei from Blizzard’s “Overwatch” as a mascot in pro-Hong Kong memes and posts on social media.
- Some protesters using Mei in their messages have said they want to get “Overwatch” banned in China by making the character into a protest icon, damaging Blizzard’s profits in the process.
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A video-game character is slowly becoming the mascot of the Hong Kong protests, thanks to an ongoing movement from outraged fans of Activision Blizzard, one of America’s largest video-game publishers.
Mei, a Chinese character from Blizzard’s “Overwatch,” has been included in a viral wave of memes and social-media posts supporting the protests in Hong Kong and criticising Blizzard’s decision to punish a professional “Hearthstone” player who called for the liberation of Hong Kong during a post-match interview.
Blizzard faces boycotts for punishing Hong Kong-based player
Blizzard sparked an international controversy earlier this week when it barred Chung Ng Wai, better known as Blitzchung, from “Hearthstone” competitions for one year and withheld approximately $US3,000 of prize money he earned.
Blitzchung shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” in Chinese while wearing a gas mask during a post-match interview at a Blizzard-sponsored “Hearthstone” tournament in Taiwan on October 5. In the blog post announcing Blitzchung’s ban, Blizzard said he had violated the rules of the competition by making statements that were harmful to the company.
The decision led to widespread backlash from Blizzard fans, professional gamers, and even US lawmakers. After the announcement was posted, someone covered up two of the company’s key values – “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” – enshrined on a statue at the company’s headquarters.
Many Blizzard fans accused the company of protecting its business interests in China rather than upholding free speech; Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon suggested Blizzard’s punishment was an act of censorship on behalf of China’s government.
Mei from ‘Overwatch’ becomes a mascot for the Hong Kong protests
Upset fans have pledged to boycott Blizzard’s games as a result of Blitzchung’s ban, and dozens of people have shared screenshots of themselves deleting their Blizzard accounts or cancelling subscriptions to Blizzard’s “World of Warcraft.”
A few people latched onto the idea of using Mei, a Chinese character from “Overwatch” in protest messages in an attempt to sour China’s relationship with Blizzard. China’s government has strict regulations on which games are released in the country, and games that promote deeply political messages or rebellion against the government are specifically prohibited.
While Mei isn’t normally much of a rebel in her game, fans have taken liberties with her design to make her an emblem of the protests in Hong Kong. This includes draping her in the design of Hong Kong’s flag and drawing pictures of her wearing symbols of the protests, like umbrellas and gas masks.
— Marshy⭐what does “probematic” even mean⭐oftheBlobs (@marshedblob) October 9, 2019
— Gottalovebeans (@gottalovebeans) October 9, 2019
Some fans think that if the Mei protest memes get popular enough, China will consider banning “Overwatch” from the country entirely.
— LuigiToresc (@TheFenixxer) October 9, 2019
China spends more than any other country in the world on video games, so maintaining a healthy relationship with the country is important for Activision Blizzard’s future growth. Five of the 20 teams in the professional Overwatch League are Chinese franchises, with an approximate value of $US20 million each.
Blizzard has yet to issue a public statement on the situation since the initial announcement of Blitzchung’s ban.
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