When you think of the video game company Blizzard, the last thing that comes to mind are the words “government bootlicker.” The creators of World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Overwatch have however aligned themselves with the Chinese government – angering fans who’ve pushed back against the publisher.
One might think that the publisher’s stance is limited to its higher-ups keen on maintaining their business relationships with their Chinese investors and partners, but a recent anonymously-filled survey shows that the anti-democratic rot runs deep within the company.
Blind, an anonymous social network similar to LinkedIn, allows its users to speak freely about the conditions in their companies without fear of repercussion. Users are verified through company emails, so it’s hard for anyone to fake their place of employment. The platform, which routinely surveys its users and publishes the results, recently surveyed select companies to ask their employees about their views on the recent censorship of pro-Hong Kong protest voices online.
Surveyed users were asked: “Should Blizzard reverse its banning of the Hearthstone player?” The survey is in reference to Blizzard’s decision to ban a professional gamer named Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for expressing his support for the Hong Kong protest during a live-streamed event.
The surveyed companies include Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, Facebook, Google, Twitch, Apple, Riot Games, and Activision-Blizzard.
The vast majority of those polled did not support the ban and called for Blizzard to reverse its decision. As many as 85 per cent of Amazon’s workers opposed the ban. Microsoft, Facebook, Twitch, Uber, and Apple polled in the high 70s. Google and Riot Games were split on the ban, polling at 67 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.
Riot Games’ split makes some sense – the game studio, which produces League of Legends, is wholly owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.
What’s surprising were the responses from Blizzard, where only 36 per cent of the employees surveyed responded yes. The rest of them opposed the reversal of the ban, which puts them at odds with the rest of the tech industry.
A second question asked: “Do you think Blizzard should have a strong free speech policy for players regarding Hong Kong and other controversial topics in China (Tibet, Tiananmen, Taiwan) – even if it hurts Blizzard financially by a loss of Chinese revenue?”
Like the first, most of those surveyed voted yes, with 85 per cent of Twitch employees agreeing with the implementation of a strong free speech policy, trailed closely by Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft.
Riot Games was split on the decision, but only 31 per cent of Blizzard employees surveyed agreed with the proposal.
New World Notes, a gaming industry blog, notes that while only around 70 Blizzard employees took the Blind survey – a small sample of the company’s 4,700 employees – it remains a much larger sample than the “couple dozen” Blizzard employees who reportedly walked out of the company in protest of the ban.
Given the anonymous nature of Blind, the survey should somewhat accurately reflect overall company sentiment, which is disappointing, to say the least.