Blizzard has come under fire lately for their harsh treatment of Hearthstone Grandmaster pro Blitzchung, who was banned from the game and had his winnings taken away for expressing a pro-Hong Kong sentiment during a post-match interview. Although eventually his prize money was reinstated and his ban was reduced to six months, the fallout from the incident was immense: the game’s developers spoke out against the way Blitzchung had been treated, sponsor Mitsubishi cut ties with the Hearthstone esports scene, and numerous protests were held, which led to further bans.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack addressed the decision directly during BlizzCon, but it’s clear that many within Blizzard remain unhappy with how things have played out. Now Jeff Kaplan, director of Overwatch, has added his own voice to the discussion. Talking to The Washington Post, Kaplan has said that he would personally like to see Blitzchung’s suspension reduced further. “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,” Kaplan said. “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 talked about his own experience in Overwatch, where decisions like this typically take “four or five days” to get settled. He said that it was surprising to see a punishment like this get metered out so quickly: “I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
For now, Blitzchung’s suspension remains in place. For more on this, watch our interview with Freedom Hong Kong organizer Dayton Young about Blizzard’s action here, and why change is important.