This isn’t an easy article/opinion piece to write, but given how things have been heating up for the past several years, it feels wrong to not voice my opinion on Blizzard’s reaction to ban Blitzchung for his open statement regarding the protests in Hong Kong.
Being British Chinese, I never quite felt like I belonged in my own skin at times when growing up. Always having that back of the mind feeling of never feeling at home or at ease, even with friends. I can recall numerous times where I disliked being (or at times wishing I wasn’t) that one Chinese kid in the class, or how bullying got to me at times. This isn’t a unique experience by any means unfortunately, and I’ve not let it define me, but it’s definitely made me who I am now. Despite being bullied until A-Levels, I took some pride in being Chinese and being from Hong Kong, as far as lineage is concerned, not that I felt Chinese or being “Hong Kong” like.
My identity in that regard is almost always flip-flopping between the two, where it feels wrong at times to say I’m British. But because I’m so estranged from daily life in Hong Kong, it also feels wrong to say I’m “Chinese”. Sure I look Oriental, but I act too British to be “classical Chinese” - if such a term or definition exists. Games became part of my identity because I wasn’t tied to what I am physically. I’d make characters look kind of like me, but I was happy with the status quo of being that character and not myself. It’s why games and games media is an easy release for me, it’s easier to become a digital self than be me.
But with how things are going, the Hong Kong identity I have feels distorted and alienated beyond my own feelings. Several years back there was a somewhat large uproar in regards to Pokémon removing Cantonese from their games (the main language of Hong Kong, Mandarin being mainland China’s) and changing the localisation to be more Mandarin appropriate. At the time I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I played it off as a joke, in my head it became normalised that Hong Kong as a place and identity would be second to mainland China. Like how Cantonese is a dying language, I more or less accepted how a portion of what makes me who I am would be wiped out.
When the protests started kicking off, I was doing my A-Levels at the time. My initial view was very much against them, partly because I didn’t look into the reasons, but because I only saw it for the violence they picked up. I remember hearing and reading how an ambulance was halted and how people’s livelihoods were being affected because an “upstart lecturer” rallied University students to protest for something. I didn’t know what that something was, I just saw the damage and harm.
Fast forward to today and Blitzchung’s choice, to commit what is effectively career suicide, by supporting the protests. I can’t help but feel a sense of hope knowing that someone was willing to make a stance in the gaming sphere. It all of sudden becomes too relatable when you see someone from your own “homeland” make a stance. If not that, the hammer that Blizzard struck with made me realise how much worse things could become.
For those not in the know, the protests are trying to loosen the ever tightening grip China has over Hong Kong and the recent bill tipped the scales. Where before people had Hong Kong as protection from being immediately extradited (being required to be handed over by Hong Kong authorities), China sought to remove it and force people out of there. The first of their five goals is the removal of said bill, but as the protests continued and things escalated, so too did other goals to combat the violence they faced. Where China used the term riots, they want that title revoked. Where they charged and arrested protestors, they want it undone and dropped. Where the police used extreme force and people went missing, they want it investigated by an independent inquiry. Where China tries to control Hong Kong more, they want their democracy and freedom back.
Whilst most of my friends acknowledge that not everything will be even accepted, the threat of China repeating Tiananmen Square is very much something people think and worry about. Whilst I’m concerned for the wellbeing of my friends and family, I’m hoping the worst never comes to case. At least right now at the time of writing, tied to the streets of Hong Kong. The online and gaming is more or less a way for people to vent and relieve stress. I won’t speak for my friends, but I’m happy to know that they’re still able to enjoy things despite what’s happening.
Except with Blizzard’s recent action, that thought isn’t as free anymore. Things like bans and account restrictions during the initial incident, with Blitzchung, Virtual, and Mr. Yee’s ban and their subsequent dismissal. I can’t help but feel like even expressing that I’m from Hong Kong, or that I consider myself to be from Hong Kong, is somewhat of a threat to Blizzard, or the numerous companies tied to Tencent. It makes me wonder how long it’d take before other series like the Pokémon series, or companies, start omitting the identity/traces of Hong Kong.
Blizzard and their response doesn’t fill me with confidence. Boiling down to “acting too fast”, ”punishment was too much”, and that “they’re a socially responsible company”. If anything, I don’t want to utilise their services or go back to Diablo 3 which was my University group’s go-to game for a long time, even after we graduated. It might sound daft, or so far from the reality that it doesn’t seem possible. But after BlizzCon’s “apology”, I can’t help but feel that if I even show or talk about Hong Kong I can face my account being removed. And personally, I don’t want to feel like being able to talk to my friends about their lives in Hong Kong can lead to their accounts being deactivated.