Prominent Hearthstone caster and analyst Brian Kibler will not be casting the Hearthstone Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. Kibler took a stance against Blizzard in the wake of the severe punishment player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung was dealt after his rallying cry for Hong Kong liberation in a post-game interview on Hearthstone’s official stream.
While Kibler acknowledged that Blitzchung technically broke the rules of conduct he agreed to by stepping into the Grandmasters program and should be penalized, he is also on the opinion that the punishment is way more severe than it should’ve been.
“I have seen many descriptions of the situation claim that Blizzard took action against Blitzchung “for his support of the Hong Kong protests”, but that’s not an entirely accurate description. They did not penalize him for his political stance — they penalized him for breaking the rules by using their official broadcast to promote that stance.”
The reason Kibler is turning down the Grandmasters finals is his belief that Blitzchung’s punishment is “deeply rooted” in the political situation between Hong Kong and China and Blizzard’s interest in the region.
“The heavy-handedness of it [the punishment] feels like someone insisted that Blizzard make an example of Blitzchung, not only to discourage others from similar acts in the future but also to appease those upset by the outburst itself.
That kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with. When I learned about the ruling, I reached out to Blizzard and informed them that I no longer feel comfortable casting the Grandmasters finals at BlizzCon. I will not be a smiling face on camera that tacitly endorses this decision. Unless something changes, I will have no involvement in Grandmasters moving forward.”
Kibler ended his blog by saying that “not everyone involved in GM has this luxury” of turning down such an otherwise important gig and the community should not take their anger out on casters, streamers, or Blizzard employees.
With Kibler’s statement and #BoycottBlizzard trending, Hearthstone’s developer is in a PR nightmare, and the silence from its high executives is not helping the company ahead of the very important BlizzCon 2019.