Those who were hoping that E-sports would turn into something similar to the major professional sports teams probably weren’t expecting it would happen like this.
Last week, game developer Activision-Blizzard banned Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for making a statement in a Hearthstone stream in favor of pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Coincidentally, a relatively lukewarm attestation of support for the Hong Kong protesters by an NBA executive tweeting from his personal account has sent the association (and some of its stars) into a tailspin of double-speak as it tries to both profess the values of its existing United States fans and assuage the feelings of the Chinese government whose money it desperately wants. This goes beyond the craven “no politics please” approach that, for instance, led the NFL to more or less openly blacklist Colin Kaepernick. Both Activision-Blizzard and the NBA have openly rejected the values of free speech in favor of kowtowing to a bloodthirsty, oppressive regime.
When the Hong Kong protests inevitably culminate in a bloodbath and the deaths of hundreds or thousands, the executives making these decisions will have the comfort of knowing they stood with the tyrants. I imagine this will not affect such men, who acknowledge no virtue other than wealth.
Anyone who does business with the Chinese regime knows well that the government sitting on the other side of the table has in just the past few decades committed at least two acts of genocide (the Chinese government is holding Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps right now) and at least one open slaughter of peaceful protesters. The businessmen have already appraised the dollar value of their souls, and ascertained that the Chinese are willing to pay it.
In a just world, the Chinese regime would be sanctioned into oblivion. Alas, even if the United States government were to wake up sufficiently from its torpor to implement such richly-deserved punishments unilaterally, there is no hope of the sustained global sanctions that would be necessary to dislodge China’s communist bosses.
What the government will not or cannot do, consumers can, in at least some small measure. Ideally, the appropriate response to the current state of events would be to remove all Chinese-made goods from your purchasing stream. This is, I acknowledge, very difficult to do in general because of the way goods are produced these days, and specifically difficult for those on a small or fixed budget to do because China leads the world in low-cost goods, helped in no small measure by its ready access to, essentially, slave labor. My own efforts to cut China out of my pocketbook will undoubtedly be imperfect and require refinement over time, and I won’t criticize anyone for having less success than me at the task.
Altering leisure purchases is somewhat easier. Ultimately, there’s nothing compelling me to buy new games or new movies, or even new books. I don’t feel (have never really felt) any need to watch the NBA or provide clicks and viewership to its attendant media and merchandise ecosystem. So, I will do my best to loop China out.
Thus, I will neither purchase nor review any game made or published by Activision-Blizzard. Furthermore, as I perceive this decision as originating from the investment in Activision-Blizzard by the Chinese gaming company Tencent, I will neither purchase nor review any game or movie made by a company in which Tencent owns any stake. To my knowledge, that includes the following:
Majority or more owned by Tencent (>50%): Grinding Gear Games (Path of Exile), Riot (League of Legends), Sharkmob, Supercell (Clash of Clans)
Tencent owns a significant stake (<50%): Bluehole (PUBG), Discord, Epic (EGS, Fortnite, Gears of War), Fatshark (Warhammer: Vermintide), Funcom (Age of Conan: Exiles)
Tencent holds a stake (<10%): Activision-Blizzard, Frontier Developments (Elite: Dangerous), Paradox Interactive (Cities: Skylines, Stellaris), Ubisoft (Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, Far Cry)
Furthermore, in light of Tencent’s stake in Epic, I will not make any purchases via the Epic Games Store.
The premise under which the current Chinese government rules is that it is possible for their elite to have all the monetary benefits of capitalism while crushing their citizens under the heel of audaciously corrupt, bloody authoritarian rule. So far, that premise has been proven right, both by morally vacant, craven snivelers in high corporate seats and obedient consumers. If democracy is to have a future, that premise must be demolished.
Who can do this other than us?