Hearthstone players cry foul over card artwork changes

    
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Some Hearthstone players are accusing Blizzard of censorship after the game’s latest update, which changed the artwork on a number of older cards. Although the update’s focus was on doing a bit of tidying up in preparation for the upcoming Saviors of Uldum expansion, which included moving two cards to the Hall of Fame and replacing them with two new ones, the community seems to have latched onto the fact that Blizzard has given eight cards new artwork — and in some cases, new names to match — that tones down some of the more sexual and violent imagery.

The Eviscerate card, for example, has been altered to remove the (admittedly small) spray of blood from the victim of the titular ability, while the Succubus card, which previously depicted the Warlock’s scantily clad sex-demon, now depicts a different demon, the Felstalker, and has had its name changed to match. When reached for response by Kotaku, a Blizzard representative stated that the changes were made not in the name of censorship per se but in an attempt to update the old cards — some of which used artwork lifted directly from the now-discontinued World of Warcraft Trading Card Game — to be “more visually cohesive and consistent with the art style of Hearthstone today.”

It’s not an unbelievable explanation, but some players suspect that there’s a less savory reason for the changes: that Blizzard is trying to tailor the game’s artwork to conform to the Chinese government’s content regulations. Regardless of whether that’s true, it’s also arguable that simply removing blood from a card’s current art doesn’t constitute much of a stylistic update, but it’s still not too farfetched to think that Blizzard simply wants to make the game more “family-friendly” to reach as many players as possible without alienating the younger crowd — or their parents. Whether that’s censorship, I suppose, is up for debate.

Source: Kotaku. Thanks, Pepperzine!
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agemyth 😩

Most of those art changes just look better and fit the game, so it seems fine.

Remember when the Horde was way into Satanic imagery? By the time WC3 and WoW came out that really didn’t fit the world they built anymore. This at least seems better executed than the examples I saw of what Ubisoft was doing with Siege. Disney-fy all your games and properties if that is what you want to do to make money. Just do a good job of it.

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Dobablo

Depending on motivation, self-censorship can be good. I applaud the Blizzard team for reviewing done of their old offerings and thinking “we should do better.”

I cannot help but think that some of those throwing about accusations are using censorship as a lazy and sinophobic attack on the concept of being held accountable for historical actions that no longer benefit from the privilege of ignoring the non-core demographic.

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Fenrir Wolf

I’m sure they’d accuse us of being sententious (as they are wont to do) for supporting this as well but what they cannot argue with is that Blizzard is a business, and while their sexism went unchecked for a while the world has since moved on and times change.

If Blizzard wishes to retain a healthy revenue stream then they too must change to match the zeitgeist. And the zeitgeist currently (which I appreciate) veers gently toward inclusion.

I look forward to a time when it careens with such giddy and gleeful abandon toward inclusion that the status quo might be tipped against the pathology of normalcy. We’re not quite there yet, though. Sadly. There are still many who’re left feeling excluded to the point of abject alienation from the species. Though I digress.

Still, any steps forward are appreciable. And as a business, Blizzard is just responding to popular sentiment. Now, if the Alt-Right provocateurs wish to prove that their exclusionary preferences are more profitable then they’re most welcome to try to do so. However, all their efforts regarding that to date have failed spectacularly.

Even to the point where publishers won’t support them as they know that not only would their preferences not sell well, they would in fact hurt the sales of unrelated works they publish.

The world is heading in the right direction. Inclusion is absolutely the right way to go. And inclusion—who’da thunk it—is also profitable.

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Daniel Miller

Actually I think I will debunk the author and readers. Just this week in an Asain gaming newspaper they stated due to all Chinas laws, and not accepting many games over past years, USA has become the biggest gaming market and will further its market share in coming years.

So let China and its rules rot.

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Schlag Sweetleaf
love the yuan your with.gif
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McGuffn

They should have kept the succubus name and simply replaced the picture with an uglier, more disgusting version of Jabba the Hutt.

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Jack Pipsam

There’s not a chance this isn’t about China.
I remember when Ubisoft tried this with Rainbow Six: Siege, boy they regretted even suggesting that. They backed down super fast on it and ended up going with the obvious solution from the start, having two different versions of the game lol.

