Chinese Censorship in Gaming | Justin Wang

Chinese Censorship in Gaming — First NBA, Now Hearthstone?

By Justin Wang

In recent memory, the censorship of the Chinese government lent itself to a wide variety of issues, including Winnie the Pooh, among other cultures deemed unsuitable for public consumption — and the crisis in Hong Kong has proven no exception. 

Given the protests that have garnered increasingly more violent responses from police, including tear gas, rubber and, more recently, fully-live bullets, the Chinese government has attempted to reduce the media coverage of the turmoil. Such censorship has extended even past relatively routine media cover ups (relatively speaking) and into the world of gaming. Blizzard, one of the largest game development studios in the world, has recently joined the fray — likely under influence from one of its largest shareholders: Tencent. 

Tencent, a multinational conglomerate known for its wide-reaching influence throughout the game development world, is also widely disliked by the gaming community for its seemingly close ties to the Chinese government and its ideals. The most recent debacle surrounding Blizzard (and, by extension, Tencent) involves their reaction to pro-Hong Kong esports player Chung Ng Wai. Winning over $10,000 in prize money from a recent tournament, Wai’s support of the recent Hong Kong protests has resulted in his suspension from the popular Blizzard game Hearthstone, along with the reclamation of all his prize money. 

The recent incident has only been another incident in a long line of Chinese crackdown on free speech, especially with relation to the Hong Kong protests. Gaming enthusiasts across social media platforms, including Reddit and Twitter have taken to vocally denouncing the incident, often citing Tencent and its ties to the Chinese government as the reason for Blizzard’s actions — however, only time will tell if this backlash will affect the actions of Blizzard, Tencent, and China’s censorship in the long run.