A team of American Hearthstone collegiate competitors attempted to boycott Blizzard by sharing a pro-Hong Kong sign on-stream at the end of a match, before the event's player cameras were disabled by the hosts.
The collegiate stars were attempting to lend their support to a message delivered by Asia Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters winner Chung 'Blitzchung' Ng Wai, who showcased his support for ongoing protests in Hong Kong in a post-game interview.
After his message, Ng Wai was suspended for 12 months for his actions, and had all prize money rescinded despite his victory. The move by Blizzard sparked major controversy online, and #BlizzardBoycott trended worldwide across social media.
The protests against Blizzard extended to the official broadcast of the 2019 Hearthstone Collegiate Champs, where the American University team revealed the sign following a defeat.
Viewers caught a glimpse of the sign, which read "Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz," before the broadcast rapidly transitioned to a fullscreen shot of the victorious team.
— Uncle Chang (@UncleChangNYC) October 9, 2019
Following the incident, player cameras were removed from the event's coverage and replaced by images of the game's leading characters, in according to Blizzard's official rules. Additionally, no further player interviews are to be conducted for the rest of the competition, according to esports journalist Slasher.
Blizzard has notified Collegiate Hearthstone teams that there will be no more interviews tonight
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 9, 2019
As the Collegiate Champs rulebook states: "Participants may not use language or engage in conduct that is deemed by Tournament Administration to be obscene, foul, vulgar, insulting, threatening, abusive, libelous, slanderous, or otherwise offensive or objectionable."
The removal of player cameras on the collegiate broadcast isn't the only reaction from the gaming community following Blitzchungs masked appearance in his winner's interview. Blizzard employees have enacted their own form of protest, covering up the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" values from the company's offices, while many fans of Blizzard's games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft have filmed themselves uninstalling the titles.
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Streaming platform Twitch has also seen a number of minor protest comments break out, including in the live chat for the Collegiate competition, and the Overwatch Contenders Gauntlet stream. Copy-paste messages were spammed during the games, overwhelming discussion about the matches themselves.
On Twitter, #BlizzardBoycott was trending globally but it remains to be seen how the situation will continue to evolve over the coming days and what repercussions these collegiate players will be met with in the midst of global backlash.
With the gaming community and Blizzard employees alike, all venting frustration at the way the situation has been handled, it seems to be only a matter of time until we hear more.