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Ex-World of Warcraft developer's thread about China and the gaming industry (twitter.com)
408 points by seapunk 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 150 comments

One of these again. I struggle to form a coherent opinion on this one. Yes the player broke tournament rules and yes you can argue that he should be banned on that basis alone. But oh my god. Even if they banned him just on the basis of enforcing that rule rather than pampering to the Chinese market (and that's a huge if) the visuals of this are so predictably bad.

What meeting can they possibly have had where the options were "Just reprimand him in private" or "Ban him, get into the news cycle and face weeks of public backlash" and they landed on the latter?

It's hard to imagine the decision wasn't almost completely fuelled by Tencent's part ownership of Blizzard and Blizzard's stated goal to expand their marketshare in China. If so, it devolved from a company increasingly known for just poor decisions and communication (mobile Diablo announcement anyone?) to a company that publicly and blatantly prioritises shareholder interests over ethics.

And let's be frank; there's not that much anyone can do about it. People can claim they're uninstalling Blizzard games. And I'm sure some do. But the next time they release an objectively good game everyone's back in.

>Yes the player broke tournament rules and yes you can argue that he should be banned on that basis alone.

The rule in question is

>Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image

Which is so open ended that it's impossible to not break it if you have an opinion and are speaking to a global audience. You could go up on stage and say "It's bad to murder people for being gay" and a portion or group of the public in some other countries would get offended about it.

But Blizzard wouldn't be banning people and taking their prize money for that. 100% this is about Tencent and Blizzard's access to the Chinese market.

What if someone would say: "god hate gays"? Would the same Blizzard actions be justified?

I expect them to not kick someone for supporting gay rights, but I do expect them to kick someone for doing a nazi salute on stage. So there's clearly a line drawn somewhere; it's not their job to act as a platform for every opinion.

"God hates gays" in particular, yes, I think they would be justified in dropping the banhammer on that. Blizzard has gone out of their way to promote inclusivity and diversity with Overwatch (which has two canonically gay main characters), even though it pissed off some of their more conservative fanbase. Having people on stream coming out against that runs pretty directly counter to the politics that Blizzard has already been promoting.

What it comes down to is that I expect Blizzard to have a system of values guiding their decision on this, and I want those values to line up with mine - everyone gets human rights, democracy is preferable to authoritarianism, freedom to protest a corrupt government is an essential right, etc.

Some people would probably call it a double standard to let players support pro-democracy protests, but not support anti-gay ones. I'd just call that having standards. It's 2019 and we're talking about a game studio based in southern California.

Maybe that's a self-centered view of mine, expecting a corporation to support western values just because they're based in the US and composed almost entirely of American employees. But that's where I'm coming from.

> So there's clearly a line drawn somewhere

The fundamental problem is that the line is a personal opinion that differs, significantly in some cases, from person to person. Many believe their lines are objectively correct.

This particular kerfuffle is being caused because companies are being pressured to adhere to the government of China's specific line to the exclusion of all others.

> I expect them to not kick someone for supporting gay rights, but I do expect them to kick someone for doing a nazi salute on stage. So there's clearly a line drawn somewhere; it's not their job to act as a platform for every opinion.

Blizzard is an international company, and the line they draw is based on the sensibilities of all their customers worldwide. China, a country with a population 3-4x larger than the US evidently believes that support for Hong Kong protestors crosses that line. Blizzard may be a US based company, that doesn't mean it's going to draw up standards of conduct that always please the US customer base. I can guarantee you, the US and other western customers they stand to lose is they didn't cater to Chinese demands is a lot less than the Chinese customers they would lose if they were kicked out of China.

This is just a remarkable line of thought. What you're really saying here is that the actions of a company are justifiable solely based upon whether or not the company is acting in its own best (financial) interest. Just... wow.

>China, a country with a population 3-4x larger than the US evidently believes that support for Hong Kong protestors crosses that line

The Chinese government, you mean, which happens to fall squarely into the "oppressive authoritarian" bucket as regimes go. Let's not pretend that the CPC is an honest representation of the people.

