Ongoing Blizzard controversy was recently sparked when professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai spoke out in support of the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government. He and two uninvolved casters covering Blizzard’s Asia-Pacific Grandmasters event were subsequently fired and many people have interpreted this as the company standing against freedom of expression.
As some players elect to boycott Blizzard titles in response, website The Verge seemingly reached out to developer Epic Games to see what its stance on the matter was, specifically with regards to their wildly popular battle royale game Fortnite. In an official statement, the company wrote: “Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights.” As a result of this position, Epic continued to say that they “wouldn’t ban or punish” any professional esports players or streamers that elect to speak out on such matters.
Blizzard did make a response of its own, claiming that they respect “one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,” yet still asserting that Blitzchung’s actions violated the rules of the competition. There’s a clause that prohibits players from taking any actions that might put themselves or Blizzard as a company “into public disrepute,” which, in this instance, is what they felt transpired and so chose to invoke.
The response to that choice has been resoundingly damning, however, prompting additional protests on official Blizzard streams, Blizzard staff to take part in disgruntled protests due to feeling that company values have been betrayed, the company’s subreddit to become so toxic that it was locked down, and even a harsh statement from US Senator Ron Wyden.
As Blizzard continues to face consequences for the stance on freedom of speech within its games, it’s perhaps reassuring to see Epic Games stand in support of the player’s voice.