‘Hearthstone’ Champion Banned for a Year, Loses Prize Money to Fines
- Chung Ng Wai AKA Blitzchung was punished after expressing support for Hong Kong protests.
- Not only has Blizzard punished Blitzchung, but has erased anything related to the interview with him from their official Twitter feeds.
- r/Blizzard was closed for a time due to backlash.
A professional Hearthstone player, Chung Ng Wai, better known by his competitive name Blitzchung, has had the ban hammer dropped on him by Blizzard Entertainment following a post-match interview during the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. The ban took effect immediately and is in place for one year, and in addition to the ban he’s had a number of fines levied against him that will effectively drain him of his accrued prize money.
That’s not just money from the tournament, but all of his matches for the season, which were around $3,000 per win. Considering he plays competitively and does this for a living, what’s effectively happened is he just had his efforts stripped away from him, as well as an additional $10,000 withheld from another recent tournament.
What transpired during this interview was not something obscene or crude. There were no threats, there was no cursing, but it was something that isn’t allowed in China; it was a clear, vocal dissent. During the interview, which you can find below, Blitzchung voiced support for the Hong Kong protesters, which are currently in a several-months-long deadlock against an increasingly aggressive local regime, which is backed by mainland China. For this, he and the two conducting the interview have basically been blacklisted from their Esports scene.
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.
Officially, Hong Kong is part of China, yet the legality of the city is a confusing one to navigate. Listed as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) it operates mostly independently of the country. Of course, this has gone out the window, as a large portion of the city has begun pushing for a more democratic government and way of life. But the ins and outs of the protests are for places covering world news to address; today we’re specifically covering Blizzard, Blitzchung, and the effect that China had on this decision.
Blizzard delivered the ban to Blitzchung, claiming a rule violation which reads as follows:
Upon further review we have found the action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1 (o) and is individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports. 6.1 (o) is found below.
2019 HEARTHSTONE GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4 p.12, Section 6.1 (o)
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously. After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning Oct. 5th, 2019 aand extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.
We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent. While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.
While Blizzard claims it’s at the sole discretion of their own company body, it’s important to note that Chinese company Tencent currently holds an estimated 5% of shares in Activision Blizzard, and a subsidiary studio of theirs recently released Call of Duty: Mobile. Tencent Holdings has had an increasing presence in Western entertainment companies, including Activision, Epic Games, and more. To express that they stand by the rights to individual thoughts and opinions while doing just the opposite of that is a an attempt to dodge backlash from both outside and inside the company; which has proven ineffective.
Blizzard is the latest company to have found itself in hot water due to China, with just this week South Park being banned in China after taking not-so-subtle jabs at President Xi Jinping and the NBA trying to appease the country after they decided to cancel broadcasts of the professional basketball series following comments by Rockets Manager General Daryl Morey expressing his own support for the Hong Kong protesters. While the NBA is trying to smooth things over, the South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker took the opportunity to jab them more with a mock apology.
— South Park (@SouthPark) October 7, 2019
The backlash has been swift, with #Blizzard, #BoycottBlizzard and #BlizzardBoycott trending on Twitter and gamers globally expressing dissatisfaction with Blitzchung’s ban. Things got so out of hand at r/Blizzard that it actually closed down for a bit before reopening. In addition to that, there is also growing tension even on Blizzard’s primary campus in California with several employees making their stances known, even some going as far as to cover up key tenants on the engraved stones on the ground feeling that Blizzard has turned their back on keystones that built the company.
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
That’s the story so far, but I’m sure things are only going to escalate from here. It’s about to be a turbulent time for Activision Blizzard, as both employees and gamers shake their heads at this decision. Exclusively Games will keep our eyes peeled as we go forward. This is not a matter of being pro or anti protestors in Hong Kong, what it is shedding light on the influence that China has on Western entertainment media. While it’s often easy to ignore in many cases, to see a gamer punished so harshly, not by China itself, but by an American company is disappointing.