Gaming News & Opinions

Chronology of A Controversy: How We Ended Up Boycotting Blizzard

Few controversies have the pull to remain a mainstay of the fast-changing news cycle that defines modern gaming news. Yet, nearly a week on from the moment that sparked the whole debacle, the story of Blizzard kowtowing to Chinese pressure continues to evolve thick and fast.

But how did we get here? A slew of statements from players and casters, a succession of questionable actions on Blizzard’s part, and industry figures sharing their take; the chain of events is a lot to digest. Here’s a concise breakdown of everything that’s happened so far.

Sunday, October 6 – Hearthstone Pro’s Live Stream Protest

Hearthstone pro player, Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai, appears on the official Hearthstone Grand Masters live stream in a post-game interview sporting a gas mask to protest Chinese repression and calls for the liberation of Hong Kong.

Monday, October 7 – Blizzard’s Draconian Response

Blizzard releases a statement expelling Blitzchung from the tournament on the official Hearthstone web site, rescinding his $10,000 prize money earnings, and slapping him with a one year ban from competitive play. The gaming giant announces it would no longer be working with the casters hosting the stream. It disables comments on the post.

Tuesday, October 8 – #BoycottBlizzard

#BoycottBlizzard trends on Twitter as criticism becomes widespread. Onlookers vow to boycott Blizzard games with many canceling subscriptions to World of Warcraft and refunding pre-orders for upcoming titles such as Warcraft III: Reforged.

The Blizzard subreddit is closed temporarily in light of the backlash by a rogue moderator. Alongside, users flood subreddits for Blizzard titles, including Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and Hearthstone, with posts denouncing Blizzard.

Members of the collegiate American University Hearthstone team hold up a sign reading ‘Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz’ in support Blitzchung during an official Blizzard TeSPA tournament live stream. Blizzard suspends post-game interviews for the length of the Collegiate Championship.

U.S. Senators, Ron Wyden and Marc Rubio comment on events. The latter says;

China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone.

Wednesday, October 9 – Growing Support

Official Blizzard account on Chinese social media platform Weibo condemns Blitzchung’s actions and vows to ‘always respect and defend the pride of our country.’

Ex-Blizzard employee and World of Warcraft designer, Mark Kern, criticizes Blizzard and backs boycott movement. A group of Blizzard employees stages walkout at the company’s Irvine, California, campus. Hearthstone caster, Brian Kilber, announces he will no longer host Blizzon Grandmaster finals in protest.

Epic Games and Tim Sweeney, in his usual gutsy manner, announce they won’t ban or punish Fortnite players or content creators for speaking out on political issues.

Overwatch character, Mei, depicted as a protestor wearing a face mask, becomes a symbol of Hong Kong protests.

Source: Reddit

Thursday, October 10 – Hypocrisy and Protest

It emerges that Blizzard will not penalize American University for their actions during TeSPA live stream. The team opts to forfeit the remainder of the season to highlight hypocrisy.

Nathan ‘Admirable’ Zamora announces he won’t be a part of the caster team for the rest of the Grandmaster’s season.

Blizzard announces it is ‘assessing the situation’ in light of the massive backlash.

Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:07 PM

Thomas Bardwell

UK-based writer covering the video game industry. Email me | Bug me on Twitter