- For the last month video game giant Blizzard has been at the centre of a censorship controversy after it penalised professional “Hearthstone” player Chung Ng Wai – professionally known as “Blitzchung” – for expressing support for the Hong Kong protests.
- The penalty provoked massive outrage among fans and prompted copycat stunts from other players, who were also punished.
- Blizzard president J. Allen Brack told fans at the company’s annual convention Blizzcon on Friday that the company had “failed in our purpose” and apologised.
- Last month Brack reduced Blitzchung’s penalties, and asserted that Blizzard’s decision had not been influenced by its relationship with China.
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Video game company Blizzard has apologised to fans a month after it penalised a professional gamer for voicing solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters.
Professional “Hearthstone” player Chung Ng Wai, also known as “Blitzchung”, was penalised by Blizzard last month after shouting “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” while wearing a gas mask during a post-match interview. He was stripped of his winnings and given a one-year ban from competitions. The decision caused huge outrage and accusations of censorship. Blizzard is part-owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent.
Blizzard’s president J. Allen Brack addressed fans at BlizzCon, the company’s annual convention in Anaheim, California on Friday.
“Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone e-sports moment about a month a ago, and we did not,” he said.
“We moved too quickly in our decision-making and then to make matters worse we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about it’s really two things. The first one is we really didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves, and the second is we failed in our purpose. And for that I am sorry and I accept accountability,” said Brack.
“We will do better going forward,” he said.
You can watch Brack’s speech here:
Previously Brack pushed back against accusations that Blizzard was curbing freedom of speech at China’s behest. “The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” Brack said in a statement last month.
He said the punishment for Blitzchung was for “taking the conversation away from the purpose of the event and disrupting or derailing the broadcast,” but admitted the sentence had been too harsh and reduced Blitzchung’s suspension to six months and restored his prize money.
Blizzard additionally banned three college-level “Hearthstone” players in the US last month for holding up a sign during a match which read: “Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz.” Blizzard said it banned the players for ” “engaging in behaviour disruptive to the official esports broadcast.”
The decision to penalise Blitzchung sparked widespread outcry, even prompting bipartisan US lawmakers including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz to send a letter to Blizzard warning of a “chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms.” As Blizzcon kicked off on Friday protesters were demonstrating outside the convention.