It's not only about "pleasing the US customer base", it's about integrity. Not every situation is some abstract hypothetical; it's pretty clear what's going on here, and I don't think any reasonable person would conclude that kowtowing to the Chinese im the pursuit of profit is a good thing.

What is surprising about this line of thinking? People stated, correctly, that companies should support gay rights and other progressive causes because it is in their their self interest to do so. Companies followed that advice.

The same calculus is at play here. If militia groups in Texas started marching in the streets calling for secession would we blame companies that want to distance themselves from that sort of political instability and unrest? That's how most Chinese see Hong Kong protests: a segment of the country that want to unlawfully remain independent. And China has a large market power. The negative consequences of alienating the Chinese market is larger than the negative consequences of bad press in western media.

It's valid to point out that the people's opinions don't always match that of the CCP, but it's erroneous to asset without evidence that the average Chinese disagrees with the party line on this issue. 50% of the mainland Chinese I've talked to have a negative opinion on the HK protestors and the other 50% don't really care very much. I haven't met any that actually support the protests.

>What is surprising about this line of thinking?

I never said it was 'surprising'; I said it was remarkable.

>People stated, correctly, that companies should support gay rights and other progressive causes because it is in their their self interest to do so. Companies followed that advice.

Is that why they should support a cause though? Only because it is in their best (financial) interest to do so? I'm not insane; of course we're going to look out for ourselves, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that... until there is. At some point your profit seeking harms others.

This is exactly what I'm talking about; your argument presumes that a company should only take action when it suits their interests, i.e., increases revenue. You act as though the pursuit of profit at all costs is some immutable law of the universe. It's not.

>It's valid to point out that the people's opinions don't always match that of the CCP, but it's erroneous to asset without evidence that the average Chinese disagrees with the party line on this issue. 50% of the mainland Chinese I've talked to have a negative opinion on the HK protestors and the other 50% don't really care very much. I haven't met any that actually support the protests.

It's also erroneous to assert that your anecodotal evidence reflects reality, but I don't think it actually matters if the people support the CPC or not. Some things are just plain wrong, and people throughout history have supported foul actions because it suited them personally to do so (or because they're scared of the repercussions of not doing so.) Much of what China does is just wrong, I couldn't care less if their citizenry supports it.

Haven't you found it interesting that all of our media coverage has provided an extensive amount of coverage of the protesters, but almost nothing about the context of people outside of the protest? What percent of people support the protests? What are the average views on it? How has their day to day life changed if at all? Are they in support or against the transition to violence? So forth and so on. An immense amount of potential reporting material there, but it seems be being almost entirely neglected. "Almost" is a weasel word -- I'm not really able to find anything meaningful at all.

This seems odd. Like you, I'm not terribly fond of anecdotal evidence, so I went searching for some way to try to gauge what people might be thinking. One thing I came upon was this [1] survey from 2016 which was carried out following the protests of 2015. One of the questions that was asked was whether or not Hong Kongers would be in favor of separating from China once the "one country, two systems" agreement ends in 2047. If there is any bias in their numbers, one would expect it to err on the side of Hong Kong given the institution that carried it out. [2]

Only 17.4% of people said yes, 22.9% were ambivalent, and 57.6% were somewhat/strongly against it. I wonder what percent of the protesters are in that 17.4%? What are the views of the 82.6%? Why aren't these questions being asked, let alone answered, by our media? Whatever the case, it seems very safe to say that the vast majority of people in Hong Kong do not see the China as having an "oppressive authoritarian" government. And I think it goes without saying that views towards their government are going to be even more favorable in the mainland. So no you're not just talking about the Chinese government - you are talking about the Chinese people.

[1] - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-china-survey-idU...

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_University_of_Hong_Kon...

I'd say that since roughly 30% of the population has protested that's a large percentage of the population. You're citing statistics from 3 years ago. Most of the country supports either staying their own self governing entity or becoming their own separate country.

These protests are literally about extradition to China. I find your completely biased information suspect.



