Jeff Kaplan Wants to Reduce or Eliminate Blitzchung’s Punishment
- Comments come about a week after BlizzCon 2019.
- Thoughts revealed in an interview with The Washington Post
- With Kaplan and Brack at odds, what does this mean going forward?
Can you believe it’s only been a little over a month since the insanity with Blizzard began? Any time a new development comes up, it sincerely feels like this has been going on for a decade, and yet it’s only been a month. What began as punishment towards professional Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai, better known as Blitzchung, erupted into a firestorm of pushback from both the gaming community and the industry itself for what many felt was at minimum too harsh of a punishment, and at most something that wasn’t deserving of punishment at all.
An initial punishment for Blitzchung was handed down by Blizzard in the aftermath of his pro-Hong Kong sentiment in a post-match interview earlier in October in which the player stated in a live stream, “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our time!” At first, there was a stiff one-year ban of the player from competing in official tournaments, and also an even steeper punishment of denying him of his prize money for the season. Effectively, it’d be the equivalent of someone draining part of your bank account after you earned the money. This was the spark that would initiate a number of protests, boycotts, and notable figures within the eSports world stepping down and refusing to cover future tournaments for Blizzard until things were fixed. The punishment was later cut in half down to six months, and Blitzchung’s prize money was restored.
At BlizzCon 2019 last week, Blizzard President J Allen Brack issued an apology that satisfied some while leaving others feeling like it merely skirted the issue at hand, especially considering that he didn’t mention the incident by anything but a passing glance. This was later noted by J Allen Brack bluntly stating that the punishment on Blitzchung would not be lifted or reduced further. Only days after BlizzCon has come and gone, though, a prominent voice from within Blizzard is speaking against the punishment in favor of Blitzchung and his right to free speech.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Vice President of Blizzard Jeff Kaplan had this to say:
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 would go on to express that in situations where a player has to be punished, normally it’s a team of four executives over the course of about a week and he’s usually involved. This time, however, was different:
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.
You can check out the full interview at the link provided above, but these excerpts from the interview put things more into context than they already were. This was a harsh and hastily given punishment in stark contrast to the checks and balances in place that Blizzard has dished out towards other players over the years. It was anything but business as usual, and it was a decision that was made even about the seat of the company’s Vice President. The more questions we have answered, the more questions we have. What’s clear is the division within Blizzard is deeper than it first appeared. When even the input of high ranking executives are being tossed aside, that’s not the well-oiled machine that Blizzard built a reputation as being. What do you think of these latest developments? What do you think comes next in the future of Blizzard?