FEED Issue 23

68 OVER THE TOP Censorship

Words by Neal Romanek

Blizzard raised the ire of esports fans when it banned a player for political protest. When sports become inseparable from intellectual property, what place is there for free speech?

protesters in Hong Kong fighting Chinese control. In a livestreamed post-game interview, the Hong Kong native put on the ski goggles and filter mask worn by Hong Kong protesters and shouted their slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” The stream was cut short soon after. The next day Blizzard suspended blitzchung from Grandmaster tournaments for a year and took away around $10,000 in prize money he had won so far in the tournament. The two Taiwanese shoutcasters hosting the stream were also suspended. Now would be the right time to note that Activision Blizzard is 5% owned by Chinese tech behemoth Tencent. But Blizzard is one of a whole bouquet of game publishers backed in some way by Tencent. The company fully owns League of Legends publisher Riot

earthstone is a free-to-play online card game and esport by Blizzard Entertainment, inspired by the storyworld of Blizzard’s iconic World Of Warcraft. Hearthstone tournaments attract massive audiences, and players stand a chance of winning massive payouts. Based as it is on collectible card games, the turn- based game is one of the less overtly bellicose games in the esports world, yet Hearthstone has been the arena for a major public controversy which saw Blizzard, and the world of esports, drawn into international politics. On 6 October last year, during the Grandmasters Season 2 tournament in Taiwan, Hearthstone pro “blitzchung” (real name Wai Chung) created a stir by publicly expressing support for the


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