More Fallout From The Hong Kong Protests Hitting eSports
We were just discussing how the NBA and Blizzard each responded to the thin-skinned Chinese government's pressure on each in the wake of statements made supporting the Hong Kong protests that have raged for months now. The Blizzard half of that conversation involved the company yanking prize money and issuing a 1 year ban on a Hearthstone champion going by the handle Blitzchung, who stated support for the protests to sign off of a recent stream -- which, Blizzard claims, violated contest rules. The backlash to Blizzard's decision, was swift and severe. Unlike the NBA, which backtracked on its own appeasing comments to the Chinese government, Blizzard hasn't budged an inch.The fallout is continuing, if not intensifying. Most recently, famed streamer Brian Kibler quit Hearthstone entirely over Blizzard's decision.
Kibler, 39, is a widely-respected Magic: The Gathering player who, in 2010, was inducted into Magic’s Hall of Fame. Over the last couple years, Kibler amassed a 500,000-person following on Twitch streaming Blizzard’s Hearthstone, which he casts in an official capacity for Blizzard.“I certainly never expected that my position in the Hearthstone community would lead to me making a statement on sensitive topics regarding international relations,” Kibler wrote today, “but I have always viewed my strange place as a public figure in gaming as an opportunity to try to make the world a better place in whatever way I can, so here we are.”He went on to state that he refused to smile on camera for a company that was taking such heavy-handed actions against his fellow streamer. It's not that Kibler himself is so big a figure that this will rock the Hearthstone world, though there is some truth to that. It's, frankly, the speed at which this is happening. It seems nearly inevitable that Kibler won't be the last to take such a step, particularly given some of the surrounding backlash Blizzard is receiving both internally and externally to its actions.
Kibler’s statement joins a chorus of backlash against Blizzard’s decision. The Blizzard subreddit shuttered yesterday, full of complaints from players—some of whom pledged to quit the game entirely. At Blizzard’s headquarters, where it proudly displays company values like “lead responsibly” and “learn & grow,” a big piece of paper covered up the values “think globally” and “every voice matters” apparently in protest of Chung’s ban. Also at Blizzard yesterday, some employees staged an “Umbrella Protest” against the ban.This simply isn't going away. Blizzard needs to say something, if not do something, to quell this ongoing backlash. Thus far, it has essentially chosen to sit back and wait this out. That doesn't appear to be a strategy that is going to work.