It was only a matter of time until an influencer within the Hearthstone community would issue a public statement regarding Activision Blizzard's recent decision to ban Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung for using his post-game interview to make a political statement calling for the liberation of Hong Kong amid political unrest out east.
The first domino fell Wednesday morning when long-time caster, popular streamer, and community figure, Brian Kibler, shared a statement on his official website. Not one to shy away from speaking his mind or voicing his stances on politics, Kibler did not hold back his feelings as this one hits particularly close to home for him.
Within the 788-word post, Kibler acknowledged the bravery it took for blitzchung to use his platform to issue a statement that would almost certainly put his career and personal safety in jeopardy. That being said, he understands and agrees with Blizzard handing down a punishment for his actions.
"Even so, I do think that Blizzard was correct in issuing him a penalty for his actions. They do not want to set the precedent for their official broadcasts being used as political tools. The players agreed to particular rules for behavior, and he violated those rules.
I have seen many descriptions of the situation claim that Blizzard took action against Blitzchung “for his support of the Hong Kong protests”, but that’s not an entirely accurate description. They did not penalize him for his political stance – they penalized him for breaking the rules by using their official broadcast to promote that stance."
That's not to say that he agrees with the severity of the penalty handed down on blitzchung. In fact, he wholeheartedly believes it was too extreme.
"The punishment meted out to Blitzchung is incredibly harsh. I could understand a fine, or even a short suspension from competitive play, but removal from Grandmasters, clawing back the prizes he already earned, and banning him for a full year seems completely overboard to an extent that feels completely unwarranted and unfair.
I won’t pretend to understand either the intricacies of the geopolitical situation in China and Hong Kong or the full extent of Blizzard’s business interests there, but to me this penalty feels like it is deeply rooted in both. The heavy-handedness of it feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself."
Kibler ended his statement by making a personal announcement that he will not be participating in the casting of the Hearthstone Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon next month.
"That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward."
Kibler was not selected to cast the weekly Grandmasters events after Blizzard made the transition from the Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) to the new format but did cast a Masters Tour event in Vegas earlier in 2019. Either way, Kibler's decision to use his platform to speak out against Blizzard's decision-making this week is the most recent development in a string of events that may change the history of the company forever.
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.