I don’t know exactly what to say about the whole situation that involves Blizzard, Blitzchung, and China. That is because there is enough internet out there to help make you form your own opinion on it; and mine is vastly different. It’s also really hard to start an opinion piece knowing that your opinion will be passed over instantly, despite you feeling very strong about it. We all have something to say about this situation and unfortunately I am unable to encapsulate everything into a quick tweet or Facebook status update. Alas, I will do my best to cut the story of what happened.
Blizzard is a video game production studio that developed Hearthstone, a competitive virtual card game that is on multiple mobile devices as well as PC. It’s like Magic the Gathering, but the Blizzard Games version of it. Blitzchung is one of the best players in the world and he declared his allegiance to those protesting in Hong Kong. Because of that, he was banned from competing for a year and his earnings were taken away from him. This caused a massive uprising within the video game community. The casters were also fired too.
That was until Blizzard issued their first apology and gave back the money that Blitzchung was rightfully due. His ban as well as the game casters (you know, the guys who are the talking heads on ESPN, but for video games) also aren’t fired but they can’t do anything for six months.
Many people have decided to protest Blizzard in all sorts of different ways because of this entire situation. Some of deleted their Blizzard accounts, ultimately leading to the account holder losing all right to the games they previously purchased. If they wanted to play a Blizzard game again down the line, they would have to re-purchase said game. It sounds absolutely ludicrous, but the community wanted to use this hill as their defensive stance against the tyranny that supports Blizzard.
There is a lot more that we can say about the more in-depth details about this entire situation. We can do a deep dive into the whole concept on how communist China has a grasp on our own economy and that we are only now discovering how hard it is to break free from them and seize the means of production for ourselves. We could also discuss how this would turn our world upside down when it comes to actually trying to make our own cell phones with American parts that doesn’t a) cost way too much money, and b) actually work without having to bring it in for servicing every six months. We tried it with cars, and now we are at some sort of late stage capitalist civil war when it comes to Chevy vs Ford. I digress.
The point, with the most intrinsic thought: Blizzard’s first apology was bad. On November 1st, 2019 a Blizzcon (a convention about all 4 of Blizzard’s games that people care about); Blizzard gave another apology that has been seen by many as equally bad. This is due to the fact that Blizzard may not have shown any good faith in their stance. Which is funny and I’ll explain why later; but nevertheless is this entire situation one that I don’t believe could ever be properly repaired. After all, Blizzard was once a beloved video game production company that was apprehended by one of the most dubious of companies out there: Activision. Activision, naturally, will never stand up to their overlords and shout into the void for the good of the gaming community. If we all know Big Bobby Kotic by now, the man would sell his grandmother’s ashtray so he can get twenty bucks. That’s true, he actually did that.
The Golden Question
So how can we look at a company like Blizzard and think that there is any ounce in faith in their newly voiced promises of a brighter future? We really can’t, not yet anyway. According to most people, the final nail in the coffin has been hit, and it’s now being lowered into the dirt as we speak. Although the guy lowering the coffin is sweating because he can hear the Diablo 4 trailer coming from inside of it, and he doesn’t think he can resist ripping the lid off. Said situation is really what this whole thing is about, right?
Get this, a beloved company that we have already established was too quick on the trigger and the shot heard around the world that slowly exposed a much more threatening enemy. They apologize, but much like the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain can still be seen. Sure, there are many people trying really hard to make you forget that the man is there, but it can’t be unseen. Every apology just ends with, “yeah, we see the guy right there and he has no clothes!”
There is just no real coming back from that… because not enough time has passed. See, what Blizzard did was bad. I’m not going to condone their initial actions. But I will say that we truly cannot know the outcome of Blizzard’s apology because we need more time to pass and see if they improve. We live in the day of instant gratification and cancel culture, and I don’t know what we expect Blizzard to do right away that shows they mean what they said. Keep in mind that this is a company that apologized twice, and what people want is not something that is easily obtained. That “thing” being Blizzard not taking any more Chineese money; but once again, that is not up to them. That is purely something that Activision and it’s parent company Vivendi Universal controls.
The Opinions of Others
Some people claim that Blizzard censored a voice that stands up against the Chinese government, so that banning him is more detrimental to the movement than anything else. But even some could argue that the point has already been made by Blitzchung himself. He made headlines and made people aware, and that can never be taken away. But what if he has more to share? What if he says something else that expresses his love for Hong Kong protesters? Well, that is what the ban is for. In six months, everyone is hoping that we just forget about the situation as a whole.
Although, one thing that I can say that would have kept me from writing four pages of utterly useless words is that Blizzard could have let the whole thing slide and none would be the wiser. By actually acting on it, they made the situation worse. Not all actions need to be punished, and a lot of companies out there need to figure out exactly what will and won’t affect their bottom line.
