Blizzard Entertainment is an American video game developer and publisher based in California, most widely known for the Warcraft and Diablo series.
Tencent is a gigantic Chinese conglomerate that has stakes in everything, including a 5% stake in Blizzard Activision. Besides this, they are either completely or partially own:
– Riot Games, the developers of League of Legends, one of the most popular games right now.
– Epic games, the developer and publisher of Fortnite.
– Clash of Clans
– Discord chat service
Hearthstone is a Free-2-play online player-vs-player card game by Blizzard Entertainment.
Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter with a variety of different characters from different backgrounds, also by Blizzard Entertainment.
Hearthstone, Blizzard-Tencent and Hong Kong Situation
Four days ago, Blitzchung, a professional Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, won an international Hearthstone tournament held by Blizzard. He won the tournament and was given a sizable amount of money as his prize. During his post-match/victory interview, Blizchung wore a gas mask and goggles and exclaimed support for the Hong Kong protests, using slogans such as “Revolution of our Age” and “Liberate Hong Kong”. As a result of this, Blizzard Entertainment originally fired the two casters that seemingly let Blitzchung share his pro-Hong Kong piece and stripped Blitzchung of his prize money on top of banning him from competitive play for an entire year. After facing a large amount of backlash, this was changed to a 6-month ban and Blitzchung is allowed to keep his prize money. They shared this information after 5PM EST last Friday, most likely so that it flies under the radar and in hopes of the situation blowing over over the weekend. Blizzard Entertainment essentially bowed down to Tencent and their PRC overlords as they were afraid of being unable to operate (read: make a large amount of money) in China. By punishing Blitzchung, Blizzard Entertainment gives the PRC the appearance of not tolerating this political stance and thus is allowed to continue selling their games to the Chinese user base. Naturally, this caused massive outrage online as many, many people disagreed with Blizzard’s decision and their position of money over morals and human rights, as well as their spineless obedience of the Tencent’s (and by extension, the PRC’s) wishes.
This situation is making its rounds on the internet as we speak, being picked up by Forbes, CNN and even Fox News in the form of an in-person interview with an e-sports personality that aired on TV in the US. This story spread like wildfire across the entire net with a trending hashtag (#BoycottBlizzard) on Twitter, topping the front page of Reddit over the past days, appearing on non-gaming related outlets such as the ones mentioned above and more, the vast majority of them leaning in support of the Hong Kong protestors and condemning Blizzard Entertainment’s actions.
Gamers/activists reacted to this situation by appropriating the Overwatch video game character “Mei”, a Chinese character, by turning her into a symbol of the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Mei, a character and personality owned by Blizzard Entertainment, is currently being transformed into a character that supports the Hong Kong protestors with people cosplaying as her with a modified outfit featuring gas mask and goggles or the Hong Kong flag (among others), as well as being displayed on posters at rallies and protests in Hong Kong. A large amount of memes are being made of Blizzard and Xi Jingping as well.
This fantastic edit below shows how a user on Reddit’s Hong Kong subreddit is trying to push the Overwatch character Mei into becoming a proper symbol of the revolution.
By so rashly punishing Blitzchung for supporting the Hong Kong protestors fighting against an authoritarian and oppressive regime and for freedom, Blizzard Entertainment has effectively tarnished their reputation among gamers and non-gamers alike. People are deleting their accounts, unsubscribing from World of Warcraft, refusing to buy future titles and urging others to follow suit in an attempt to hit Blizzard Entertainment where it hurts. It is quite amusing that one of their own characters is now being used as a symbol of the Hong Kong protests against their wishes and they cannot do a single thing to stop this. The entire situation was caused by a gamer and a video game company and as a result is having real effects on an important real-life situation, with a video game character becoming a symbol of freedom and the protests in Hong Kong.