“Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone Esports moment about a month ago…
…We did not.”
These words came from Blizzard Entertainment’s president J. Allen Brack, and as you can assume, this is not a good situation for anyone to be in if they wish to retain their fans.
To really understand what happened and what streamers of all popularity levels can learn from it, we should probably start at the beginning.
In early October 2019, a Hearthstone competition took place in the Asia-Pacific region, and Hong-Kong player Ng Wai (commonly known by his nickname “Blitzchung”) had an interview after a match. At the end of the interview, Blitzchung quickly placed a mask on his face referencing the masks used by Hong Kong civilians protesting against their government and shouted “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!”. The live stream quickly moved to a commercial break.
It’s possible to say that Blitzchung is within his rights to use the official competition stream as a stage to promote his agenda, or that political agendas don’t have a place in Esports live streams. But for now, let’s focus on the repercussions of this move on the player, on Blizzard (the company who owns the live stream) and on the community.
First, Blizzard quickly responded to the incident by issuing a year-long ban on Blitzchung, and took away his winning prize money, which is a significant amount of $10,000. Blizzard is doing lots of business in China, and their quick and harsh move against the player looks like its meant to please the Chinese government.
However, Blizzard denied that this is the reason for the punishment. Instead, they claimed that the player had breached his contract of participation, which states that he’s forbidden from doing anything that brings him “into public disrepute, offends a portion or a group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image.”
Now, obviously there’s more to this story, and the internet went wild about this incident, where Blizzard mostly suffered from a backlash. Yet, this is a very important lesson for any streamer (and anyone else looking to make a career as a public figure) when you handle sensitive topics of political nature.
So, how is this incident relevant to streamers?
It’s important to learn from the mistake of others, big or small, to see how we can improve ourselves. For streamers, in this case, it’s important to realize that expressing opinions and thoughts on certain political or sensitive topics can backlash, hard. It is ok to share your opinion, as long as you remember to stay respectful to all sides, and make sure you don’t bring yourself into any conflict – otherwise the community might “punish” you, by abandoning your stream.