Video game company Blizzard Entertainment became the latest American company to bow to pressure from the Chinese government, when it banned professional gamer Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung from competitive Hearthstone events for 12 months and deleted comments he made supporting the Hong Kong protests from its video-on-demand replay of a postgame interview.
The topic is also trending on Reddit. Due to this Blizzard has taken the immediate action of firing the two casters, reducing the prize pot to $0 and suspending Blitzchung for a year. His camera feed revealed that he was wearing a gasmask and goggles, a nod to the current protests taking place in his native Hong Kong. Long live the Great Communist Party of China! "Stand with Hong Kong". The video of the interview has been removed by Blizzard from their official Twitch channel and following on from their final decision the community surrounding Blizzard's games, both including and excluding Hearthstone players, have had a lot to say about it.
"We will, as always, resolutely safeguard the country's dignity", the official Hearthstone account on Chinese microblogging site Weibo posted.
The blowback was immediate.
Boycotters included Mark Kern, a developer who has worked for Blizzard.
On top of that, some U.S. Congressmen are criticizing Blizzard's decision. Sen.
"You screwed up and traded your players in for dollars", he tweeted.
Blizzard said they "stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions", but they remained firm on the fact that players and other participants "must abide by the official competition rules".
"South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were also targeted by the Chinese government after an episode of the satirical cartoon last week lampooned self-censorship by Hollywood studios to gain access to China's vast consumer market. It merely decided that Hong Kong activism was offensive, rather than using clear criteria such as a ban on political statements in matches. What would Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast do if China threatens to ban MTG in China and Hong Kong?
"There are serious protests in my country now", Blitzchung said in a statement to Inven Global. He added, "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention..." Tencent, who is the "official digital partner of the National Basketball Association in China" (and an unexpected way to draw this back to video games), has suspended all reporting and streaming of Rockets content. Tencent also owns a five percent stake in Activision-Blizzard. More recently, Blizzard released the popular first-person shooter Overwatch in 2016, and recently released a remastered version of the original World of Warcraft.
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