You expect them not to kick someone for supporting gay rights but even that might be a bridge too far for Blizzard. They made a big fuss about having the character Tracer be gay, but that only happened in a comic book and in Russia Tracer is definitely not gay. I believe the same is true in China, but don't quote me on that. Having characters with different sexual orientations is just some catnip for us Westerners to show that Blizz is totes woke guys!, not some sort of stance Blizz is taking because they believe in equality. I wouldn't be suprised if someone calling for gay rights at an esports tournament in Russia was subject to the same thing.

Blizz is just a faceless corp now, and any move they make that seems on the surface to be ethical is just window dressing for a calculated marketing move that will be undone the moment it looks like it might cost them some cash.

> What it comes down to is that I expect Blizzard to have a system of values guiding their decision on this, and I want those values to line up with mine - everyone gets human rights, democracy is preferable to authoritarianism, freedom to protest a corrupt government is an essential right, etc.

What this whole thing is showing is that big corporations don't give a shit about any of those things, not really. They care about money. Think about sports - in the NFL, players were protesting racial injustice; some members of the public said "shut up and play ball"; and the league and elite media mostly said "no, players have the right to speak about these things". That's because in the US, wokeness is the third rail - ultimately there is more money in being pro-inclusion, pro-diversity, etc. You can't be a big company in the US without supporting those things, so big companies support them.

Now we have some NBA people protesting injustice in Hong Kong, and the league and elite media say "shut up and play ball". And that's because Hong Kong / Taiwan independence is the third rail for China. If you don't have the "correct" opinion, you're not going to do any business there.

Let's imagine that this issue did not exist, if you can. And let's further posit an acceptance of companies advocating for some set of values, as you have. Now whose values do you think it would make most sense for companies to advocate for? Employees, management, chief executive, the board, customers, somebody else? Perhaps this is a bad assumption but I would assume the vast majority of people would say they should stand for their customers, if for no other reason than the fact that a company cannot exist without its customers - and so pleasing them (and keeping them) is always priority #1.

And this is where things get tricky. For decades, the entire life of many of us, the US has been dominant over the entire world. But that dominance is ending. Gaming is just one particularly clear example. China, for instance, literally has more gamers than the US has citizens. [1](2014) And while the US market is still #1 in terms of revenue, that's ending imminently - literally perhaps next year. We're currently at $36.87bn compared to China's $36.54bn. [2] And that's with an untapped market of hundreds of millions in China. And their rapid economic growth means all players, new and old, are going to be able and willing to spend more money. Within the next two decades, the US gaming market will likely be a fraction of the Chinese market.

That creates an interesting little micro-paradox in this situation. Customers in the US claiming they will boycott Blizzard over this situation are precisely why Blizzard is motivated to act in this fashion. Because there would be a mirror situation in China with a much larger customer base. Until people (around the world) can accept individuals behaving in a way they find deplorable, we're only going to end up in a world where the biggest wins. And as the geopolitical status quo changes, that's no longer simply synonymous with USA.

[1] - https://www.gamespot.com/articles/the-number-of-chinese-game...

[2] - https://newzoo.com/insights/rankings/top-10-countries-by-gam...

Going to the logical absurd conclusion is a good thought experiment and part of why I too hadn’t formulated an opinion yet. However, it’s Blizzard’s follow-up actions such as this:


That makes this a moot point. Players have voiced opinions before. Nothing extreme, but within Blizzard’s rights to invoke that rule. However, deciding to start filtering content because of multiple players talking about the same topic?

That’s when Blizzard lost their neutrality stance. As bystanders, it’s not possible to swap in other topics for thought experiments because it’s become clear that it’s a specific topic that is being targeted. And thus, we now have to look at the content of what is being said to draw conclusions about Blizzard’s motivations.

I would imagine not, but do you think those two statements stand on the same footing? At some point you have to examine what is actually being said. I understand that can get murky, which is really the entire problem with censorship, but "don't murder people for being gay" and "God hate[s] gays"? C'mon.

The larger issue at hand here is the motivation behind Blizzard's actions.

