Photo credit: Illustration by Reddit user glitch777
Within days of the NBA controversy starting, a separate huge controversy also erupted in esports. Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, a pro Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, was suspended for a year and denied a reported $10,000 in prize money after donning a gas mask and shouting “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” in a post-match interview.
Blizzard, the company that makes Hearthstone, has since returned the prize money to Blitzchung and reduced his suspension to six months, but has doubled down on its policy to punish political speech from professional gamers. The company has been met with a fierce backlash:
- Two esports casters, Nathan Zamora and Brian Kilber, have announced they are stepping down from hosting Hearthstone competitions.
- The Reddit forum for Blizzard — viewable here — is now a nonstop anti-Chinese-government meme-creating machine. Anyone familiar with this corner of internet culture will know that grudges are not short-lived in this space.
- The CEO of Epic Games, a rival games studio, announced that he “supports the rights of…players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.” Some observers had pointed out that Blizzard has a 5 percent investment from Chinese technology giant Tencent. Epic Games has an investment from Tencent of 40 percent.