Earlier this week, three collegiate Hearthstone players on the American University team held up a sign that read “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” during a stream broadcasted on Blizzard’s official Hearthstone Twitch channel. They expected a suspension similar to the one that, the day before, put pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai on the sidelines for a year. That punishment never came, but the players won’t be competing.
The three players— Casey Chambers, Corwin Dark, and a third player who simply goes by his online handle, TJammer,—held up the sign on Wednesday, following Hearthstone developer Blizzard suspending Blitzchung for making a statement in support of protesters in Hong Kong. After the incident, Blizzard and tournament organizing partner Tespa booked American University into their next scheduled match, sans any sort of punitive measures. Today, the three players said they’re going to forfeit the match and cease participating in tournaments.
“We feel it’s hypocritical for Blizzard to punish Blitzchung but not us,” the players told USgamer. “The response from Blizzard shows that as soon as the messaging is out of the view of China, they don’t care about ‘political’ messaging.”
During the now-infamous Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters stream that kicked off this week’s Blizzard controversy, Blitzchung wore a mask and said “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” In response, Blizzard suspended him for a year and put a hold on his prize money. The American University players purposefully echoed his message in a show of solidarity, but so far, Blizzard seems to be treating it like business as usual.
These players join a host of pros, commentators, and fans in protesting Blizzard’s decision making. Blizzard, meanwhile, has now backed itself into an impossible corner. If it suspended the American University players, fans would’ve inevitably been even more furious than they already are. But in its silence, Blizzard has created an obvious double standard—one that is simply too egregious for some players to abide by.