I think: "People everywhere should have the basic human rights" is far less controversial than "God hates the gays". I imagine that the latter also would get punished the same way to be honest, and then we wouldn't have this discussion at all. At least in the west, as in the east they do not appreciate the acceptance of anything LGBTQ+ related.

Blizzard went all-in with the pride stuff in the west, but did not have that event at all in the east. Not even a toned-down version of it.

That's just the tolerance paradox all over again. I'm pretty sure the obvious solution to it is to just come out and say it.

"We are tolerant of everything, except intolerance. No, we dont care if you call that out as being inconsistent or unfair. Deal with it."

>Which is so open ended that it's impossible to not break it if you have an opinion and are speaking to a global audience.

You are a professional player in a tournament, you should not use an official stream to spew political opinions... or opinions of any other kind.

>You are a professional player in a tournament, you should not use an official stream to spew political opinions


Blizzard was fine introducing politics into their competitions when it suited them to do so. In that case it made them look progressive and they sold a lot of pins and t-shirts. In this case, they could lose a whole bunch of money.

Their stance on this sort of thing isn't consistent unless you view it from the angle of "what will make Blizzard money?" They also went completely nuclear on this guy by taking his winnings and banning him for a year, not to mention firing the two commentators.

I said essentially the same thing in another thread yesterday, but the issue at hand here isn't whether or not Blizzard has the right to enforce some vague rule; it's whether or not they should have and what were their motivations. We need to be very careful about allowing China to dictate what we can see and hear in our media.

These companies are quite literally helping an authoritarian government to further oppress its people, and their only motivation is money. It's insane to me that so many people are arguing in Blizzard's favor because apparently the only thing that matters is the bottom line, integrity be damned.

A political opinion isn’t a political opinion anymore, once it’s spread to fixation. “Political” in this case—and most cases where it’s used in discussions like these—is a euphemism for “damagingly controversial to support.” Even an opinion on politics can cease to be a “political” opinion. (For example, “the US should not be a British colony” is an opinion about politics, but at this point, not much of a political opinion.)

But, I think it’s important to note, this doesn’t mean that these opinions that companies dislike espousing aren’t political in the literal sense. They’re a subset of what would be more objectively defined as “political opinions.” And, as such, it’s not these companies making this determination; for it really is considered a matter of civic etiquette—in at least Western culture—to avoid discussing “political” topics in any venue where something other than politics is trying to happen; and plenty of people really do get mad at companies just for the fact of their breaking this social more, even when the political statement itself is one they have no stake in either way.


> I agree with you. In fact, I didn't buy Overwatch because of the way they were shoving gay stuff into it.

I fail to see how this could be your takeaway from his statement. His point is that they will pander to whatever cause makes them the most amount of money.

LGBTQ+ content in a game should not be the reason you don't want a game. There are games that handle it very poorly and are just trying to virtue-signal. They make the point of the game that the character is gay (generally a lesbian as that hits more checkboxes) and as a result these games suffer quality wise. Being non-binary isn't a good story, your media should have a good story. The character having "being gay" as one of their character traits is fine. "Being gay" isn't (far from it) the only thing that defines a person (or character)

I just think games should not push real world politics, period. This applies to that stream thing, and also to this thing you are talking about.

Games have been political for as long as games have had stories. It's just that in 1981 killing nazis in Wolfenstein was a completely non-controversial topic. We fought in WWII. Shooting nazis is the American thing to do.

Bioshock? Fallout? The worlds portrayed in those are intensely political topics.

But the "keep politics out of my games!" crowd only shows up when it turns out one of the characters is gay.

Games are speech; all speech is political.

There's a reason Metal Gear rewards players for avoiding a head-on fight at least as often as engaging one (and rewarded players significantly more often in the original games).

Hell, there's a reason there are bishops on the board in chess and they move diagonally.

> I just think games should not push real world politics, period.

Games are art.

Art is opinion.

Opinions are political.

You won't get what you want.

If you simply played the game, you wouldn't know or care that the gays infiltrated it. You didn't play it because you researched a reason to not play it, and that reason just so happens to be homophobia.

