Wednesday, October 9, 2019

My Thoughts on Blizzard Punishing Blitzchung

10/12 Update: Blizzard has issued an official statement on the matter. Here are my updated thoughts on the situation, which might save reading through the paragraphs of text below:
  • I do not think the punishment on Blitzchung and the casters were fair to begin with and believe the revised punishments are still too harsh. I can respect Blizzard trying to keep politics out of their broadcasts, however.
  • Like various past outrages, there is a lot of misinformation going around and a lot of malformed assumptions being made based on circumstantial evidence and the like. For example, a statement from NetEase, while concerning because of their partnership with Blizzard, does not necessarily represent the Blizzard official opinion.
  • Needless to say, harassment, especially of Blizzard employees who may be in support of opposing Blizzard's official actions, is also unacceptable. Insulting people for what sounds like a dissenting opinion is also unacceptable.
  • Based on the above two points among other observations, I am having increasing difficulty believing that some of the people participating in the outrage care about what's happening in Hong Kong and instead want an excuse to be angry with Blizzard. Spreading misinformation and harassing people is detrimental to winning support for the protests.
    • The latest WAN Show is a good example of this problem in action as the hosts Linus and Luke end up arguing with those participating in the outrage in their stream chat, some of whom claim the two are pro-China for the opinions they expressed. Incidentally, I largely agree with what the two of them said. In particular, "Lawful Evil" is a good way to describe what Blizzard did.

Less than a year ago, Blizzard made an announcement that was considered to be highly controversial and sparked major outrage within the gaming community. At that time, I personally considered the outrage to be understandable but also extreme in its negativity and lack of reasoning. Since then, I was expecting any sort of major controversy relating to Blizzard to happen about a month from now at the next Blizzcon assuming they failed to meet customer expectations again despite the optimism in their recent earnings report. However, recent actions by Blizzard against Blitzchung, a pro Hearthstone player who expressed opinions in favor of the protests in Hong Kong (which is an opinion I share, for the record) have caused another immense outrage among many people even outside of the gaming community and this time, I find myself in agreement with decrying Blizzard's actions. In this article, I will briefly explain my thoughts on the situation as it's unfolded so far.

One of the first things that I noticed when I read through initial news articles is that not everyone at Blizzard supports this action. This is not only something that's great to hear but some seem to be well aware of this internal conflict. However, others have once again lost themselves to their outrage and are lashing out against anyone who remotely involved with Blizzard's actions, whether they are fellow forum users, Blizzard employees, or the like. I do not approve of this incivility because it willfully harms other people and in my opinion makes the message of decrying Blizzard's actions easier to dismiss as toxic commentary from a vocal minority.

What I considered next was how Blizzard could have handled the situation. While I may be a critic of how they enforce the rules and empower their customers to do so, I can understand that Blitzchung did indeed break the rule that was cited in Blizzard's official statement. However, I am entirely in agreement with comments like this and remarks from Brian Kibler stating that the punishment issued to Blitzchung was far too heavy-handed. Furthermore, I do not believe Blizzard is utilizing some highly intelligent strategy by drawing more attention to the Hong Kong protests while sacrificing their reputation. This is because while their earnings from the Asia Pacific region are only 12% of their total as of last quarter, of which a fraction is actually China (because of countries such as South Korea and Australia contributing substantially to those earnings), there is great potential to grow that and Blizzard would almost certainly want to beyond supposedly releasing mobile games. Therefore, Blizzard has a motive for not upsetting the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

I conclude by saying that I wholly disapprove of Blizzard's actions here due to the severity of the implications, especially in regards to supporting major human rights violations. Ending my support of them is as easy as not buying another 6 months of WoW subscription since I purchase game time manually. At the same time, I also disapprove of the more negative aspects of those who are outraged because while some may actually care about what's happening in Hong Kong as opposed to hate circlejerking, such individuals don't express themselves in anything resembling a civil or reasonable manner.

Despite my condemnation, I am patiently waiting for an official statement in response to the outrage. This is because I believe there are ways for Blizzard to redeem themselves in this situation, even if others casually dismiss it as a pathetic attempt at damage control. For example, issuing a humble public apology that makes their disapproval of the CCP known while revising Blitzchung's punishment to a slap on the wrist or removing it entirely would make me a little more content. However, I would be more wary than I was previously and would expect continued action that does not actively support any authoritarian regime or the like.

Finally, when it comes to this blog and its articles, many Blizzard-related articles I post tend to be critique or theoretical discussion that often take the form of a suggestion that I know is unlikely to be considered, so it's fairly likely I will continue to publish such articles. I have also considered branching out into articles on other games for a while and may pursue that path more strongly.

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