Epic Games is taking a stand against censorship from China.
Epic Games Founder and CEO Tim Sweeney has announced that Fortnite developer Epic Games won’t ban players for political speech. This follows a week during which multiple controversies have arisen in the sporting and gaming spaces related to ongoing protest in Hong Kong.
Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA franchise, recently tweeted his support for the protests in Hong Kong. The Chinese Basketball Association and Tencent responded by blackballing the Rockets.
Activision Blizzard then sparked a social media frenzy by banning blitzchung, a professional Hearthstone player who had won an official Grandmasters competition. They took his prize money and banned him from professional play for one year. These actions even led to a Blizzard employee walkout Wednesday at Blizzard’s Irvine offices.
Blizzard and the National Basketball Association both have seemed to act as though Chinese interests influence their decision making at a high level.
Epic’s Tim Sweeney engaged with a few users on his Twitter account to discuss his proclamation.
Someone asked for clarification that, if Tfue said “Free Hong Kong,” in a post-game interview, Epic would not move to censor him. Sweeney responded in the affirmative.
Another person responded, asking if the result wouldn’t be the same as it was for Blizzard and the NBA since Chinese company Tencent holds 40% of shares at Epic Games.
“Epic is a U.S. company and I’m the controlling shareholder. Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders, including employees and investors,” Sweeney said. “[A ban like blitzchung’s] will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder.”
In the wake of the fallout after Blizzard banned blitzchung, it would be easy to call this a PR stunt. However, Sweeney was very clear about his intentions. Given that this has become such a prominent topic, it would be difficult for Sweeney to act outside of his promised intentions if such an event should arise in the future.
As for Blizzard, the company has yet to make an official statement on the intense backlash it has received following the decision to ban blitzchung and fire the broadcasters who were present for blitzchung’s statement.