Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hearthstone Gamer in Hong Kong

The gaming company suspended the player and made him forfeit his prize money after he expressed support for the protest movement in Hong Kong.

Comments: 85

  1. Blizzard is an American company punishing a man for expressing support for liberty and democracy. It's honestly shameful. But it is certainly not the only company doing so. American companies kow-towing to the whims and demands of the increasingly paranoid and autocratic Chinese government is distressing, to say the least. Companies from Nike, Van, and Tiffany to the entire NBA organization have now bent the knee to a foreign dictatorship, throwing values like freedom and democracy out the window. Where does it end? Does anyone really believe that Beijing will be content with the control it currently exerts over our media and entertainment? At what point will we recognize that the CCP's vision of the future as one-party and authoritarian fundamentally conflicts with our own core values?

  2. Blizzard also fired the commentators who were doing the interview even though they had nothing to do with the comments. And all because their new free to play Diablo game heavily relies on the Chinese market to be profitable. Talk about a ridiculous over-reaction.

  3. I think it's about time Activision-Blizzard just gave up on supporting its American audience and went all-in on being a Chinese mobile game developer. They've been shifting in that direction for years, perhaps most notably with Diablo Immortal. But with this move it's clear where their priorities are -- they'll go so far as to ban American players in order to support Chinese dictatorships.

  4. @nilkn Exactly. This event led to realize that this is exactly what the botched announcement of Diablo Immortal was about. I thought they just goofed, but it is now clear that they simply didn't care that the game wouldn't be received well in the US/EU markets. It was developed primarily for the Chinese market. I cancelled my WoW Classic subscription and will not buy any more games from this company. Their quality has been steadily declining since the merger with Activision, so not much is lost.

  5. @nilkn Read the article first. No American players involved.

  6. The player is actually from Hong Kong FYI.

  7. Bravo Mr Chung for his continued support of Hong Kong despite being stripped of his winnings.

  8. Companies that wish to kowtow to the authoritarian government of China should have the courage of their convictions and immediately move all operations and personnel there. If Blizzard really believes in the benevolence of the Chinese Communist Party, what do they have to lose?

  9. The internet, far from connecting us, has divided us into ideological silos. It’s not a surprise that corporations are following. Now we can clearly see whose priorities lie where.

  10. More and more, people are starting to see what China really is. Mr. Trump might be a boorish person, but, he has it correct for implementing tariffs and stopping them from their everyday tactics of being an autocratic government who feels that their way is going to be the way of the world.

  11. @Randy L. the tariffs may be thwarting china's companies but they are hurting too many payer bailing out farmers for one...tariffs raise prices for another.

  12. While I agree with Trumps effort to stand up to Chinas unfair trade policies and IP theft, he has also set a poor example of ‘money above all else’, by his actions in the Khashoggi murder, Turkey, Climate change etc.

  13. @Randy L. How did Trump's tariffs stop China from being autocratic? Trump implemented his tariffs, yet China appears to be as autocratic as ever.

  14. Next, the Chinese government will demand a voice in choosing the executives of these companies and they'll all end up as corporate versions of Hong Kong.

  15. Check out the leadership change at Cathay Pacific. Your prediction came true already. Swire completely caved and sacked the CEO and another leader over their support for employees choosing how to spend their free time (including in protests). Since then several line staff have lost their jobs as well. Pathetic. The world needs to stand up to this.

  16. The people in Hong Kong are experiencing the direct threat of totalitarianism. For an American gaming company to judge that from a distance seems absurd.

  17. My son, 22, and all of his gaming friends who love Blizzard's games and await the new releases with fervid anticipation are all cancelling their accounts with this company. I'm proud of them for standing up for what is right.

  18. @Marlene And what’s right? Support a fellow gamer for his racist comments because you believe free speech have no bounds?

  19. Daniel Victor - I'm very impressed by the NYT's timely and well-written summary of this controversy. Well done.

  20. Bye Blizzard. We’re done. In addition to the quality of its games decreasing steadily over the years, the company has now put its total like of backbone on full prominent display to the world. If Blizzard likes Chinese money so much they should be forced to move over there. Such a company doesn’t deserve the support of this country. Make Blizzard pick a side. Boycott their products.

  21. They won't notice the loss of the Republic if we just give them bread, circuses and corporate run video games. (If you work for this company or use its products, do your conscience a favor and quit.)

  22. Blizzard should be ashamed of itself. I’m quitting Starcraft 2 and all other Blizzard games indefinitely.

  23. The youth of Hong Kong mirror the patriots of our Revolution. Our leaders should do everything they can to support them.

