When three 19-year-old college Hearthstone players held up a “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” sign during an official competition stream, they knew what they were doing. The move came only days after Blizzard created an international political incident after a high-profile player staged a protest in the same manner. They were asking Blizzard to blink: ban us, too.
At the time, nothing happened to American University team members Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark, and their third teammate, who goes by the online handle TJammer. Blizzard cut away from the sign, and the casters assigned to the stream pretended like nothing happened. (In the original incident, the casters hid under their desks during the protest, and Blizzard, even after taking time to reconsider, still rewarded them with a six-month ban.)
But Blizzard’s silence towards Chambers and his friends always had a ticking time limit; despite losing a tournament round, they were scheduled to play again. Blizzard’s response came last night, only a few days after the company publicly doubled down on a series of disciplinary actions against Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, who originally set this into motion.
In a letter to Chambers, Blizzard said that while “Every Voice Matters at Blizzard, and we strongly encourage everyone in our community to share their viewpoints in the many places available to express themselves,” an official broadcast was that not that venue, as it needs to be a place “where all are welcome.” To Blizzard, supporting the protests violates that, a reaction that’s perfectly in line with Blizzard’s ongoing “politics is fine, just not here” mantra.
As a result, the three players were given a six-month competitive ban, the same as Blitzchung. While Blitzchung was originally banned for a year, one of the few concessions from Blizzard’s open letter to the community on Friday was ratcheting down a yearlong ban.
Blizzard also published their decision online.
“We knew exactly what we were doing,” said Chambers to me over Discord this morning. “No regrets.”
As teased in a piece with VICE Games last week, this incident resulted in Chambers starting to play God’s Unchained, a Hearthstone competitor that openly criticized Blizzard after taking action against Blitzchung. Chambers said the team behind God’s Unchained reached out after the three players took their public stand, saying they “support” them and wouldn’t have a problem if, in the future, they decided to talk about the Hong Kong protests in public.
Blizzard hasn’t said anything since last week’s late night news dump, but BlizzCon, the company’s annual community event, is only weeks away. BlizzCon kicks off on November 1.