|The excitement at this year's BlizzCon was met with protests from protesters speaking against the Hong Kong controversy that involved a professional Hearthstone player / Photo by: tofuprod via Wikimedia Commons|
The excitement at this year's BlizzCon was met with protests from protesters speaking against the Hong Kong controversy that involved a professional Hearthstone player. Activision Blizzard President J. Allen Brack addressed the issue, stating their apology and holding responsibility for the controversy.
While Blizzard owned up the issue, Brack said they won’t be taking back their ban against the Hearthstone player and two Taiwanese casters.
Meanwhile, developers of the video game said the company should have handled the Hong Kong controversy differently.
Upholding the Ban
At the opening ceremony of BlizzCon 2019 last week, Brack addressed the controversy surrounding Blizzard’s decision to ban Hearthstone Gamemaster Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai and two Taiwanese casters.
Brack admitted that the company “moved too quickly with their decision” but they were not quick enough to speak with their audience.
“When I think about what I'm most unhappy about, there's really two things: The first one is that we didn't live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves. And the second is that we failed in our purpose,” he said, adding that he was sorry and that he accepts accountability.
“I hope it's clear how committed we are to everyone's right to express themselves, in all kinds of ways and all kinds of places.”
|Activision Blizzard President J. Allen Brack addressed the issue, stating their apology and holding responsibility for the controversy / Photo by: Marco Verch via Flickr|
Even with the apology and their stated commitment, Brack failed to speak about Blizzard’s decision to ban Chung and the two Taiwanese casters. PC Gamer, a UK-based magazine on PC Gaming franchises, spoke with Brack to clarify the company’s decision.
When asked if they are going to repeal the punishment against Chung and the casters, Brack directly said, "We are not." He added that they want official game broadcasts "to be about the games," when asked as to why Blizzard won't be lifting the punishment.
"Again, it's not about the content of Blitzchung's message. It's about the fact that it was not around the games," Brack noted.
"If we hadn't taken action, if we hadn't done something, you can imagine the trail that would be in our future around doing interviews. They would become times for people to make a statement about whatever they wanted to, on whatever issue."
The company president added that it wasn't a path they want to go down and that they want to keep the focus of the broadcast on the games. Brack clarified that while they don't want such statements on official broadcasts, Blizzard allows their players and employees to express themselves on any other platform such as their social media accounts.
With Blizzard being firm on their decision and protesters showing their support to the banned players, Hearthstone's developers were put in a tight spot. Game director Ben Lee and creative director Ben Thompson said they wished company executives were more delicate in handling the Hong Kong controversy.
"The initial decision was too harsh. Absolutely," Lee said during an interview with video game website Kotaku, referring to Chung's one-year suspension and loss of prize money. " [They] definitely should have taken more time to consider something more reasonable, but we can’t take that back."
For Thompson, the Hearthstone team's association with the issue is similar to the other teams in the company. He said the controversy was "less as associated with our game and more as associated with our company." The executive further widened his view to include the bigger situation in Hong Kong.
"It’s something that is, to be fair and honest, bigger than a gaming company. It’s bigger than [the] games, it’s bigger than our game. It’s something that’s dealt with on a global, sociological level," Thompson told Kotaku.
|With Blizzard being firm on their decision and protesters showing their support to the banned players, Hearthstone's developers were put in a tight spot / Photo by: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons|
Even as Blizzard tried to hush down the situation, which only fueled the people's anger, Thompson and Lee said they encourage team members to express their concerns internally.
Some of the team members feel Blizzard's response on a more personal level, according to Thompson, adding that it was something that they wanted to address. He also said they want their team members to be "as open as possible to express those feelings" and be comfortable to approach the higher-ups for leadership with those concerns, "wherever they fell on either side of the line or the middle or whatever it may be."
When asked about their reaction on the company's to not repeal the ban on the players and continue prohibiting political commentary during official events, Kotaku reports that both Lee and Thompson "largely feel like it’s the right way to go."
"Of course I celebrate – as we all do to some extent or another – free speech. You should be able to say what it is you want to say," Thompson told the video game website.
"I also understand what [Blizzard president] J. Allen Brack himself addressed in his internal communications and later on to the world at large, which is that being able to speak your mind and say how you feel from a personal level is always and should always be a welcome thing."
He added that doing so on a platform that isn't the player's and "done from a voice not your own to take control" s not considered as free speech.