  24. Capitalists and corporations will always place the Pursuit of Profits over Human Rights. Corporations long ago stood on the auction block of Human Rights. Remember, in the not too far distant past, when the emergence of China as a "capitalist" state was viewed by many a politician as a wonder of the world. "Democracy cannot be far behind", they claimed. But really, folks, they tried to make capitalism and democracy into two sides of the same coin -- and they are not. Capitalism and Dictatorship have gone hand-in-hand since Adam Smith all the way up to Ayn Rand. If you think that capitalism and human rights can coexist, then go speak to some of the descendants of American slaves and ask them how well it worked for their ancestors.

  25. @Joseph wrote: "Capitalists and corporations will always place the Pursuit of Profits over Human Rights." That is a cynical falsehood. Capitalists and corporations are people; most are good, some are bad. The mythical capitalist who cares only about money exists only in fairy tales and Communist propaganda.

  26. It's all about the money. Always about the money...

  27. To me, this is the beginning of the end. American companies betraying our values to appease the CCP is not a sign that things could get worse, the precedence has already been set. China will continue to box out American values and our international clout until we completely lose our status as shepherds of the world. This is a global crisis. If the American government and international community do not act to condemn Blizzard and the NBA then we are subjecting our future to a totalitarian state.

  28. Corporations have never really had the best interest of their consumers in mind. It’s always been about appeasing to gain access to consumers. Pay attention to any company that attempts to show support for women’s rights or gay pride in a commercial ad. They will never show those same ads outside of their Western markets. Blizzard got caught doing what countless other companies have been doing for the last decade with censoring and intentional silence. They just made the mistake of making it so blatantly obvious.

  29. The last decade? Since corporations existed... it’s probably in the very definition of “corporate”. The views of “many” rather than the individual. Individuals viewpoints are discouraged in a corporation.

  30. It will be interesting to follow this issue. Will Blizzard and the NBA continue to self censor? The news makes it sound like at least the NBA has mended its ways. My fear is that the lesson learned is not that organizations should avoid self censorship, but rather they should do it quietly to avoid the notice of the western press.

  31. China ONLY has the power because US, Westerners gave China leverage by relegating moral values for short term profits. As companies and people bow to China their heads will be off. As commenters W and Brad B. cleverly pointed out, organizations kowtowing for China's markets should have to move and operate from there.

  32. Thanks to the previous presidents !

  33. Interesting to have a Taiwanese billionaire and owner of the Nets NBA franchise call the Hong Kong protesters separatists.

  34. Taiwanese? Don’t you mean Chinese Taipei? After all, one China? /sarcasm

  35. Something that should be noted- the massive Chinese company TenCent holds a 5% stake in Activision Blizzard.

  36. @Greg Maybe its time to recognize that Blizzard should stop caring about their 5% stake and their 12% revenue if it stands to threaten the greater part of both.

  37. The stage is set for global forgetfulness this time. The slaughter in Tiananmen Square is forgotten in China. The oppression in H.K. will be forgotten by the world, because China insists we forget.

  38. The rules were very clear. No abusing the platform to broadcast your own political opinions. Chung's act was as disruptive and disrespectful to the people attending an e-sports event as standing up and yelling that women have no right to abortions in a calculus lecture. Chung is a disgrace to his game and was rightfully penalized. Kudos to Blizzard for having the courage to enforce the rules in a fair and evenhanded manner rather than bowing to the collective jingoist dogma that has gripped the US. Funny how "free speech" is only praised by the news when it happens to take the pro-US foreign policy position.

  39. @Sarah You miss the point. If you have a bad set of rules that prevent someone's basic rights from being expressed, maybe your rules aren't so awesome? I think you're completely making presumptions, Sarah, and you are straw manning the US as much as a point you have about it. This article is about Blizzard and China, so stop distracting, please, with a point that doesn't matter. Any company with terrible policy should change that policy or rightly face backlash.

  40. It is shocking to see these American entities capitulate to China's repressive policies.

  41. Activision is a wimpy slave to the laughable CCP. Some day we will make a list of where these companies sold for humanitarian principles and their products and services will be boycotted. It has already begun with MNCs that have disavowed Taiwan as an independent and free democracy. Hotels, airlines and retailers are being boycotted. Growing scorn for weak American companies. We will not support them, pay them.

  42. It must be said that the Chinese government might have been slower to proceed with their draconian approaches if the chief Western democracy had a leader right now who cared about defense of democracy and free speech... instead of, you know, that guy we have right now.

