The apology Blizzard issued today, regarding the HeathStone pro banned for supporting the Hong Kong protests, has not silenced protestors at BlizzCon 2019.
A collection of groups gathered in the street leading to the Anaheim Convention Center, where the event is being held. The groups included people dressed as Winnie the Pooh, a character banned by China. They banded together holding placards, chanting (I heard “Blitzchung did nothing wrong – free Hong Kong”) and handing out signs, t-shirts and stickers to passers by.
I talked to them immediately following the opening ceremony to see if Blizzard president J. Allen Brack’s apology had had any effect.
— Robertie (@Clert) November 1, 2019
“It’s always a good start to know people are paying attention to us, that the pressure is working, but we need more from them,” said Dayton Young, organiser of the event. He works for Fight for the Future and Gamers for Freedom.
“We need an explanation; why they did what they did, who was offended by the initial protests and why they’re listening to those people instead of all of these amazing gamers and protesters and fans out here today, and the members of Congress who wrote an open letter to Blizzard expressing their displeasure at their unfair censorship of Blitzchung.
“What’s most important is that people are voicing their outrage,” he added. “We have the freedom to organise, we have the freedom to speak, we have the freedom to protest, so let’s use that to let people know how we feel about this. Letting them know we won’t be silenced and encourage Blizzard to be more responsive in their actions towards the community.”
A protester dressed as Winnie the Pooh, with a cut-out of Chinese president Xi Jinping for his face, and a bucket of money for “buying favours”, told me it doesn’t matter what Blizzard said in the opening ceremony.
“The true opinion of Blizzard was exemplified by their initial reaction to what happened,” he said. “I don’t think they’re apologising because it’s the right thing to do. They’re apologising because it helps their bottom line at this point.”
“What do I want Blizzard to do? I want Blizzard to allow free speech on their platforms. They’re an American company, they should adhere to American values not Chinese values.”
Another anonymous protester, face hidden by a bandana, told me Blizzard should apologise to Blitzchung. “I understand it was part of their tournament rules but it’s up to their discretion, and their discretion was the wrong move,” he said.
“They should just apologise for what they’ve done and state the core values they have. It seems like they’ve forgotten their values.”
As J. Allen Brack said, it’s actions that will matter. “And the fact he didn’t have any actions and say what they’re going to do, going forward, is very telling,” another protester, Ben Harris, told me.
Blizzard can set an example here, he said, praising the company’s efforts in LGBT representation – presumably in Overwatch. “I wish they would acknowledge they can be a global leader for change.”
There were about 50 protesters gathered in all, reaching out to the many hundreds more attending the event. Whether their message will spread and grow over the two days the event is on, I don’t know – perhaps Blizzard’s apology will satisfy the majority – but I will be here, ready to find out.