I’m conflicted. On one hand, I really like Overwatch. It’s literally one of only two games I play nowadays (along with Borderlands 3), and it’s the current torchbearer of the “cartoony team-based arena shooter” genre that I’ve steadfastly followed ever since Team Fortress 2 got me into multiplayer gaming. I don’t want to give up Overwatch, and since there’s no subscription fee like World of Warcraft there’s nothing I could really cancel beyond uninstalling.
But I can’t sit by and do nothing after seeing Blizzard supporting the Chinese government’s tyrannical attempts to overthrow Hong Kong’s government.
— Inven Global @ BlizzCon! (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
For those who are completely unaware, the Hearthstone Grandmasters event is currently ongoing, and one of the winners was Blitzchung. During a post-match interview, Blitzchung said “free Hong Kong, Time for a revolution!” Blizzard responded by revoking his prize money, banning him from competitive Hearthstone for a year, and even firing both casters who appeared in the same shot.
Later, during a collegiate match, the players from American University flashed a “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” sign, and Blizzard quickly killed their face cam and never showed another face cam for the rest of the tournament. The official Blizzard subreddit later shut down as public outcry started getting worse and worse. And frankly, Blizzard deserves every iota of hate being thrown their way.
It’s baffling to see a Western company bowing to Chinese influence and helping them repress the people of Hong Kong. This is a bald-faced decision to put profits over human rights, which is never acceptable, and I’ll be damned if I prioritize video games over anyone’s freedom.
And I’m certainly not alone in my beliefs. While the majority of Blizzard esports personalities are staying silent, rightfully fearing retribution for speaking out on the issue, American lawmakers have no such concerns and are lambasting the company’s choices. Harbleu (one of my favorite players from old-school comp TF2) is one of the few big-name Overwatch players brave enough to publically condemn Blizzard’s actions, even when it may jeopardize his dreams of reaching the Overwatch League. And anonymous employees at Blizzard are voicing their objections too:
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.
Both the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
— Kevin Hovdestad (@lackofrealism) October 8, 2019
Blitzchung, for his part, has a much more elegant response to the situation than anything Blizzard has said on the matter: “I spent 4 years on Hearthstone so I only lost 4 years of my life, but if HK loses it will be forever.” Now there’s someone willing to sacrifice for his ideals, as we all should. I originally didn’t want to say anything, as I’m trying to break into esports right now and I’d only be risking my future career by joining the chorus. But Blitzchung’s right, this is more important than me or anyone else. Blizzard is setting a dangerous precedent that will only lead to further oppression if they aren’t rebuked.
So, while my voice is rather small in the grand scheme of things, I too much publically condemn Blizzard’s actions regarding the situation in Hong Kong. They claim to be ‘progressive’ with gay Overwatch characters and an “Every voice matters” company slogan, but those gestures pale in comparison to the damage they’ve caused with the current Hong Kong situation. And I hope they’re not planning to bury their heads in the sand and wait for this to blow over, because Blizzcon is just around the corner…and this incident will be in everyone’s mind whether they like it or not.