Jeff Kaplan, the Vice President of Blizzard Entertainment and Director of Overwatch, stated in a recent interview that he believes the suspension of player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung from competitive Hearthstone events due to his public support of the Hong Kong protestors in a post-game interview “should be reduced more or eliminated”.
In a phone interview with The Washington Post, Kaplan stated that he supports the idea that “the suspension should be reduced more or eliminated”, stating that as “a huge supporter of free speech” he believed that “the punishment was too harsh”:
“I was relieved when they reduced his suspension. And I think the suspension should be reduced more or eliminated. But that’s just me.”
“I’m obviously a huge supporter of free speech; it’s something that’s very important to me. It got to me personally. I think the punishment was too harsh and I was greatly relieved when they gave his money back. I think that was extremely important.”
Kaplan states that the decision to suspend blitzchung happened “way too quickly,” noting that most of his team were not aware of the situation until they began to read widespread media coverage of the incident.
According to Kaplan, who has been regularly involved in discussions regarding the suspension or banning of players in the Overwatch League, these decisions “usually [take] about four or five days to make.”
“We had to deal with a few of them in season one in particular, and that process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision. There was always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be, and we would heavily devil’s-advocate every part of the decision. So I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
In closing, Kaplan made it clear that he was speaking from a personal perspective and did not speak for the entire Overwatch team, noting that “There is a lot of very different reaction among all of us.”
“I think as individuals, we all have very different feelings about what happened in regards to the Hearthstone tournament and blitzchung. There is a lot of very different reaction among all of us.”
Speaking at the Blizzcon opening ceremony earlier this month, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack admitted that the team had moved too quickly, though he did not accept responsibility for making the decision and did not further reduce blitzchung’s suspension:
“We moved too quickly in our decision making and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you. When I think about what I’m most unhappy about, there’s really two things: the first one is, we didn’t live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves. And the second, is we failed in our purpose. And for that, I am sorry, and I accept accountability.”
While Kaplan is the first Blizzard executive to express his disproval of this decision, he is not the only Blizzard employee to publicly disagree with blitzchung’s suspension. In an interview with Kotaku, Hearthstone game director Ben Lee stated “The initial decision was too harsh.” And that “[we] should have taken more time to consider something more reasonable, but we can’t take that back.”