  43. But he is the only US president in decades to challenge CCP.

  44. The divide came from perception of those involved in the conflict. American sees them as freedom fighters against an oppressive regime while Chinese sees them as separatist terrorists that terrorize the city. The same divergence in perception is why the American backed Iraq in the 70s’, Taliban in the 80s’ and ISIS just a few years ago in Libya and Syria. Think how much a backlash there would be if a Chinese player voiced his support of the San Bernardino shooting and you get the idea why companies acted the way they did. They do have foreign relationship consultants that know the situation much better than NYTimes journalists and the regular layperson.

  45. The gamer was protesting against (police) violence; your hypothetical supports violence - apples and oranges.

  46. @Mondo Man Yes, that HK gamer was protesting against supposed violence against protestors as I am sure supporters of the San Bernardino shooters would say they were protesting against violence against the Muslims. Which part of “one person’s freedom fighters is another’s terrorist” you don’t understand?

  47. It is Time for Corporations who run into difficulties regarding their democratic rights to free speech to pack up and go home.Find new markets. The Chinese can consider badminton. A good sport. And golf. Though the golfers will eventually leave. There is no hope for an authoritative state except repression and eventually war, or a rejection of authoritarian government.Xi got it wrong. No flexibility with dealing with his fellow Chinese.. Yes sterilizing the economic forces that run China have been an annoying success because of their better than you attitude but eventually they will stagnate for lack of imagination and innovation.

  48. I’ve been playing Blizzard games for 25 of my 27 years on Earth. Started with Warcraft, then StarCraft, and when I got older Diablo. I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours on their games. No more. With their abject capitulation to a corrupt autocracy Blizzard has lost decades of respect and loyalty. I will never pay another penny towards Blizzard and have canceled my preorder for their upcoming Warcraft game. Blizzard needs to understand that with this crackdown on free speech, they are not only acting out the wishes of a repressive regime, but they are also losing many devoted fans like me.

  49. “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages” I am offended by Blizzard's statements regarding this matter. Will they now be banned from their own platform for violating their policy?

  50. Exactly. Blizzard is the entity now held in disrepute, by their own words and actions. Just say no to censorship. China needs to grow up and develop a thicker skin. Rather than trying to shut Hong Kong down, Beijing should be seeking to emulate them.

  51. This is so heartbreaking to me. I probably have days worth of game time played with friends back in high school playing Start Craft and Warcraft. They were easily the best games around because of how finely tuned they were and Blizzard became highly respected because of them. I don't play any WoW or Overwatch but, to hear this is just really terrible. Its the end of an era for Blizzard in my mind.

  52. I wish I played WoW just so I could cancel my subscription.

  53. According to Wikipedia, the key people in Activision Blizzard are: Brian Kelly (chairman) Bobby Kotick (CEO) Coddy Johnson (president, COO) Dennis Durkin (CFO) Their headquarters is in Santa Monica, California. I wonder how the residents of Santa Monica feel about their less-than-enlightened neighbors?

  54. Chung displays the heart of a peaceful warrior, which under attenuated circumstances, secures the Nobel Prize. Stripping him of this prize for his assiduous labor is the petty act of a company with no morals besides those instilled by lucre. We should be proud to share the world with the Chungs.

  55. Well done nytimes for awareness and spreading this information. Blizzard is a cowardly, craven company at this point. While building large statues with the slogan "Every Voice Matters" their actions show their true colors. Respect to the NBA for standing up for the freedom that makes our economy possible. Shame to Blizzard for not understanding what makes the arts and entertainment industries work. The only way to make Blizzard behave is to not buy their products. Boycott Blizzard.

  56. My partner, who has been looking forward to Classic WoW for years, canceled his subscription. He's been playing since almost the begining of the game. I am also canceling my subscription. Very unfortunate. It's sad that at many companies sexist, homophobic, and racist language is tolerated but supporting people who are trying to protect their own freedoms is punished. I hope that Blizzard faces enough push back that they amend this decision and reconsider how they handle future situations like this. A simple "We have players with many different beliefs and do not support any particular group" statement should have been sufficient to express neutrality and I think it's okay for a company to stay neutral. This wae just a gross overreaction.

  57. Not only did they ban Blitzchung for a year but they broke all association with the two innocent casters of the match.

  58. Never thought I'd live to see the day that Blizzard might beat out EA to be the worst gaming corporation. Breaks my heart.

