By Contributing Writer Nicole O’Connell
The American video game company Activision Blizzard, responsible for popular titles including World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Overwatch, is making decisions that are disturbing the morals of its fan base.
Earlier this month, Blizzard took action against Hong Kong resident and professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung because of the pro-Hong Kong statements the player made during a post-match interview. According to BBC News, Chung voiced his support for the protests against the Chinese government by shouting “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” and putting on a gas mask, an item often worn by the Hong Kong protesters. Chung did not receive any prize money and was banned from competing professionally at Hearthstone for a year.
Blizzard claimed it took these repercussive actions because Chung had violated match protocols by diverting conversation from the tournament, but many believe Blizzard wanted to stay in favor with the Chinese government.
After this first incident, a three-person team of Hearthstone players from American University were also banned for showing their support for Hong Kong. In a streamed match against Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the American University players held up a poster stating “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz.” Though it took a week, the players eventually did receive notice of their ban from future tournaments.
Fans of Blizzard games are alarmed at this behavior and have been boycotting the company; a hashtag for the ban was even trending on Twitter for a while. Yet, despite the cancellations of subscriptions and deletion of profiles, a recently released mobile Call of Duty game broke records, with over 100 million downloads within its first week.
Protests in Hong Kong have been taking place since the summer. The pro-democracy protesters are rallying against the Chinese Communist government. The ignition for the protests was a bill which proposed the extradition of suspects to China. Many are concerned about the power this could give China over Hong Kong. Though the bill proposing extradition was withdrawn in September, the protests continue. Since the summer months, police brutality against protesters has been another severely pressing issue.
Blizzard is not alone in its acquiescence to the Chinese government and their communist policies. Other American companies have also appeased China through their actions and censorship. These companies are facing backlash by consumers as well.
Apple recently pulled an app, HKmap.live, out of its app store. The app mapped out police movements in Hong Kong and was useful for people to avoid clashes of police and protesters.
The National Basketball Association has also come under fire. General Manager Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets showed support for the Hong Kong protesters with a message on Twitter. Chinese fans showed their outrage at this, and the Chinese Basketball Association cut ties with the Houston Rockets. After this reaction by China, both the NBA and Morey backed down in attempts to soothe China.
While American consumers are showing their disapproval and boycotting these companies, will the companies listen to them? The protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months and they may continue to do so. If Americans want to stand in support with Hong Kong, their perseverance of protesting and boycotts will need to last longer, not just until the next Blizzard game comes out.