Last week Blizzard revoked Hearthstone Grandmaster Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung’s prize money and banned the player for a year after drawing attention to the on-going protests in Hong Kong.
The player appeared in a post-match interview sporting a gas-mask and goggles similar to those donned by Hong Kong’s protestors and said the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”.
Blizzard’s response felt like a slap in the face to many fans, ourselves included, and on Friday evening the firm quietly issued a press release signed by president J. Allen Brack.
First – the good news.
Chung’s prize money will be awarded to him in full. The year long Hearthstone esports ban handed to Chung and the two shoutcasters has been reduced to six months.
But that’s where the good ends because the rest of the press release is, well, confusing.
Of note is this point Brack makes early on in his statement.
“Every Voice Matters, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves. However, the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game,” the president wrote.
So the esports broadcast should be about the tournament and no divisive issues should be brought up? Funny then how Blizzard itself hosted a Pride Day during an Overwatch tournament that saw the tournament heavily edited before being broadcast in South Korea.
So Mr Brack, is that statement about the tournament being about the tournament new or…
But things get even more confusing when Brack explains that it wasn’t Chung’s words that got him into trouble.
“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,” writes Brack.
It appears then that had Chung said anything unrelated to Hearthstone he would have been banned but that’s just incredibly confusing because we have heard casters and winners talk about anything and everything under the sun, not just Hearthstone.
The president also says that the caster failed to keep the broadcast focused on Hearthstone owing to Chung’s statement but that statement comes in at a few seconds.
To put it plainly this statement is not good enough. Blizzard’s reasoning makes no sense given the information that has come to light over the week and this feels like back-peddling after making an extreme decision.
It’s clear that Blizzard’s esports rules are a choose-your-own-adventure book and they’re very much in control of the path you take and how your words are interpreted and used.