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Gaming Giant Blizzard Gets Frosty Response to Hong Kong Gamer Ban

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Brian Kibler will not be casting the Hearthstone Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon

Blizzard has faced harsh criticism from fans and USA lawmakers for its decision to ban "Hearthstone" player Chung Ng Wai, better known as Blitzchung, from competition for one year and withhold the prize money he had earned.

It's of course incredibly hard to quickly and succinctly sum up the intricacies of the the conflict, but it's important to have a broader understanding of it before diving into Blizzard's place in it all.

While this was enough to have the gaming community up in arms, Blizzard also fired the two commentators that had been present during Blitzchung's political stand.

During an Asia-Pacific Grandmasters broadcast, Hearthstone Grandmaster, Chung 'blitzchung Ng Wai appeared wearing a gas mask, and declared "Liberate Hong Kong. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue".

We should also have a rudimentary understanding of Blizzard's interests in the Chinese market.

Blizzard did make a response of its own, claiming that they respect "one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions", yet still asserting that Blitzchung's actions violated the rules of the competition.

Blizzard subsequently withheld Chung's prize money and suspended him from Hearthstone esports events for a year for bringing himself and the company into public disrepute, a punishment that Chung described as unfair. Politicians, rival game makers, and gamers within the Blizzard community have lambasted its decision.

"It's really unlike anything I've seen in games, which I've been competing or designing or commenting on for 20 years now, and this is by far the biggest incident I've seen", said Brian Kibler, a broadcaster for online video games.

In a subsequent tweet, Kern mentioned he understood that Blizzard as a company is in a "difficult situation". The trio, while facing a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the Hearthstone Collegiate Championship, placed a "Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz" sign in front of their webcam. In practice, the city of Hong Kong is required by treaty to be autonomous.

Some users are taking Overwatch hero Mei as a symbol for the Hong Kong pro-democracy resistance, hoping to turn the character into a meme that will get Blizzard censored by China.

"The punishment meted out to Blitzchung is incredibly harsh", Kibler wrote on social media on Wednesday.

He also did not waver when Tencent's involvement with his company was brought up: "Epic is a U.S. company and I'm the controlling shareholder".

On Tuesday, a small group of Blizzard employees walked out of work to protest the company's actions. The demonstration took place around a 12-foot-tall, wolf-mounted orc warrior statue in the courtyard of Blizzard's Irvine, California campus, with participation reportedly fluctuating between a dozen and 30 people throughout the day. An Epic Games spokesperson echoed that sentiment, telling The Verge, "Epic supports everyone's right to express their views on politics and human rights".

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