Slowly, but surely, Blizzard have opened up about penalising Hearthstone pro player Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung for a pro-Hong Kong protest during October’s Grand Championship finals. But after a delivering yet another wholly underwhelming public statement, it’s hard to say they’ve handled the situation well.
As it happens, that opinion isn’t limited to aggrieved fans. Last Friday, Blizzard vice president Jeff “from the Overwatch team” Kaplan criticised the company’s rushed response, calling for Chung’s suspension to be “reduced more or eliminated”.
Speaking to the Washington Post, Kaplan expressed disappointment in Blizzard’s rash decision. “I’m obviously a huge supporter of free speech; it’s something that’s very important to me. It got to me personally. I think the punishment was too harsh and I was greatly relieved when they gave his money back. I think that was extremely important.”
He admits the news came as a shock to him and the rest of the Overwatch team. With no internal communication on the matter, it appears he didn’t find out about Chung’s suspension until news hit the following day.
Like Blizzard president J. Allen Brack before him, Kaplan believes Blizzard moved too fast in bringing the hammer down on Chung. There’s a precedent for how these things should play out, Kaplan claims, drawing on experience handling suspensions and bans in the Overwatch League.
“We had to deal with a few of them in season one in particular, and that process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision,” Kaplan explained. “There was always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be, and we would heavily devil’s-advocate every part of the decision. So I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
Kaplan does make it clear that his opinion doesn’t represent that of the Overwatch team, nor Blizzard as a whole.
Blizzard’s handling of the Blitzchung situation put a black mark on what should have been a smooth run-up to a show-stopping BlizzCon. While their first statement reinstated Chung’s prize money, and cut his ban from one year to six months, Blizzard hasn’t quite managed to stem the criticism.
As Jay Castello wrote at the time, though, they’ve never quite addressed the root of the problem, instead lamenting that the company “reacted too quickly”. Brack’s on-stage apology at BlizzCon earlier this month largely repeated this line. Jay also spoke to people protesting the ban at BlizzCon.
Header photo: Ka Hei Mak, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, cropped.