Colin Kaepernick called (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Kaepernick) from the ship that already sailed, and he'd like to remind us all about the 1968 Black Power Salute (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salu...) while offering a discount on tickets to the Summit Series (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summit_Series).

Politics and sports have been intertwined for as long as there have been organized sports (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Olympic_Games#Politics). If e-Sports are in fact Sports, and if Blizzard intends to exercise control over political speech of ostensibly independent players, then ultimately Blizzard has accepted responsibility for its corporate political speech via the sport, which evidently includes a pro-mainland stance on Hong Kong.

Cathy Freeman defied the Olympic rules and carried the Aboriginal flag at the 2000 Olympics, and went on to carry the Olympic flag at the 2002 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies! Sports are one of the best venues for protest because they give you an audience that can be global.



We should all boycott Blizzard and not buy their games regardless of how good they are. We should try and convince everyone we possibly can to join us. Freedom and preventing unjust state beatings and murder is more important than having some fun.


We've known Blizzard to be fuckers since at least 2002. The only way I can play their games now is by getting comped copies via pro player friends; I refuse to ever give them a dime.

Blizzard and Activision, since they share a stock price.

So if a player said in an interview "It's bad to murder people for being gay" they ought to be kicked out of the tournament and have their prize money retracted? That's how far we've fallen with appeasing oppressive governments in pursuit of their money?

>You are a professional player in a tournament, you should not use an official stream to spew political opinions... or opinions of any other kind.

You should use whatever platform you've earned to state whatever views you wish. If there are consequences, so be it.

They could use the same rule to force you to open up your mouth, as refusing to comment on issues could also have a negative impact on Blizzard Activision.

They could coherce your speech, say x about issue y. If you refuse then ...

Even the opinion not to speak about power and people is a political opinion.

No opinions of any kind... sounds like a super interesting stream!

Well, being a professional e-athlete means being an entertainer first and foremost. Everything you do and say is supposed to maximize the amount of money made for you, people who manage you, and the sport. Just like in physical sports.

In this case, the player violated this on their own accord. As right as this was, no surprise it made the business people unhappy. 'stronglikedan is correct in saying it's pretty much like misappropriation of company resources.

(In other news: entertainment is fake to the core. It's not about the game, it's about making money.)

But I also think it's 100% fair for the audience to be angry about this. It's a free market, and if people don't express their morality and/or politics through ways that impact the profits of the offenders, the market will not take those morals and politics into account. Bad press is a market signal too.

I'm not disagreeing that it goes against company mission/guidelines, but if part of your product is player streams and you give them a caveat of not having the ability to freely express opinions that is going to be an incredibly boring stream.

It will be boring only if you're seeking some philosophical or moral insight in it. Entertainment is the opposite of boring by definition. The entire industry is built around optimizing the value of (average interest * audience size), which means that successful streams aren't going to be boring no matter how little freedom the streamer has to voice their political opinions.

I mean, take your favorite sports/e-sports stream. How much political opinions does the streamer voice? Would you really recognize, from just watching the stream, if they were censored by the Chinese?

I disagree. Lots of the streams I enjoy are largely based on the personality of the streamer and their interaction with viewers. If you start removing their freedoms of what they can and can't say that would heavily impact their interactions and limit their opinions/speech. Yes it's true that most of the dialogue isn't heavily political, but politics is a wide sweeping topic. What if they are bringing up legitimate problems with the game, or the parent game company? Totally reasonable and interesting opinions that actually happen all the time on streams would be in danger of getting banned. Not to mention discussion of everyday life outside of the game which is also commonplace on many streams.

Just watching gameplay with no opinions and interaction is a watered down boring stream in my opinion. Maybe there are times when that is what someone wants when specifically looking for gameplay tips and how pros play, but that is only a subset of game streaming even by professional gamers. If the streamer is a sponsored pro, sure they have to worry about those sponsors but what kind of advice is it to tell them they should have no opinions? It feels short-sighted of the sponsors because they are limiting the potential of the stream and if they already sponsor someone, why wouldn't they want their opinions heard?

