Recently, Blitzchung became a Hearthstone Grandmaster. Hearthstone is a “free-to-play online digital collectible card game” created by Blizzard. Think of it as sort-of a digital Magic: the Gathering. And it is based (marginally) off World of Warcraft.
But the important context is that it is a very competitive and popular e-sports game. At competitions, the stakes are high. People tune in to see what’s going on, and there’s even commentary and interviewers in this e-sport.
Recently, a player named Blitzchung earned the title of Grandmaster. The Grandmaster competition has a $500,000 prize pool.
This is a pretty big deal.
In an interview afterward, Blitzchung expressed his support for the protests and people of Hong Kong.
“Upon further review we have found the action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1 (o) and is individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports. 6.1 (o) is found below.
2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4 p.12, Section 6.1 (o)
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. “
These types of rules are usually in place to make sure a winner doesn’t decide to engage in really bad behavior after winning. And the toleration level of bad behavior is generally higher in e-sports than, let’s say, the Olympics.
In addition to removing Blitzchung’s title, Blizzard fired the two interviewers for letting Blitzchung say what he said and deleted the footage of the event.
Blizzard is an American company based in Southern California. They do, however, run their competitions in regions based in three locations around the world, including an Asia-Pacific region which Blitzchung is part of.
Speaking with IGN, Chung says he doesn’t regret what he said during the stream. “I expected the decision by Blizzard, I think it’s unfair, but I do respect their decision. I’m not [regretful] of what I said.”
Chung added,” Like, I shouldn’t be afraid of these kinds of white terror.” When asked what ‘white terror’ meant, Chung clarified, “It describes anonymous acts that create a climate of fear.”
This “climate of fear” is apparent in how quickly Blizzard applied a rule intended towards behavior such as one streaking down Bourbon Street to someone making a statement about their beliefs.
Honestly, it’s not a surprise but it is still chilling all the same. And even if it isn’t a surprise to us and Blitzchung, we should still talk about it. The reason? Chung’s own words.
As you know there are serious protests in my country now. My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn’t focus on preparing my Grandmaster match. I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue.
*This post was edited at 11:30am on 10/08/19 to add Blitzchung’s statement to Inven.