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Dobablo

But why now and on so few cards? Hearthstone grew out of the hyper sexualised and violent TCG industry. A Chinese driven cleanup wouldn’t focus on just a few months at a time.
This is just a continuation of the Jaina-nerf. The Hearthstone team is cleaning up their problematic old content, one image at a time whenever there artists get a spare moment.

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Arktouros

China has or will have as many mobile and PC gamers as there is population in all of North America. Not the US. North America.

Everything is about China.

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Kevin Smith

Anyone with half a brain knows they are doing this to try and meet the standards China has released. To be honest they would be stupid to not try an do it. China is the one of the largest gaming markets in the world at this point. That is the market that is going to dictate what happens whether you like it or not. Not a true fan of censorship myself but I realize this is a company an they have to do what is best for said company or the monetary side.

Sixuality
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Sixuality

Companies have the right to do it, but likewise they have the right to be called out on it. By making it clear that anything that doesn’t meet their standards will be locked out of that huge market the Chinese government don’t have to lift a finger – companies will censor themselves in advance, not only in matters of violent or sexual content, but with regard to political and social views, which is far more insidious.

Business is business perhaps, but one day when the history books are written this kind of pandering will be looked back on with shame.

Unless China does win the Culture Wars outright, in which case those books won’t even be written.

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Utakata

If Blizz want’s to sex down or sex up their artwork, we really can’t say much about that because it’s their property and not ours. ToU/ToS I believe states that explicitly. However, we are free to discuss if it offends us or not. Or whether it crosses our lines or not. Perhaps in doing so will give incentive for Blizz to change their minds on that. Ultimately though, they don’t have to listen to us at all, because it’s their right to edit whatever they put out there. In the end, no censorship has taken place…outside the minds of the internet dweeb web, desu. o.O

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Eamil

I’m not terribly fussed about them making the game a bit more kid-friendly, but self-censorship to avoid backlash is still censorship. Plenty of kids’ shows go through that kind of thing. (Remember Tiny Toons had a line about how they “crack up all the censors?”)

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Utakata

There’s really no such thing as “self-censorship”. As that borders on a non-sequitur. Editing, tweaking, rebranding, touching up, cutting, yes. For a multitude of reasons, influences and thinking, yes. But that’s not censorship, “self”, perceived or otherwise…no more than me erasing the lines in a hand I just drawn because it looks like crap.

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Eamil

It’s weird that we have to have this conversation because censorship is “bad” so if some forms of censorship are okay they must not be censorship.

Cutting yourself off before swearing in front of a child is censoring yourself. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to do that – that would be ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean it’s not what you’re doing.

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Utakata

Assuming that you are not trying move the goal post here…

Err…no it isn’t. It’s exercising self control of editing yourself. No outside authority is controlling what you are saying.

Which get’s back why Blizz editing/updating their own material is not censorship. As they are in control of what they are putting out there. And nobody else is.

However, it has been pointed out that Blizz is making these changes that suspiciously coincides with new laws governing games in China. This could be argued as a form of censorship…or least censorship by proxy, as there is an authority outside of Blizz that’s calling the shots on their direction, even indirectly. And that’s the closest you’ll get with this.

But if Blizz was planning to make those changes anyway, and timing of it is purely coincidental (which they are claiming), then there is no censorship happening. It comes down to personal choice and expression on their part which they are, as far as I am aware, entitled too. End of story.

As for good vs. bad censorship, that’s entirely separate issue, which is not the topic of this article’s subject. I am sure you can suggest it as a Daily Grind question to this publication, to explore further down the road in regards to MMO gaming at some point. :)

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McGuffn

So lets say you want to make something, a book, movie, game, whatever. But “the regulations” say that you won’t be able to publish or sell it.
So you don’t make what you wanted to make.

What would you call that?

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Utakata

I’ve already covered that in the reply above yours to a degree.

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Eliandal

All I see here is that some people will complain about anything!

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Utakata

…I really don’t want to be that cynical. Because in the end people complain because there’a always something to complain about. However, we should determine if their complaints are warranted enough to give it any attention. I’m not sure for this article there really is, IMO. :)

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Dobablo

For anything with potentially problematic content, you are damned if you make changes and damned if you don’t.