By Pavo Jurkic
October 14, 2019
Can you hear that? It’s the sound of politics colliding with esports.
What was that? Oh, that was the sound of giant corporations bowing down to the oppressive Chinese regime known for their history of human rights abuses.
Yes, as the title implies, today’s topic is a political one. It’s directly tied to the esports and gaming industries, but with politics and giant corporations as the front-runners.
Today, we’ll be talking about money and its ability to control even the biggest, most prominent corporations in the world. This is not a news flash, I’m sure, but I still feel like I have to point it out:
Money, or should I say China’s 1.5-billion market worth of money, is the driving force behind the latest confrontations between the likes of Blizzard, NBA, and the Chinese government. The story goes much deeper than that, with one esports athlete, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai kickstarting the drama.
Before we start digging through this topic, if you aren’t familiar with the Hong Kong protests, the #BoycottBlizzard movement, and a bunch of other corporations that bowed down to the oppressive Chinese communist regime, it might be a good idea to check out my man Jake’s videos.
Before you start watching them, a quick disclaimer – DON’T MIND THE SHIRT!
Just because there is a reason to do something, it does not make it excusable!
Blizzard, a giant name in the gaming industry, the developer of Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Hearthstone, and many other notable games, is facing a ton of backlash after severely punishing the aforementioned esports athlete, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for showing support to the Hong Kong protests.
This happened in a post-match interview on October 6th, and the severe penalties came just two days later. Not only did Blizzard remove Blitzchung from Hearthstone Grand Masters, but they banned him from playing competitively for an entire year and rescinded all his prize money.
Blizzard’s action became a viral sensation with a movement to boycott Blizzard kickstarting hours after the news surfaced online. Many prominent figures in the gaming community expressed their thoughts, including Mark Kern. The movement is still going strong, and Twitter is on fire with a ton of great memes and hilarious comments.
Let’s Unbox the World of Warcraft 15th Anniversary Collector’s Edition! pic.twitter.com/EENTE5JygU— Greg Miller (@GameOverGreggy) October 10, 2019
No, it’s not okay to push political views into esports, I think we can all agree on that one… but it’s also not okay to severely punish a player for expressing his beliefs, even if they are revolving around a ticklish, political matter. After all, freedom of speech is one of the basic human rights, but I guess that doesn’t mean anything if China has shares in your company, even though they’re as low as 5%. Yes, Tencent, one of China’s largest conglomerates, owns roughly 5% of Activision Blizzard.
But that’s not the only company Tencent has their hands on. PCGAMER’s list of game companies Tencent has invested in shows just how much influence Tencent (read the Chinese government) has over some of the biggest names in the gaming industry.
As stated above, money is the main reason why huge corporations such as Blizzard, NBA, Google, and Apple are bowing down, issuing official apologies, and limiting their employee’s freedom of speech only to cater to the Chinese government.
For some of these companies, the Chinese market is an inexhaustible source of profit. After all, China has 1.5 billion people, and it’s currently going through its golden age, with the growing upper working-class getting rid of chains of poverty and desperately craving some of that western “luxury”.
The pressure of the Chinese government is enormous, there’s no doubt about that. And it’s no surprise considering the sheer amount of money involved. To put things into perspective, the NBA also had issues with the Chinese government after one of their executives expressed his support for the Hong Kong protests. Not only did NBA already apologized to China because of this, but it seems as though they’ll do whatever it takes to protect their business interests in spite of their actions not faring well in the U.S.
Amidst the Hong Kong protests, Blizzard’s silly moves, and the massive public backlash leading to a Blizzard boycott, two companies stood their ground and wholeheartedly supported the right to freedom of opinion and expression, in spite of China’s efforts to silence them.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park, are living legends! Don’t believe me? Just check out this South Park episode, which resulted in an outright ban in China.
But the South Park vs. China beef doesn’t end there. Shortly after the show got deleted off Chinese internet, Trey Parker and Matt Stone issued an official apology to China in the most brilliant fashion:
Additionally, Tim Sweeney also had his two cents on China’s censorship efforts and Blizzard’s move resulting in a public backlash. Here’s what the majority shareholder of Epic Games had to say on this whole ordeal. A quick reminder, Tencent owns 40% of Epic Games, but Tim Sweeney is still the one wearing pants in the relationship…
Epic supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.https://t.co/GWxDjKVjeJ— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) October 9, 2019