I’m willing to bet most people here had never heard of Blitzchung until a month ago when Blizzard and its compilation of allied companies barred him and stripped him of his winnings following a “Hong Kong liberation” stunt after the Hearthstone esports event he’d won. While Blizzard subsequently reduced (but did not remove) the punishments for him and others involved and eventually apologized at BlizzCon this weekend (and then nerfed its own apology in true Blizz style), the backtracking came only after the “international incident” had provoked a player boycott, planned protests at BlizzCon, and grumbling from politicians.
Apparently, gamers and lawmakers weren’t the only ones upset over the mess. Kotaku spoke to Hearthstone game director Ben Lee and creative director Ben Thompson at BlizzCon last weekend for some choice quotes about how the company managed the whole situation.
Lee’s take was that Blizzard’s “initial decision was too harsh” and that the company “should have taken more time to consider something more reasonable.” Thompson echoed Lee’s sentiments, suggesting that the employees of the company, as much as players, took Blizzard’s decisions “on a personal level.” But overall, Thompson seemed to toe the company line when it comes to actually expressing uncomfortable truths on Blizzard’s turf.
“Of course I celebrate – as we all do to some extent or another – free speech. You should be able to say what it is you want to say. I also understand what J. Allen Brack himself addressed in his own internal communications and later on to the world at large, which is that being able to speak your mind and say how you feel from a personal level is always and should always be a welcome thing. Doing so from a platform very much not your own and done from a voice not your own to take control, so to speak, or on behalf of another is not free speech. That is on behalf of something that’s not yours to do with.”
Of course, as Kotaku pointed out, “[t]o react the way Blizzard did is still to take a stance, even if Thompson and company would prefer to project neutrality.”
You can get caught up on the entire Blizzard drama right here.