Would you have said the same about Muhammad Ali?

Curt Schilling?


Yup. Basically misappropriation of company resources, and any company would (and should) fire someone for that.

Interesting followup: I just tried to permanently delete my Blizzard account and the request is being denied regardless of my method of verification. The SMS passcode verification claimed on first attempt that it was denied "Due to too many attempts". Makes you wonder if they're intentionally breaking the delete account flow in hopes of weathering the storm.

This is now the 3rd place I've seen this. As a dev I immediately just assume it's a bug, but maaaaaaan it doesn't look that way if you're not.

I've settled for cancelling my Wow Classic sub in place of deleting the account completely. It's not heroic and means nothing to Blizzard, but this is a line I find hard to cross.

> It's not heroic and means nothing to Blizzard

On the contrary, I suspect that canceling a subscription is the only thing that means something to them.

The overarching sentiment here seems to be "western consumers are less valuable now that China is huge and has more money"

I support Hong Kong Protesters:

To play devils advocate, SMS is super wonky and it’s possible they have virtual limits for outgoing message volume at multiple points that they’ve hit at peak hours and caused this poorly worded error message.

I agree, this is a perfectly valid reason for the SMS flow to error on "Too many attempts".

I deleted my account yesterday, had the same experience. SMS and the authenticator app both told me I was either incorrect or I'd made too many attempts. Ended up taking a picture of my driver's license on a paper that says FREE HONG KONG and uploading it.

I ran into this problem on two accounts. I tried SMS passcode on one account and got this problem. Then my secondary account I tried an Email Code and I got the same problem.

I think it's just a terrible UI. If you get that message, I think you have to submit a ticket with a government issue ID (link at the bottom of that page).

I don't know if Blizz would consider me a whale but I did spend a pretty penny on their games and just deactivated my WoW subscription and uninstalled all their games from both my PC and phone.

I'm not only doing that. I speak up in forums where Hearthstone is discussed, talk to friends and family members and advocate against money or time towards Blizzards bottom line. F2P even gains with an audience so it's not a solution to just not spend money, you must divest from their platform entirely. I didn't even keep SC2 around, if I were to contribute any views on Twitch or Youtube it's engagement that benefits Blizzard.

I hate them with the fury of a thousand suns for having destroyed the 3 games I loved most of all the games I have played.

And I'm sure some do. But the next time they release an objectively good game everyone's back in.

Ya know, for a company like EA, I am exactly like that. "G-ddamn it, EA! The next time you release a title I'm on the fence about, I'm not going to buy it! {BTW, what's release date for Battlefield X again?}) That's because they have what are, IMO, shitty business practices. But I'm not a very principled man, so I conveniently forget that $GAME_I_REALLY_LIKE is published by EA.

But there is not game on this planet I need play badly enough that I will support "let's all play nice with the big, bad authoritarian government and not make them feel uncomfortable with our rude words". Nope, you go right on the list with Exxon ("I'll walk before I buy fuel from Exxon." And I have.), unlikely to ever be removed again. (Note: I've not read up on the whole stink yet, so I'm not saying Blizzard's on that list now.)

Even more so because it isn't really about the authoritarian government. In some cases, they say jump and you ask how high on the way up. Because they have tanks and shit. But Chinese tanks won't roll to the Blizzard offices. No, they'll roll to the gates of China's economy and keep Blizzard out. Which is even worse, because now the story is, "hush now, or someone might not get their bonus."

There's people who will hardcore boycott them though. I for sure wont be playing Diablo 3 finally (I know, I'm super late). I'll take my money elsewhere to someone who shows they cares about the basic freedoms.

After reading the thread, your comment doesn't follow the content at all. You're talking about the Hearthstone incident while the Twitter thread is discussion is about investment in US companies by China.

> I have watched China slowly take over as the dominant investing force in gaming and movies over the years. It’s a shame US companies never believed as strongly as China and Asia in investing in games, but this allowed China to have unprecedented influence over our media.

