Blizzard’s dropped ball over Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai voicing his support for protesters in Hong Kong continues to roll downhill at alarming speed. Now joining the players, casters, and Blizzard employees making their discontent heard are members of the United States Congress from across the political spectrum. Incredible job, Blizzard.
“We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard’s decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong,” reads the letter signed by Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski. (Blizzard have since returned the prize money and reduced the suspension to six months, though their professed reasoning for doing so is nonsense.)
“Your company claims to stand by 'one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,' yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values,” they write.
Employees protested after the initial decision, and told Vice that the mood in the office became worse after Blizzard’s statement last week. “It's hard to understand how we waited so long for such a tepid, timid, and frankly tone-deaf response,” said one.
Unfortunately, the letter focuses on the “Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech,” which is not really the full picture of Blizzard’s actions. Whatever pressure the company may feel is only possible because they refuse to risk any hit to their profits. The Chinese government are not “using the size and strength of its economy to suppress opinions.” Blizzard are suppressing opinions in order to retain access to that economy. It’s a subtle difference, but one that makes the statement more jingoistic bluster than meaningful criticism.
United States lawmakers decrying international governmental pressure also feels disingenuous considering their country's own foreign policy. They have a history of using trade sanctions, election rigging, and coup attempts to influence other countries, and not for the better. According to political science academic Lindsay A. O’Rourke, “after a nation’s government was toppled [by the United States], it was less democratic and more likely to suffer civil war, domestic instability, and mass killing."
Header photo: Ka Hei Mak, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, cropped.