Blizzard president J. Allen Brack briefly touched on the ban of Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung at BlizzCon earlier this month, but the company has yet to unban the Hearthstone Grandmasters player for voicing his support of Hong Kong protesters in a post-match interview.
While the gaming community has protested the company and called for a boycott of its titles, some of Blizzard’s leaders are voicing their disagreement with the punishments as well. Jeff Kaplan, best known as Overwatch’s lead designer, told the Washington Post that blitzchung’s sentence should be “reduced more or eliminated.”
The public concensus was that Blizzard was silencing free speech to appease China, one of the biggest gaming markets.
“The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” Brack said. He then claimed they would have had the same reaction if blitzchung had spoken out in favor of China on stream, since the platform should be focused on the game, not politics.
Despite the president’s claims, Blizzard’s own employees have continued to speak out against the company. Kaplan stated that there are “differing opinions” within the publishing giant. The Overwatch designer said the decision had come as a shock to him personally, and noted it happened “way too quickly.”
According to Kaplan, most Blizzard employees weren’t even aware of the incident until they saw news of Blizzard’s decision online.
“We had to deal with a few [bans] in Season 1 [of the Overwatch League] in particular, and that process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision,” Kaplan had explained to Washington Post. “There was always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be, and we would heavily devil’s-advocate every part of the decision. So I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
The quick decision was soon reversed, something that Kaplan felt “relieved” about. Although he would personally prefer if blitzchung wasn’t suspended at all.
Kaplan says his reason for standing up for blitzchung is his unwavering support of free spech.
“It’s something that’s very important to me. It got to me personally. I think the punishment was too harsh and I was greatly relieved when they gave his money back. I think that was extremely important,” he continued.
Another Blizzard employee, Hearthstone game director Ben Lee, had spoken out against his company’s decision, too. He called blitzchung’s year-long ban “too harsh.”
Still, employee opinions, protests, and letters from politicians have not convinced Blizzard to eliminate blitzchung’s sentence.
The now-infamous Hearthstone player recently joined Tempo Storm, where he will focus on streaming and practicing until he’s unbanned from tournaments.