Pixels 120 – Special: BlizzCon 2019

On this episode we discuss:

  • All about BlizzCon 2019!
  • Diablo IV
  • World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
  • Overwatch 2
  • Hearthstone Battlegrounds, Diablo Immortal, controversies, the experience of being there…
  • And more!

More info on the show:

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  1. Dorkmaster Flek says:

    I love your content Patrick, but I strongly disagree with certain points of your assessment of the Blitzchung situation.

    If you want to say the player should have an automatic 3-6 month ban because political content hijacking the broadcast and all that, you’re still putting Blizzard (or they’re putting themselves) in a situation where they have to determine what is political content. So there is still going to be some subjectivity no matter what they do. A much better guideline imo would be whether it was disruptive to the broadcast or not. In this case, it clearly wasn’t. It was an 8 word phrase shouted out during his interview, the same as if he had shouted out his teammates or parents, etc. The only different is the content of the speech, which Blizzard is making themselves arbitrators of no matter what.

    Even if you hold to this, why were the casters banned as well? When you combine this with the HS Weibo statement of “protecting China’s national dignity”, this reeks of a scorched earth retaliation response. You cannot look at this as a simple “no politics on stream” blanket issue. It’s a bunch of statements from different people, and Blizzard saying their relationships in China had “nothing to do” with their response is laughable. Anybody who works in PR can tell you it’s not about impropriety, it’s about the appearance of impropriety. And there is a pretty *massive* appearance of impropriety that was simply not addressed at all during Brack’s address.

    Speaking of Brack, he didn’t even mention Blitzchung’s name, let alone anything about why people were upset in the first place. He spoke incredibly vaguely about the whole situation and did not explain what changes if any occurred behind the scenes to prevent something like this from happening again. They haven’t even clarified their position on political statements on stream. Is a 6 month ban just an automatic response now? What about the American team that made a similar statement on their stream and wasn’t initially punished for it until they actually spoke out about the hypocrisy of their treatment vs Blitzchung’s? They have not actually clarified how similar statements would be treated in the future. Brack’s statement came off to me as trying to speak as vaguely as possible about it and try to get people to just ignore it and move on so their convention isn’t buried under a PR nightmare.

    I think you’re being entirely too kind about Blizzard being in a “tough situation”. They put themselves into that situation when they decided to enter this marketplace. A situation like this was inevitable, and I fully expect other similar incidents in the future. I’m not saying they should pull out of the Chinese market, I agree that’s not feasible to expect. But if you choose as a company to participate in a marketplace, you don’t get to ignore the social-political circumstances of that marketplace. Every action you take in that market is a statement, whether you like it or not. I was extremely disappointed particularly in the people who were applauding during his speech. I don’t think it was deserving of applause, I think it was a non-apology apology which is all too common in corporate PR.

  2. Hey Dorkmaster (excellent name!) and thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    I won’t answer every point, but I do understand where you’re coming from. The thing is, I really feel like you are taking your interpretation of the situation(s) to be objective, when it really isn’t (and can’t be, that’s normal) and that’s is the entire issue… You say that Blitzchung’s statement was “clearly not” disruptive to the broadcast, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people would argue the opposite (myself included; to me it was absolutely 110% disruptive, which was the whole point). You wonder why the hosts were banned as well, but it is clear that they were egging him on and encouraged him to say what he said. Etc etc.

    Bottom line, while I agree with you that saying “we’ll ban any political content” effectively moves the goalpost to decide what is or isn’t political, I do think it is easier to decide whether something is political than if something is “acceptably political”. And again, I do point you to the nightmare that companies like Facebook and Twitter are finding themselves mired into trying to regulate this… While I would admire Blizzard for deciding they would engage in a similar endeavor, I honestly can’t fault them for saying “sorry but it is not our job to approve or disapprove of specific political opinions”.

