League of Legends developer Riot Games and Fortnite developer Epic Games had opposite responses to Blizzard’s controversial suspension of Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai for showing support to the protests in Hong Kong against China.
After winning a match in the Hearthstone Grandmasters competition, blitzchung took the opportunity to voice his support for the Hong Kong protesters in a postgame interview. Afterward, Blizzard removed him from the competition, revoked his winnings, and slapped him with a one-year suspension from all Hearthstone events.
The move drew fire from the global gaming community as it appeared to serve the sole purpose of appeasing China.
To try to avoid the same controversy, Riot Games’ esports head John Needham said in a statement that it has reminded pro players to refrain from talking about sensitive topics on air.
A message from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports pic.twitter.com/5Au9rE7T86
— lolesports (@lolesports) October 11, 2019
Riot Games is fully owned by China’s Tencent, which also holds stakes in several other video games companies such as Blizzard and Epic Games. The League of Legends developer intends to remain neutral on the matter, but by doing so, it is contributing to the limitation of freedom of speech that seeks to silence the Hong Kong protests.
Epic Games, on the other hand, took a different direction.
“Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights. We wouldn’t ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics,” a spokesperson for the developer told The Verge.
While the controversy continues among other developers, Epic Games is holding up the flag as a developer that understands the importance of preserving the voice of its community.
Blizzard has since broken its silence on what it did to blitzchung, reducing his suspension to six months and giving back his winnings for the tournament. The company claims that the decision for his temporary ban from Hearthstone tournaments is because he broke the rule of keeping esports events focused on games, and not due to the content of his message.
In any case, the damage has already been done for Blizzard, and it will be interesting to see which video game companies will follow either Riot Games or Epic Games in their responses to the glaring global issue.