  59. This event is so frustrating to me, and I know I'm not alone. One reason people are so angry is that they trusted Blizzard, who has made some of the most iconic titles in the last two decades that have been a huge part of all of our childhoods. Despite their attachment to these games, people like myself have decided to cancel subscriptions and uninstall games. I hope this acts as a warning call to other companies, so they stand up for free speech and democracy, even when it appears that they'll lost profits in China. If absolutely devoted fans of these games will quit, then there isn't a product people won't feel is too essential to boycott.

  60. The website indicates that, according to the Foreign Agents Intelligence Act: 'An “agent” is typically identified through practical indicators, such as contractual language, reporting lines, payment streams, and statements found within emails, internal files, and work product that appear to indicate one party is working for another.' Does anyone know if the owners of Activision Blizzard have complied with the Act by registering?

  61. Shame on you blizzard. how about we have american senators blocking your access to USA. it still the world most lucrative market. All the more we need USA to do the world a favour in limiting and auditing China. All out sanctions war is one China can never win as it drags on. USA should work to have a democracy in China for the good of the earth. The CCP is Nazi in the making, except that they will be gassing everyone. I stand with HK and i will be cancelling all relations with Blizzard

  62. I commented yesterday on a related story that I wished a high profile person or organization would take a principled stance, and wow, here it is. Ok, I'm not a gamer and didn't know the name Mark Kern but it's clear he's widely known to a large segment of the vast gaming audience. I read through his Twitter thread announcing his decision and it was pretty spectacular. True admiration for this man.

  63. Is anyone giving 10% of their attention on Hong Kong to what is going on in Kashmir these days, where the Indian government is exercising an unchecked military power on a minority autonomous population to illrgally oppress, harass, intimidate, censor, coerce, with severe consequences to not only human right, but very likely human lives? And why? Why this lopsided attention distortion?

  64. @american expat One can pay attention to more than one thing at a time. It is not any disservice to the tragedy of Kashmir to also pay attention to the removal of human rights in one of the largest cities in the world and its affect globally. You might even consider that the two incidents have a commonality, the intolerance of certain expressions against governments and the fundamental rights all people should have as they live in peace.

  65. Please sell your stock. Not only is it probably going to drop but it's a global currency that speaks to them even more than sales will right now.

  66. Orwell missed by 100 yrs. Trump and those who will embrace the history of his presidency (akin to exponents of Regan’s trickle down economy that still exist today) will take the World careening towards his belief of how it should be: a World totally controlled by despots in China, Russia, and the US of A. The other remaining countries will be left to lick the boots of the likes of Xi, Putin, and Trump in order to survive. Wait for the next move after today’s abandonment of our once loyal allies the Kurds. Ukraine’s newly minted American pasty will be left to do standup in a cell after Putin and his assassins role in to what is left of Ukraine once Trump gives thumps up to Putin’s “beautiful” plans. This ain’t no video game Congress. This is real and it is about to destroy your once beautiful land of the free but now home of the cowards. Forget your Eagle, it has been crushed by the Dollar.

  67. Let's call a spade a spade: the riots in Hong Kong are what Yale's Stephen Roach refers to as "Destructive Anarchy". Violence against others who disagree with you in the name of "freedom" isn't exercising one's right to free speech. It is in fact limiting other's right to free speech and makes one's actions no less evil than the evils they profess to be rioting against. You can support freedom and democracy but to do so in a way that destroys personal property, damages infrastructure and the worst: violence against those who disagree, that's not what democracy is about.

  68. @James I guess the American Revolution was destructive anarchy then.

  69. @James Stephen Roach is an economist with deep ties to China. Of course he would pick the economic interests of Asia over the notion of Free Speech in the United States. His comments are disingenuous at best.

  70. Blizzard is regularly cowardly so no one should be surprised if you know this company at all.' Secondly, they are pretty dense. They are trying, though doing a poor job, at making their Overwatch esport scene successful (they were completely outplayed by Fortnite, which is a better game, easier and far more fun to watch when you aren't a player). But a lot of Blizzard's esport interest, and pro players come from South Korea. So do a lot of people who buy their games. Blizzard couldn't be bothered to think through while they are censoring in the name of China, that they might be making a whole larger part of their player base angry. Remember, Blizzard's game also uses loot boxes, which is gambling targeting children. They aren't the only company to do this but have been regulars at it, while loot boxes are being slowly regulated due to their intended targets. Money without responsibility over money with responsibility, why does this sound familiar?...