    I mean, as it has been said many times, imagine someone claimorring their support of Trump or Brexit six months from now… Would you be as quick to fight a ban? And if not, does that mean anything is acceptable? Where do you draw the line at that point? Who decides? You? Someone else?… I understand the desire to see the free speech issue brought forth in this case and reverse the ban as you ask, but doing it here is the promise of an *absolute* nightmare in the future, and not seeing that is really being blind to what’s been happening in tech in the past 3 or 4 years. I’m really worried that people can’t see that, like they haven’t understood the incredibly important societal issues Facebook and Twitter have been dealing with, and the utter impossibility to find a solution that is deemed acceptable by almost anyone. Maybe I’m more sensitive to this because I cover tech as well, but Blizzard not wanting to enter that arena is not just normal, it is, in my very honest opinion, the sane thing to do…

    • Dorkmaster Flek says:

      Hey Patrick, thanks I appreciate the response and I do still really enjoy your stuff even if we disagree!

      I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree about whether or not his statement was actually disruptive. It was certainly noticeable, but to me disruptive would be interrupting another interview to jump on camera, or trying to halt the production somehow. This was a short shoutout of solidarity, and no I still would not be agreeing with a ban if the statement was the opposite like a pro-China stance or if he had said “Trump 2020” or Brexit or something else like that. I might disagree with him on social media or something, but that would not warrant in-game punishment imo. I would point out as well that professional Magic player and Hong Kong native Lee Shi Tian wore a face scarf on camera and expressed a similar level of “disruption” during the post-game interview and was not punished in any way by Wizards of the Coast, so no I don’t think most people would agree on whether it was disruptive or not.

      On the topic of determining what is political, I don’t think it’s nearly as clear cut as you think it is. If he had yelled trans rights or marriage equality or climate change instead, would that be political? I firmly believe it isn’t, and I suspect you do too, but it depends on who you ask. That’s the position Blizzard is putting themselves in, and you know people would complain about those things being political because whenever a developer puts anything on those topics in their game they get accused of trying to be political or putting politics in their game or other such nonsense.

      I believe what we’re slowly figuring out (and hopefully these tech companies are as well) is that you simply cannot exist on a global scale as a company and be apolitical. I appreciate these tech companies are in a tough position, but again my sympathy is limited because they put themselves in that position in the first place. Especially in the case of a company like Activision Blizzard, they chose to participate in this market and everything they do in it reflects on the socio-political conditions of it. Again, the fact that the HS Weibo statement exists with Blizzard’s name on it even if it didn’t come directly from them very much changes the optics of the situation, and that’s something they haven’t addressed at all.

      I’m personally really upset by basically everything about how they handled this, and for me Brock’s statement was not nearly enough. I think it acknowledged nothing, he’s only sorry people got mad at them, and he wants everyone to forget about this and talk about Diablo 4 while changing nothing, and that just doesn’t sit well with me in the slightest.

      • That is the difficulty of it: you might not have seen these other issues as bannable, but I can guarantee that others would have. It’s a nightmare because it tries to solve a question in one way for everyone, and while banning everything or nothing is not ideal, it is easier than having to question it every time. As to why Blizzard would choose to ban everything rather than nothing, well, that is where we’ll disagree indeed: you might say that you’d be fine with people expressing their political preferences and opinions all the time in game, but I am quite certain that most people, myself included, would not. I agree that everything can become political, but after years of being inundated with political shouting every minute of every day (and participating in that world myself, with The Phileas Club, albeit in a much more rational manner), I understand not wanting the esports world to be come that as well. I’m pushing it to the extreme, and certainly Blizzard has taken stances before (representation for exemple) and I applaud that still, and I suspect they will again as they should. But I firmly believe there is a difference between that, which you choose and control, and the potential of turning your esports into political circus…

        Anyway, I suspect you won’t agree with me more after this demonstration, so I’ll conclude with thanks for your kind words and respect of my side of the argument. I always appreciate people coming to the table with kindness and thoughtfulness, so I’m very glad for this conversation.

        Let’s hope things look less bleak once Blitzchung comes back to the Hearthstone scene in five months; as I’ve said before, I think that will be quite a powerful symbol, which might bring people on both side of this argument together…

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