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- Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Overwatch 2 is helmed by a man who cares a lot about free speech, it seems. Game Director Jeff Kaplan thinks that the company’s handling of the Blizzard Hong Kong ban was “too harsh”, making the head of Overwatch 2 game development to be the first game director to publicly disagree with how the publisher handled the blitzchung situation in Hearthstone.
“I was relieved when they reduced his suspension,” Kaplan said in an interview with the Washington Post. “And I think the suspension should be reduced more or eliminated. But that’s just me.”
The Blizzard Hong Kong ban of Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung took place due to a protest that he made live on air in a post-match livestream. He was subsequently banned for 12 months and had his winnings reduced to zero, leading to a number of protests from upset fans of Blizzard games.
Hearthstone and World of Warcraft players quit the game in solidarity, refunds of the Nintendo Switch version of Overwatch were reportedly allowed, and Blizzard Entertainment’s President J. Allen Brack opened up BlizzCon 2019 with an apology for the ban. The Blizzard Hong Kong ban was subsequently rolled back to six months and blitzchung’s winnings would eventually be rewarded, but “Papa” Jeff thinks that’s still too much.
“I’m obviously a huge supporter of free speech; it’s something that’s very important to me,” he added. “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.”
Speaking on Overwatch, Kaplan revealed that the team behind Blizzard Entertainment’s premier first-person shooter has long discussions when they determine that a high-profile player must be banned.
“We had to deal with a few [high-profile bans] in season one in particular, and that process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision,” Kaplan explained. “There was always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be, and we would heavily devil’s-advocate every part of the decision. So I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
Although Kaplan’s feelings on the matter are clear, he wanted to ensure that it was known that he doesn’t speak for the entirety of the Overwatch division, saying that many people on the team have different opinions on how the Blizzard Hong Kong ban should have been handled.
“I think as individuals, we all have very different feelings about what happened in regards to the Hearthstone tournament and blitzchung,” Kaplan said. “There is a lot of very different reaction among all of us.”
The argument can be made that Blizzard Entertainment didn’t handle blitzchung’s ban in the best way and the fallout has been continuing for more than a month, stretching into protests taking place at BlizzCon 2019. Although the ban has already been reduced in half, some people — including the head honcho of Overwatch 2 — think that Blizzard still has a ways to go.