  71. I hope Mr. Wai sues the pants off Activision. What they have done is horrible.

  72. Blizzard needs to ban themselves for damaging their own image.

  73. Would these same gamers care if this player was a woman? I think not. This is the same community that harasses woman for their participation. It's a shame Blizzard caved, but the community needs to clean up it's act before it gets on it's high horse.

  74. @Matt as far as I know the gamergate people are a tiny but vocal subset of gamers. Attributing their actions to the whole group is a bit like blaming all New York for Donald Trump. Of course gamers make an easy target because they are a more fringe outsider community. But that is just an extension of the high school instinct to target people who are different from you to make yourself feel better.

  75. I have no idea how this is relevant but people who play games are not one huge singular stereotype who all believe the same things and act the same way. The community for Hearthstone is also not the same as the community for other games. It’s a card game akin to Magic. Also, it is exceedingly rare for women to be harassed simply for their gender. Much of the harassment drummed up a decade ago was a result of self imposed victimhood. There are countless women who play games at various levels without any problems.

  76. @Matt a legitimate point, maybe, but I think you're better off focusing your attention on that in Hong Kong, ALL human rights are being taken away, and ultimately, should any game company be banning players outside of China for support of the protesters when there is no law for it, in order to just get more money by becoming a censor for China?

  77. Talk is cheap, go to HK to see how free it is for mob! not just sit down in front of your laptop to be a keyboard man. I support Blizzard.

  78. @Zed So by extension you support China and its attempt at extradition to the mainland. Because that is the end result of accepting Blizzard's cowardly punishment through it EULA. Which is so vague as to be laughable. Anything anyone says will be objected to by someone else. Blizzard's policy is idiotic. You're right talk is cheap--go to mainland China support them directly. I support Blitzchung and Hong Kong.

  79. @Zed HK police pretend protesters to destroy MTR.

  80. @Zed I was just in Hong Kong last week. The police stationed all over the place were way more intimidating than the protestors were. The only time I saw protestors do anything more than simple marching was when the police provoked them into confrontation.

  81. If Morey can be excused by very thin margins in another parallel universe, this young man made it crystal clear that he meant politics. I really don't think bringing adversarial politics to any kind of sport is a good thing, which is also explicitly forbidden in Blizzard's rules. Haven't we had enough politics already? I'm all in for freedom of speech, but it doesn't mean such freedom goes beyond everything else, anytime, anywhere. Should there be rules or social consensus, then freedom of speech submits to them instead of rules over them. I'm pretty sure a white player would be barred and punished if he drop the N-bomb in a white triangular mask on camera, which in his defense, could be practicing his freedom of speech. The local PD would probably let him go if he's a law-abiding citizen, but such practice would definitely bring consequences from the community and the TOs, and this young man has been served with such consequences. Freedom of speech protects you from government prosecutions, but it's not a omnipresent Spear of Longinus that breaches everything no matter what. This very comment section of the Times is moderated, too. Does it mean the Times intended to breach subscriber's freedom of speech? I don't think so, it's a vivid demonstration of the scope which the freedom of speech applies, and it doesn't apply here cuz the Times doesn't want to be the collateral damage of mindless comments, or let them hurt readers' feelings. Sports serves a purpose, newspapers too

  82. @Raphael Certainly interesting how openly the government funded commenters flock to defend the suppression of free speech. All the better to commit an ethnic cleansing of the Uyghur or harvest organs from prisoners when no one is allowed to speak out for fear of breaching "social harmony".

  83. @Raphael "I'm all in for freedom of speech, but it doesn't mean such freedom goes beyond everything else, anytime, anywhere. Should there be rules or social consensus, then freedom of speech submits to them instead of rules over them." How do you not understand the inherent contradiction in those back-to-back statements? Political speech is the most important form of speech to leave free. Without that, you have nothing. Activision/Blizzard didn't censor him because the community at large objected to it - they censored him because a government did, making them enforcers of that government's censorship. As for the Times moderating comments: they aren't doing so at the behest of the government, and I'd be willing to bet they aren't revoking paying customers' subscriptions if they post something to which the moderators object.

  84. Uh, the kid won. Pay him.

  85. "'Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,' Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. 'China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.'" I don't often see eye-to-eye with Marco Rubio, but that statement is absolutely spot-on. I could even get behind Trump's escalating trade war with China, if it was being fought over this sort of thing. Throw in their poor working conditions and horrible track record with product safety, and I'd fully support cutting/limiting trade ties with a country that seems content with (sometimes even intent on) quietly killing us with their products. If only it weren't being waged on the basis of a failure to understand what a trade deficit is and that it's not inherently a bad thing...