China, Blizzard's Politics and Case Study – Users Discuss Dota 2 Censorship Limits
The political scandal that arose unexpectedly at the Hearthstone tournament made many eSports fans think about censorship in the industry. The discussion first covered the Blizzard forums, and now it has touched other disciplines, including Dota 2. At reddit, fans of the game discussed how Valve handled such situations and came to the conclusion that Gabe Newell managed to make even more mistakes.
What kind of scandal?
In a post-match interview at the GrandMasters 2019 Hearthstone tournament, Chinese player Ng Blitzchung Wai Chung supported Hong Kong protests against the extradition bill. In response, Blizzard disqualified Wai Chung for a year and deprived him of the prize money. The esportsman was quickly removed from the air and then deleted the stream record; his speech still caused a strong public outcry.
Some viewers felt that the e-sportsman was treated too harshly. At first in the Hearthstone forums, and then in discussions of other Blizzard games, fans began to raise questions about China’s censorship and industry position.
Following the discussion, many accused the company of violating freedom of speech to please the Chinese authorities. Players began to boycott Blizzard, in particular, to unsubscribe from World of Warcraft. There was no official response from the company – instead, it closed the forums and the page on reddit. Discussions again became available only on the night of October 9th.
Why is this important for other disciplines?
Esports has long remained an industry that existed outside of politics. Recently, however, the situation has begun to change. For example, in Dota 2 there were a number of racist scandals. Most of them were able to quickly hush up, but the conflict that arose around the insult to the Chinese player, eventually grew to enormous proportions.
During a training match, Filipino player Carlo Kuku Palad called his opponent “Ching Chong.” This is a common insult that makes fun of the Chinese language. After that, threats began to come to the player, and the organizers of tournaments in China openly said that they would not be able to ensure his safety if he decided to participate.
Soon, Valve intervened in the situation – she disqualified a player from The Chongqing Major, one of the five major tournaments of the rating season. Previously, Dota 2 developers did not intervene in similar scandals.
Now the players are trying to attract developers to the discussion, but so far in vain. On Blizzard forums, fans discuss the most radical fight options – for example, abandoning accounts in Battle.net (or at least from in-game purchases). Dota 2 fans are more restrained at the moment, but what happens if the next time an esports activist is disqualified from a Valve tournament?
What else did Valve do?
The story with Kuku is far from one of a kind. Less scandals confirming Valve’s overly supportive attitude towards China are ongoing. For example, on TI9, the organizers forced Dominic Lacoste Stypik to remove Pepe’s frog badge from his jacket, as he saw the caster’s political statement.
In protests in Hong Kong, the frog suddenly became a symbol of the movement for freedom of the city. Her images are painted on posters and walls, and many demonstrators use references to Pepe in clothes. Custer explained that he “just likes” this frog, but in the next segment of the analytics studio, another icon flaunted on his jacket – the usual Aegis.
In a discussion on reddit, fans recalled Valve and the public dismissal of caster James 2GD Harding, which happened at Shanghai Major 2016. At that tournament, Harding worked as a host at the analytics studio. On air, he allowed himself a series of provocative jokes, and the very next day the event organizers announced the breakdown of cooperation with 2GD.
In 2016, the situation on reddit was commented by the head of Valve, Gabe Newell. In a short post, he said that the company made a mistake by hiring Harding, and also called the caster “ass” and promised never to cooperate with him again.
Now game fans have suggested that Valve would not have taken such hasty action if 2GD had been working in a tournament outside of China. Then the caster was accused of obscene jokes, but he also used political humor – in particular, he criticized censorship in China. Now in the discussion, fans have suggested that the true reason for Harding’s dismissal lay in that.