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‘The Internal Silence Is Deafening,’ Blizzard Employee Says About China Controversy

Blizzard employees are reeling after a week of controversy and protests.

by Matthew Gault
Oct 11 2019, 6:22pm

Blizzard employees are still waiting for a company wide response from leadership after a week of scandal. On October 8, Activision Blizzard suspended pro Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for supporting the Hong Kong protests. VICE did a lengthy interview with a Blizzard employee, who spoke to VICE on condition of anonymity citing a fear of retaliation from management, about the atmosphere within the company.

He said the company has yet to respond to employees' concerns about its policy on Hong Kong, the backlash from fans, and the future of the company.

“The internal silence is deafening,” the Blizzard employee told VICE. “Besides two brief ‘I'm listening’ emails from our president, we've heard nothing of substance. No one is helping us process what this means for us as a company, as individuals, or is identifying a path forward. No one has been told what to say or do in the aftermath of a legal yet insupportable decision.”

The company’s president had planned to send out a video addressing the controversy but it was delayed, the employee said. As of the time of this writing, the video still hasn’t been sent around. A second Blizzard employee confirmed they are expecting a video from the company.

“No one in charge I know of has spoken to the throng of employees gathered daily around the orc,” the Blizzard employee said.

In the middle of Activision Blizzard’s Irvine, California campus stands a 12-foot tall orc statue. Embedded on the concrete around the statue are plaques listing the company’s core values, such as "every voice matters," "think globally," and "lead responsibly." All week, employees have gathered at the statue to protest Activision Blizzard’s actions against Chung.

“In a year of corporate trauma, this is yet another wound that will take years to recover from,” the employee said. “We have had crisis after crisis this year thrust upon us with little or no warning.” In February, Activision Blizzard reported record profits of $2.4 billion. On the same earnings call, the company announced it fired 8 percent of their workforce, roughly 800 people.

“It was already difficult to hire but now people with offers in hand have spurned us because they disagree with our decision,” the employee said. “It's pulling our teams apart at the seams and making it so difficult to feel safe let alone enjoy my job.”

The employee said they feel trapped. “Some of us are afraid to go to work now because our fans and employees are angry and want answers I don't have and shouldn't have to give. I'm afraid that as people leave us in droves, my job will disappear in another round of layoffs. I'm sure most around me wonder the same thing. I want to be principled and join the brave folks standing outside our gates or around the orc, but I also know how hard it is to get a job I loved as much as this one. I still love my project; I love my coworkers; my love and respect for Blizzard is diminished.”

The employee said that ultimately whether or not Blizzard stands up to China won't make a difference in the long run because the game industry more broadly is relying on revenue from offering its products in China. Change will only matter if it happens on a scale that is bigger than just Activision Blizzard.

“We're damned if we don't take a stand—we'll have lost a lot of support from fans outside of China. We're damned if we do—you can't keep the lights on when we lose income from China and others more hungry swoop in to take our place," the employee said. "Even if I did leave, where would I go that's not beholden to access or income from China today or tomorrow?”

“Change can only happen if consumers across the spectrum take a hard look at what we have poured our cash into supporting if we want to make a real difference and stop this cycle of appeasement.”

Activision Blizzard has not immediately responded to VICE’s request for comment.

Follow Matthew on Twitter . If you’re a Blizzard employee who’d like to speak, drop an email: mjgault@gmail.com. He’s also available privately on Signal.

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Hong Kong
Hearthstone
activision-blizzard