On Oct. 6, 2019, a Hong Kong Hearthstone Grandmaster, Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung, showed on stream after a match victory, put on a gas mask and shouted “光復香港 時代革命” — “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”.
A day later, his Hearthstone career seemed all but done for, as Blizzard announced his ban from Grandmasters and took away his prize winnings. But as the incident took flame and went global, talked about even on major mainstream media, the Hong Kong player was able to receive absolution — or at least his money back.
Almost two years since the controversy, Blitzchung sat down with Inven Global to talk about how his life — and career — have been since his widely covered political stance.
Disclaimer: Blitzchung's answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
It's been almost two years since that post-game interview. We got to see you playing in the Hearthstone Grandmasters but not much on social media. How has your life been?
Honestly, it's not much different than my life from two years ago, but my focus has shifted away from Hearthstone and on to other things. In the past, Hearthstone was like 95% of my life. And after the incident, I felt like it was very dangerous to focus on one thing only. So in the past two years, I finished university (just two months ago), I spent more time with my friends and family, and most importantly, I worked on my mental and physical health (which HS players often ignore).
As an outsider, we often read the news related to the Hong Kong incident but it’s hard to know how dangerous your action was. Were you safe from any possible threats due to your interview?
Yes, luckily, there wasn't much issue with my action. But you know the situation in Hong Kong was getting worse during that time — more and more people were getting arrested and you never knew whether you will be the next one by simply expressing your political philosophy online. And I can say that, If I did the same thing now, I would 100% be arrested.
In a recent case, the word they showed on a banner is exactly the words I said two years ago. Anyone who spread those philosophies now would instantly be arrested. Generally speaking, the situation is getting worse day by day.
"I mentally broke down because I had lost the focus of my life for the past four years. I felt like I didn't know why I was alive since I didn't know what was my way to go."
Were there any good or bad events after the interview for you personally?
In terms of bad events, I would say it's mostly on me personally. For example, I remember the first day I knew I was suspended when everything was okay. But then the following day, when I woke up, I mentally broke down because I had lost the focus of my life for the past four years. I felt like I didn't know why I was alive since I didn't know what was my way to go. I told myself, "Let's forget everything and finish my final year of university." On my way to university, I could feel my heavy footsteps, and I could barely breathe. Then I took a temporary leave from the university, and a few months break from anything that would increase my stress.
At the time of the interview, did you know that your action was going to become a global issue?
Definitely not. I believe most people would agree that not everything big can become a global issue. But looking back now, I feel like my incident was more of a tipping point. Around the time of my interview, there were several other events, like NBA players being punished for showing support for Hong Kong. When it came to me, people started to realize that politics is everywhere. Whether by just watching basketball or playing video games, you can get involved with it. Some people thought that I was the one who brought politics into video games. But here's one simple thing: when Taiwanese players were on stream, their nationality was shown as Chinese Taipei. I don't want to judge whether that's correct or not, but small things like that are already politics.
I would imagine coming back to Hearthstone was not an easy decision after seeing Blizzard’s actions against you. What brought you back to Hearthstone?
From October 2019 to February 2020 was probably the time I was struggling with my future plans. During that time, Hearthstone was a mixture of love and hate. The love part was about what It brought me: the opportunities to compete, to travel and meet many good friends (many of my IRL good friends I met through Hearthstone). And for the hate part, it was about hard I was punished at the beginning, while also feeling guilty about how many people were affected by my incident.
So It was a tough decision on whether I should go back to it. In November 2019, I flew to Taiwan and met MrYee and Virtual, a.k.a. Tommy, the two casters involved in the incident. I felt sorry for them and I needed to talk to them in person. And up till today, I'm still grateful for the support they showed me. They never blamed me for anything. Instead, they've been supportive of me.
"Since I graduated, I now feel more pressure because I can't really stand myself playing Hearthstone 24/7. As a player who has been competing since late 2016, I lost my passion a long, long time ago."
In February 2020, there was the Hearthstone Masters Tour Arlington and also a Grandmaster summit. I wasn't able to play in the Masters Tour because I was still suspended, but Blizzard still invited me to the summit and said that they really want to see me in person. So basically, these are the two events that made the most of my decision. And also, after all these things happened, one day I realized that I can't please everyone, so why don't I just be myself and listen to myself.
Now that you’ve graduated from university, what is your plan going forward? You are still showing a great performance in the Hearthstone Grandmasters, winning week 3 and week 4 back-to-back but you said that you will move away from focusing solely on Hearthstone.
That's true. Since I graduated, I now feel more pressure because I can't really stand myself playing Hearthstone 24/7. As a player who has been competing since late 2016, I lost my passion a long, long time ago, and playing Hearthstone doesn't feel like achieving anything for me now. Therefore, the next season of Grandmasters will very likely be my last season competing. Ever since I graduated, I just wanted to qualify for the World Championship once so I can leave the competitive scene with no regret. But you know, I still love the scene and enjoy casually playing Hearthstone. I'm grateful to everyone I met here, but It might be time to go and move on to the next stage of my life.
It is sad to hear that you’ve decided to retire from the competitive Hearthstone scene, but it is definitely understandable with the five years of worth of effort you’ve shown in the scene. Have you decided on what you are going to do after retirement?
Not yet. I have been thinking about that for a long time, but it's not decided yet.