Why it matters: Over two dozen Blizzard employees walked out during work on Tuesday. The walkout was in protest over the developer’s decision to ban a pro player who aired his support for the Hong Kong protesters during an interview last weekend.
During a post-game interview, professional Hearthstone player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, who lives in Hong Kong, said, “Liberate Hong Kong, a revolution of our times.” He was also wearing a mask similar to the ones the Hong Kong protesters wear.
On Tuesday, Blizzard banned him from competing in Hearthstone tournaments for one year for his actions. The company also denied him the $10,000 in prize money he had won in last weekend’s Hearthstone Grandmaster’s Tournament in which the interview took place.
In protest, a small group of Blizzard employees left their jobs and gathered outside the California offices. They milled around by a statue in the courtyard with employees coming and going to show their support. In all, there were about 30 people who participated.
“The action Blizzard took against the player was pretty appalling but not surprising,” one Blizzard employee told The Daily Beast. “Blizzard makes a lot of money in China, but now the company is in this awkward position where we can’t abide by our values.”
[BREAKING] Hong Kong Hearthstone player @blitzchungHS calls for liberation of his country in post-game interview:https://t.co/3AgQAaPioj
@Matthieist #Hearthstone pic.twitter.com/DnaMSEaM4g
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
The heat from its employees is not the only flak that the developer has been receiving. Politicians, rival game makers, and gamers within the Blizzard community have lambasted its decision.
“Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party,” tweeted Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. “No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”
Blowback from the community was so fierce that Blizzard’s subreddit went down for a few hours on Tuesday after the news broke. Even fellow games publisher Epic took a poke at the move, promising that it would never punish players or content creators for voicing their political opinions.
Whether all this pressure is enough to get Blizzard to reverse its decision — lifting Chung’s suspension and giving him the money he is owed — remains to be seen.
Image credit: Epov Dmitry via Shutterstock