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Gaming Giant Blizzard Penalizes Collegiate Hearthstone Team While Continuing To Bow To Tencent & China

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Published on: October 18, 2019

Blizzard Entertainment, the giant gaming company responsible for World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Diablo 3, and other popular PC/mobile video games, continues to take actions causing tremendous controversy in the gaming community, international community, and non-gaming communities.  The issue that still rages is the vague, broad, duplicitous policy Blizzard adopts and applies to gamers participating in tournaments where anything anyone found offensive can result in tournament players being placed on suspension and having their winnings confiscated when speaking in post play interviews.  While it is inappropriate to derail another’s platform, the penalties were extremely harsh and the matter could have been handled more discreetly.  And, no company should require an individual to relinquish their God-given individual unalienable rights for employment or participation in a sponsored event.

If you have been following this story, Blizzard Entertainment’s penalty against HearthStone grandmaster tournament winner Ng Wai Chung, aka Blitzchung and a Hong Kong citizen, involved withholding Blitzchung’s prize money and placing him on a six-month suspension because he stated, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time”.  The shoutcasters also received a six-month suspension for appearing to know about the statement Blitzchung made.  In support of Blitzchung, the American University team participating in the collegiate HearthStone tournament displayed a sign saying, “Free Hong Kong;  Boycott Blizzard”, during the match. The AU team forfeited their matches for the rest of the season because Blizzard had not applied the policies against freedom of speech to them, demonstrating inequality and hypocrisy, likely due to the watchful eyes of the Chinese government.

The crux of the issue is politics in the gaming industry and gaming platforms.  Blizzard Entertainment’s terms of service indicate that politics and sensitive social issues are to be kept out of gaming.  Yet, Blizzard Entertainment has engaged in promoting sensitive social issues in its games:  for example, introduction of  homosexual and bisexual characters in its OverWatch game; penalizing players upon complaints from other players regarding character and/or guild names; stereotyping individuals from Jamaica through speech of the Troll race; and, stereotyping individuals from China through the use of the Kung Fu fighting Panda race.  Moreover, the gaming giant had little issue with one of their employees disparaging consumers on social media.

Approximately two days ago, Blizzard Entertainment penalized the HearthStone collegiate tournament team from American University with a six-month suspension for their violation of tournament rule 7.1 B.   Tournament rule 7.1 B reads, “Participants may not take any action or perform any gesture directed at another participant, Tespa Admin, or any other party or incite others to do the same which is abusive, insulting, mocking, or disruptive”.  Make no mistake, Blizzard was well within its authority to penalize both Blitzchung and the AU collegiate team.  However, the issue causing so much uproar is two-fold.  First, the broad, vague and duplicitous rule lends toward excessive abuse as the smallest of infractions that someone finds offensive can result in a penalty.  Second, the penalty of a six-month suspension appears harsh when looking at the political activity Blizzard has engaged and the length of time it has taken Blizzard to respond in both cases.  Of course, the AU HearthStone collegiate team is happy about Blizzard applying the rules equally.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to quash the boycott of Blizzard by some players and stem the planned protests at BlizzCon beginning November 1, in Anaheim, California.  It is because of potential protests that Blizzard cancelled an Overwatch event to be held in New York with Nintendo last week.

Previous articles covered the incident with Blitzchung, the tournament rule, the ties to China entertainment giant Tencent, the gamer boycott, the multiple controversies surrounding Blizzard and the company’s involvement in “hot” social/political issues, the unequal enforcement of the terms of service, and deceptive business practices.  Moreover, the articles suggested that the Chinese government was using American companies doing business with China to suppress freedom of speech globally.  Now that Blizzard Entertainment has penalized the AU collegiate HearthStone team using a similar broad, vague and duplicitous tournament rule, it is obvious Blizzard Entertainment chose the money to be made in China and the Chinese government’s request for censorship through media giant Tencent over supporting freedom of speech and human rights.  Throughout this entire controversy, public statements issued by Blizzard have been different for its English speaking audience than its Chinese speaking audience, which fanned the flames of this issue even more.

Tencent, the Chinese media company holding a 5% stock share in Blizzard Entertainment, has ties to the NBA, meaning these censorship cases are intertwined to prove the Chinese government’s intention to silence any opposition to it or its actions.  Wikipedia declares Tencent to be the world’s largest gaming company and responsible for streaming NBA games to the Chinese audience.  With Blizzard Entertainment receiving 12% share of the Chinese gaming market with the hopes of attracting a larger share through Tencent, it comes as no surprise the US-based gaming giant would do the bidding of Tencent and the Chinese government.

It isn’t just Blizzard Entertainment entangled with Tencent;  it is other gaming, sports, entertainment, technological, and manufacturing companies as well.  With China being a despotic, tyrannical, authoritarian, Communist-style dictatorship where the government and Xi Jinping decide what goes, American companies doing business in China choose to follow the heavy censorship, bowing to the Communist culture, relinquishing their freedoms so willingly to gain the next money share of the Chinese pie.  Tencent has purchased enough shares in American companies and the NBA to ensure participants self-censor and corporate magnates instruct those associated with them to refrain from freely speaking.

It’s amazing what effect the worship of money can have on individuals as well as corporations.  Corporations abandon their core values and principles to gain more money.  Individuals affected by those corporations abandon and relinquish their God-given individual unalienable rights for a piece of green-colored paper that literally has no value.  God and His laws are kicked out of the public square in exchange for money.  Human rights violations by despotic, tyrannical, authoritarian regimes are overlooked, all for the love of money.  Corporations tolerate the Chinese government, through its proxy companies, stealing proprietary information and American technology all for the worship of money.  The lure of cheap labor to maximize profits and increase the flow of money to these corporations are more important than standing on the values and principles of liberty and freedom.

It’s disturbing to hear individuals support “democratic socialism”, forms of “communism” and “Marxism”, and pure democracy when monitoring forums and chat rooms occupied by gamers boycotting Blizzard.  While advocating for freedoms and rights, some hold the ideology that government bestows rights and not God.  Just like the corporations pandering to China, some gamers boycotting Blizzard for violating someone’s freedom of speech engage in hypocrisy themselves by silencing those imparting truth through name-calling, mockery, and demanding proof of the truth.  Naturally, when proof is provided, these individuals refuse to acknowledge it.

With BlizzCon rapidly approaching and several protest groups planning to peacefully assemble outside the event as well as inside, Blizzard could choose to cancel the event, like was done with the New York Overwatch event, and reschedule when the dust settles.  The negative attention garnered, and the chord Blizzard’s actions have struck with the gaming community, could see this fester for a long time.  In the past, Blizzard has been able to ride out bad PR plunders;  however, this issue seems to have had a broad, massive response among the majority of Blizzard’s consumers.  It won’t be so easy this time since the issue involves a foreign government attempting to control what the world says and thinks.

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