Hearthstone Grandmaster tournament caster Brian Kibler has quit in protest of Blizzard’s punishment against Asia-Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters winner Blitzchung.
Kibler announced his decision to quit on his website BMK Gaming:
“I won’t pretend to understand either the intricacies of the geopolitical situation in China and Hong Kong or the full extent of Blizzard’s business interests there, but to me this penalty feels like it is deeply rooted in both. The heavy-handedness of it 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 would add:
“However, I want to make clear that not everyone involved in GM has this luxury. Do not take your anger out on the other casters, or streamers, or employees of Blizzard. This is not the kind of decision that comes from the rank and file. Most likely they’re just as angry as you are. I know I am.”
While Kibler explained he was quitting he does believe Blizzard was right in issuing Blitzchung a penalty.
“I do think that Blizzard was correct in issuing him a penalty for his actions. They do not want to set the precedent for their official broadcasts being used as political tools. The players agreed to particular rules for behavior, and he violated those rules.”
However, this is not necessarily true. As Kibler points out in his own post, Blizzard banned Blitzchung using an extremely vague rule that could technically allow them to ban anyone for anything.
Here’s the rule Blizzard cited Blitzchung violated:
“Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”
Nevertheless, Kibler would write that Blizzard did not ban Blitzchung for his support of Hong Kong rather they “penalized him for breaking the rules by using their official broadcast to promote that stance.”
Kibler argues that he wouldn’t expect Blizzard to have him cast if he expressed his views about Donald Trump.
“But when I am on the desk for an official Hearthstone broadcast, I leave those views at home. Maybe I’ll make a subtle snide remark on occasion, but I know that I am representing Blizzard in addition to myself. If I were to close a show with speech about how I feel like Trump should be impeached, I wouldn’t expect to be invited back for future events.”
This is an absurd argument to make as athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe use their position to make political statements all the time. Rapinoe continues to play for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team. Kaepernick faced public criticism, but still played in the NFL until he opted out of his own contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
And they were doing it on nationally televised broadcast networks, not just Blizzard’s official Hearthstone stream.
Kibler is the latest in a string of high profile individuals who are openly splitting with Blizzard. Former World of Warcraft Vanilla Team Lead Mark Kern announced he would be joining #BoycottBlizzard and began documenting his cancellation of World of Warcraft and uninstalling of all Blizzard games.
Esports casters, players, and industry people continue to add to the growing number of people coming out in support of Blitzchung and the Hong Kong protests.
As the movement to boycott Blizzard grows, people are asking just how much of an effect China is having on our culture and entertainment. Is the PC culture and ultimate censoring of words, symbols, and more a result of too much dependence on Chinese dollars?
BlizzCon, an annual convention sponsored by the company, is coming in November. What happens there will be telling as to where the pulse of the people is.
What do you think readers? What do you make of Kibler’s announcement to quit? Comment below.