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An interesting and sickening piece of political video gaming news came out last week. I had meant to write about it at the time, but got bogged down with some personal and family obligations. Nevertheless, I wanted to throw in my two cents.

Activision / Blizzard has apparently banned a professional Hearthstone player, living in Hong Kong (a semi-sovereign city-state in China), from participating in professional e-sports. The reason that Activision / Blizzard banned Ng Wai Chung (who goes by the username Blitzchung) is because he made statements in support of a decades-long protest movement in Hong Kong that supports independent democracy. The authoritarian communist Chinese government has been battling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong for decades, and apparently video game publishers (among many other American corporations) are starting to act as shills for China's policies of repression and censorship.

Heck, Activision even went one step further, and rescinded the prize money that Blitzchung had already won! They also stated that they are canceling professional relationships with the Taiwanese reporters who were interviewing Blitzchung when he made the comment. Taiwan, by the way, also has a lengthy history of Chinese repression.

Blitzchung made his comments as a part of an official Twitch stream, and Activision claims that his statements violated tournament rules that prohibit any speech that would:

"... brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image."

Apparently, speaking out against Chinese government repression and tyranny counts as "damaging the image of Blizzard". But Blitzchung isn't an employee or agent of Activision / Blizzard, and his statements had nothing to do with Activision / Blizzard as a business. Blitzchung's comments weren't hate speech, they weren't inciting riots or violence, nor was the statement itself anything that is actually offensive (to anyone other than the Chinese government). Would Blizzard have reacted similarly had a tournament player said "Trump, 2020" or "LGBTQ rights" or anything that could be seen as similarly divisive? If they had, they'd be equally as wrong to do so.

Activision / Blizzard's reaction is disgusting and reprehensible. I'm sure they want to increase their market penetration in China, and having players of their games who live under that repressive Chinese government speaking out against the repressive Chinese government probably doesn't make Activision / Blizzard look good in the eyes of the Chinese government. But so what?! By not taking a stance in favor of free speech, Activision / Blizzard is enabling and condoning a tyranny that would squash the very free markets in which Activision / Blizzard operates and earns its vast amounts of wealth.

Activision / Blizzard has backpedaled a little bit by agreeing to award Blitzchung's prize money, and to reduce his ban to six months (same as the Taiwanese interviewers). Even though Blizzard is reducing the penalty to Blitzchung, they are still punishing him, they are still coming out against free speech rights.

This was going to be the part in which I contrasted Activision / Blizzard's reaction against a similar incident involving the National Basketball Association (NBA) last week. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had tweeted in solidarity with Hong Kong protestors, was forced by the team's owner to delete the tweet, and then the NBA issued an official statement defending Morey's free speech right to make the original tweet (even though it was not un-deleted). But while researching, I found that the NBA has been kind of wishy-washy about its response, so there isn't a complete contrast here. Despite the NBA commissioner originally re-affirming the free speech rights of its employee, they also released a statement that seems intended to placate China, and the Chinese version of the response was even more "disappointed" with the pro-Hong-Kong tweet. So the NBA's reaction has been ... confusing ... to say the least.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but ...
I agree with Ted Cruz.

But to the NBA's credit, they have not (as far as I know) punished Rockets manager Daryl Morey for his tweet supporting Hong Kong democracy. Unlike Activision / Blizzard (or the NFL, for that matter), the NBA did take a firm enough stance in protection of free speech rights. If only Activision had the guts to do the same.

Hell, even Republican Congressman Ted Cruz tweeted in support of Morey's free speech rights. And it's a dark, cold day in hell when I have to stand side by side in solidarity with the likes of Ted Cruz. (Ugh. Excuse me, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit...)

China's repressive policies are not going to change if politicians, organizations, and businesses in the democratic world continue to cowtoe to China, instead of stand up for the values of free speech and a government that governs with the consent of the people. These companies need to put their mindless desire for more money aside, and stand up for what is morally right. (I mean, companies like Activision and the NBA are still making shit-tons of money, even without the help of China or its market.)

I rarely buy Activision products (because most of their games are micro-transaction-fueled crap), so it won't do much for me to say that I am currently boycotting Activision products for as long as the company continue to act as a shill for Chinese propaganda. The last Activision product that I purchased was Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Sadly, if From Software chooses to release DLC for Sekiro, I may have to refuse to buy or play it. I sincerely hope that From Software terminates its deals with Activision, and doesn't allow them to publish any future games that they develop.

And while we're here, let me say, for the record that I support an independent and democratic Hong Kong. I also support an independent and democratic Taiwan. I support democracy and freedom from tyranny.

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