For instance, Magic The Gathering player Lee Shi Tain also expressed his support for Hong Kong protesters and that was met with little to no blowback. If you Google his name, the first thing you will see is his Wikipedia page, and how he is a top player of the game. Wizards of the Coast chose not to censor him and the entire situation went unnoticed.
As another example, Tim Sweeny from Epic Games states that he would never censor a player from speaking their mind when it comes to the political hellscape that we currently live in. If someone wants to voice their opinion, they are free to do so. Epic also has Tencent, a Chinese company as a 40% stockholder of Epic Games. Tim Sweeny owns 51% of Epic stock, keeping him in charge of the entire operation.
I know what you are about to say (that is if you are actually reading this). “Blizzard is bad! China owns them! Bad Blizzard! You’re a goddamn apologist and should be burned alive!”
Yes, I get it. China, for everything that it stands for, is indeed bad. Also, why? As I mentioned before, they have several hands deep within our economy. In a statistic that I made up, 85% of all items in your household are made in China. 10% is made in other countries, and 5% doesn’t exist and is all in your head. That explains why things disappear on you when you put them down for just a second and see that they are gone when you turn around and grab it again.
China has a history of terrible things, and the protests in Hong Kong have continued to get worse as time goes on. These protests have been going on for quite some time, but only now does the gaming community care about it because of the situation that occurred with Blitzchung. That is my great observation and unpopular opinion.
Does that make it a bad thing though? No, it doesn’t. Do I think the community of gamers have rallied together and now (sort of) understand the global economic issue that has presented itself? Yes. But it’s still kind of sad to see that this hell is only being raised because someone didn’t get their prize money from being really good at a virtual card game. Months prior to this entire situation we saw people discussing the riots, but now that it has reared its ugly head within the video game community, it has now effected our “gamer culture.” (Saying that makes me sad).
Other noticeable details that I have picked up on has been how Blizzard’s entire old guard (the OG development staff) has gone the way of retirement. Rightfully so, as they have created vast worlds that have sucked up a lot of my time. Early retirement means new blood, and that new blood comes from some strange places where high numbers comes before passion and heart. I’m not saying that Blizzard is totally devoid of such things; I am saying that great work yields great rewards. Blizzard cannot just copy/paste assets together and expect them to do well. Yet, that seems to be what a lot of major companies believe these days. *cough* Bethesda *cough*
Overall, Blizzard’s efforts have been slacking. Even Diablo 3 was met with a lot of criticism. The real money auction house seemed to put a real strain on Blizzard’s noble name. Then the lack of proper updates and the game felt lazily developed. Players were up in arms about how Diablo 3 was an utter letdown. World of Warcraft expansions: Warlords of Draenor and Battle for Azeroth seemed to be equally uninspired. Overwatch was just Overwatch. I can’t really knock it for what it was and it seemed to be fun for the first year and a half where all attention was focused on that and not Fortnite.
The evidence presented itself to gamers on a massive scale; the Blizzard you grew to love since The Lost Vikings; has died and the remnants have reanimated, becoming a shambling shattered husk of its former glory. Like Arthas himself, Blizzard put on the helmet of domination and became a monster that tried so hard to suck the money from the pockets of all who played their games! Especially those who really liked skins in Overwatch.
The Rundown (minus the Rock)
Yes, I did mention cancel culture earlier as an angle to this entire situation. In conjunction with the immediate gratification that we often want; both can lead to a split concept of proper expectations. We are quick to judge Blizzard for their actions as they are quick to pull the trigger. We do have the right to criticize Blizzard for their actions and hold that grudge until they make up for their previous actions. But don’t let the hive-mind mentality make the decision for you. It’s not bad to be excited by the future of games, because it’s hard for a lot of people to look at Diablo 4 and shrug it off. It’s a game rich with history as many other Blizzard games are. It can be incredibly hard to turn your head away from it and dismiss the allure of it.
As I am winding down, I wonder if reversing all bans for Blitzchung and the casters would patch the wound. Would it become instantly okay to be a part of Blizzard’s ecosystem again? Would it be okay if I purchase Overwatch 2 knowing this entire situation?
As I said before, we don’t know if Blizzard has lost their creative way completely. They did show off Diablo 4, Overwatch 2, WoW’s next expansion: Shadowlands; and a new Hearthstone expansion: Descent of Dragons. It’s clear that soul is there within the creative teams behind these games. But our actual emotional connection and their right to our wallets will have to be determined by their actions and the mindset their games are developed in. The only thing we can do is give Blizzard time, and if time is all it takes for others to overcome their own atrocities, maybe Blizzard can heal those wounds.