> Chinese game companies have grown huge not just because of market size, but because the government subsidizes them. They get free land, free offices, and huge infusions of cash. This cash was and is used to do expand and buy up stakes in US gaming companies.

> I’ve seen firsthand the corruption of Chinese gaming companies, and I was removed from a company I founded (after Blizzard) for refusing to take a 2 million dollar kickback bribe to take an investment from China. This is the first time I’ve ever spoken pubically about it.

> Chinese companies tried to ruin my career with planted press stories. Money is often paid for favorable press in China and some of that money flows here to the US as well. Unfortunately, money talks. China has succeeded in infiltrating all levels of tech, gaming and more.

> there's not that much anyone can do about it

Sell their stock. Public opinion do hurt stock prices (the only thing you can count on to make a public company care).

>Sell their stock.

To whom? Eager buyers of the stock?

Divestment. Non-invesment. Making Mei meme to get Overwatch banned in China. Okay yeah, the last one is probably the best.

that'll just make it cheaper for Chinese capital to gobble up

This. Obligatory post on divestment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20998948

Which is fine. They can have them.

Perhaps the decision wasn't taken in a meeting, it might have been a single exec high enough in the food chain to apply such a decision, with perhaps either a panicked or knee-jerk action.

Maybe. If so it might be in their interest to publish the decision making process.

> ...to a company that publicly and blatantly prioritises shareholder interests over ethics.

Pretty much every company now depending how for down the ethics rabbit hole one traverses. Is returning as much money to investors as possible over giving employees raises ethical?

> face weeks of public backlash

I think you're over selling gamers here, they're generally quite pathetic when it comes to organised protests and self control.

They all cried for a week when Blizzard screwed up Diablo, then a few months later those exact same people bought wow classic and another HS expansion.

Nothing remotely serious will come of this.

I think you are selling gamers short. Star Wars battlefront 2 controversy lasted a fairly long time from what I remember, and still talked about to this day.

And it still sold 9 million units + god knows how much MTX.

It is interesting to look back at the last ~50 years from a strategic standpoint. The West gambled that economic prosperity would usher in an age of Chinese liberty, if not actual democracy, and that attempts to resist that would lead to economic collapse.

With benefit of hindsight maybe that strategy was too passive. China has embraced the technical aspects of Western society but it looks dangerously like it will carry them with an authoritarian philosophy. It is a pity; particularly since the English Common Law system combined with separation of power is the greatest accomplishment of the Anglosphere and China would have really ushered in an age of enlightenment had they taken that on.

> The West gambled that economic prosperity would usher in an age of Chinese liberty, if not actual democracy, and that attempts to resist that would lead to economic collapse.

I'm sure the corporations that make those trade agreements saw it as nothing more than cheap labor and large market. How this would help liberty is just something they tacked on to sell it to the public.

The 5 eyes are a totally disproportionate amount of the worlds military spending. They have a lot of faults, but they also look a long way into the future to spot potential threats.

America has been implementing a worldwide strategy against Russia for a very long time. If you look at a map US allies make a nice little fence around Russia.

It seems unlikely that trade agreements are being made with gay abandon and no consideration for the geopolitical situation. People like to pretend that there isn't a scheme afoot, but that is a ruse. Integrating with China would have been given extensive consideration beyond "cheap goods, aye?".

I wonder if it's a bit of a race between how much you can spend versus how much you loose to corruption, like filling a barrel with holes in it by adding water faster. Supposedly the US's classified intelligence program budget is 81.1 billion, larger than 9 of the next top ten foreign nation's total military expenditures.


Did the West make that bet? Or did the businesses of the West see a big market and ultimately a big, inexpensive supply chain?

I tend to think that, worst of all, the West saw an inexhaustible supply chain.

Nobody was thinking about what to do next after all that money filled the coffers of a political establishment not under any pressure to liberalize.

Speaking of that, can someone explain me how did the West figure that both this and oil imports were a good deal? A book on energy/climate I'm reading[0] is making a point that in the last decades, the West funneled ridiculous amounts of money to oil exporters, which are predominantly authoritarian nations that don't give a fuck about human rights or Western values. And those nations used the money to gain control over companies and assets in the Western nation. The exact same thing can be said about outsourcing manufacturing to China and them using the money to buy Western companies and real estate.

