Blizzard has taken aggressive action against Hearthstone pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai. In a post-match interview during the Asia Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters livestream, Hong Kong native Blitzchung wore goggles and a gas mask in the style of Hong Kong protestors, and at the end of the interview he removed them and said "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" Blizzard responded faster than Google when searching for research for this piece by immediately deleting the footage of the entire match. Later in the day Blizzard announced that Blitzchung would have his Hearthstone Grandmaster status (Which is a thing I've just learned existed) and his prize money revoked, as well as banning from professional play for a year and firing the two livestream casters. In an official announcement, Blizzard found him in violation of the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1 (o)
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
Now, the ongoing Hong Kong protests are a very topical issue around the globe, and I'm certain that everyone has their own varying opinions about Blizzard's harsh reaction (I certainly do). Chung knowingly broke the rules that he agreed to follow, after all. But there's no way to dance around the simple fact that this looks really, really bad. Blizzard, which I must point out is partially owned by Chinese megacompany Tencent, taking such swift and harsh action against a player (And the two casters that supported him) for speaking out against the Chinese government just simply looks really awful for the California-based developer, particularly in a political climate where companies capitulating to China for profit is a hot button topic. For his part, Blitzchung is unfazed, and said the following after the incident:
As you know there are serious protests in my country now. My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match. I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue.
Additionally, Fuel Games (Developer of Gods Unchained, which is a rivaling card game and another thing I just learned existed) offered the following via Twitter:
@Blizzard_Ent just banned @blitzchungHS and stripped his Hearthstone winnings because they care about money more than freedom. We will pay for ALL his lost winnings and a ticket to our $500k tournament: no player should be punished for their beliefs. #freegaming
Even some Blizzard employees are showing their form of silent protest by covering up portions of the statue outside of Blizzard HQ which list their company values of "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters." This story is likely to continue to develop and we will try to keep it updated as more develops. I'll leave you with one final thought: Is this what Grom Hellscream died for? WWGHD?