A Magic: The Gathering pro player and Hong Kong protester named Lee Shi Tian tweeted out earlier today to #BoycottBlizzard, joining the many consumers who are still appalled over Blizzard's actions regarding Hearthstone pro blitzchung and the company's support of pro-Hong Kong censorship. The blitzchung situation began a few weeks ago when the Hearthstone player won a match during the Grandmaster League broadcasts that occur weekly, using his winner's interview screen time to comment on the protests that are on-going in Hong Kong.
The player was immediately punished severely by Blizzard, which revoked his prize money for the season and suspended him for a year. The community erupted over what they felt was unfair treatment of the player and, further, a direct censorship of free speech in line with preserving corporate interests. That's where the #BoycottBlizzard hashtag began, and it has persisted ever since, even though Blizzard eventually capitulated on the blitzchung issue and restored his prize money earnings while reducing his suspension to six months. Blizzard has since canceled public events over fear of protests occurring on-site, but the company has BlizzCon coming up in a few weeks, so the temporary measure of ignoring the problem will only work for so long. US politicians even wrote an open letter to Blizzard recently condemning the company's actions recently.
By contrast, Magic: The Gathering creator Wizards of the Coast has had little issue with players speaking their mind, giving Lee Shi Tian a platform to express his beliefs. The competitor placed highly during the Mythic Championship 5 tournament this past weekend and used his interview time to comment on the protests, stating he is glad he is a free man and able to play Magic before following up with a tweet today that praised WotC for letting him speak his mind. Lee also implored Hearthstone players try MTG Arena instead, stating that those who want to protect him and his ability to have free speech should buy WotC products and reward them:
About if I worry about getting punished— Lee Shi Tian (@leearson) October 21, 2019
I am thankful no one stop me wearing mask for hk this weekend
I am sure wotc will receive pressure like NBA
If you wanna protect me, reward them
Buy their products
Play mtgarena, esp HS players#BoycottBlizzard#FreeGaming#FreeHongKong
It's a stark contrast from how Hearthstone pros were forced to dance around the Hong Kong controversy in their own game. Lee followed up his performance at Mythic Championship 5 with an interview on Polygon, where he stated that WotC did not stop him over the weekend and have a history of allowing protests. Lee previously attended a Pro Tour event in 2014 during the Umbrella Revolution, and named his deck after the protests while also wearing a yellow ribbon. WotC did not stop him or ask him to remove the ribbon.
While Blizzard remains very much at the heart of this issue and the conversation will likely still revolve around them, it's good to know that card game fans have an alternative platform that seems willing to support its players' ability to speak out on issues they find important. It's a major PR win for Magic: The Gathering and an encouraging platform for players like Lee to share their stories and thoughts, and it's a welcome break from the negativity currently swirling around freedom of expression in the video game community, which will likely persist at least until BlizzCon and whatever occurs there.