So, what am I missing here? How on Earth was this a good idea?


[0] - a polish one, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22310339-wiat-na-rozdro-....

> How on Earth was this a good idea?

On whose time horizon?

If yours is "the next five years", it probably looked pretty good for a solid thirty years or so.

>West funneled ridiculous amounts of money to oil exporters, which are predominantly authoritarian nations

The countries in question are authoritarian specifically because of the single dominant source of income (the oil exports). A specialized economy that relies on foreign sales is pretty easy to put under governmental control - and the arrangement is also convenient for the buyer. For non-authoritarian setup, you want diversified economy that's largely self-sufficient and trade-balanced; in such economy the government is mostly just an arbiter between roughly equal businesses and consumers.

>outsourcing manufacturing to China and them using the money to buy Western companies and real estate

The single biggest failure of the several recent US administrations: allowing the Chinese supply chain to become dominant; even "too big to fail". So big that there's a persistent narrative "we can't tariff chinese imports because it would hit the US consumers hard.". It is indeed similar to how the problem of oil imports used to be[1].

There's no fixing it other than slowly but surely shifting the bulk of imports away from China and towards multiple alternative sources[2]. Once there are several major sources of import competing[3], putting a tariff or two on China won't move the prices all that much, thus making the tariffs a practical tool of trade negotiations again.


[1] big props up to both Obama and Trump for helping domestic US oil extraction expand & provide a counterbalance to the foreign exports

[2] India is a particularly good candidate for a major trading partner, with compatible culture, existing economic ties, and already growing industry

[3] diversity

I'd say the latter, and "the bet" was used as an after the fact excuse.

That came after China was addmitted in the WTO. I think the West made that precise bet when they admitted China, market forces did the rest.

> Clinton began his term believing that trade sanctions could pressure China to improve human rights conditions. But after a year of debilitating debate, he was forced to reverse his policy of link- ing trade to human rights. >He was right to do so. By continuing to grant MFN to China, Clinton will help advance the $38 billion trading relationship which the U.S. now enjoys with the world's fastest growing economy. Moreover, by increasing prosperity in China through greater trade, the U.S. can help to create the economic freedoms that are the foundation upon which political freedom will someday emerge.


>Clinton began to end this spectacle of confusion last week when he decided to renew MFN almost with- out condition. Perhaps the most important aspect of his decision is philosophical; the President has now adopted the view that trade relations must be separated from U.S. political goals with China. Moreover, he has endorsed the view that increased U.S.-China trade can promote economic freedoms, which in the long run will spur the growth of political freedoms in China.


>This step alone will help to reassure Asian friends and adversaries that Clinton plans to get a better grip on foreign policy.


>Now that Clinton has reversed his policy, he should move quickly to exact a price-of Beijing's cooperation in two areas of critical concern to the U.S. They are:

* Ending North Korea's nuclear threat...

* Better treatment for Hong Kong and Taiwan...


https://www.heritage.org/report/the-collapse-clintons-china-... June 3, 1994

> China has embraced the technical aspects of Western society but it looks dangerously like it will carry them with an authoritarian philosophy.

How about tweak the thinking a bit: What's in there for China to totally embraced democracy? Will it become an advantage for the country (Or the leading elites at least), guaranteed? What if the change has failed and lead to something worse?

There are risk factors, and people don't like to take risks. Which is why societal changes are more likely to occur during crisis and disasters, because people simply have nothing to lose anymore.

For CCP, the "Take half the cake" approach is less risky for them, so they did that, and now everybody see what's happened after.

Is your argument that adopting democracy and the rule of law are risky to elites and the ruling party? Well, yeah - that’s sort of self-evidently true.

> How about tweak the thinking a bit: What's in there for China to totally embraced democracy?

Tweak your thinking a bit: the advantage would ultimately be to the anonymous Chinese citizen 50 years from now who wants to vote, express an opinion, join a social group, participate in a religion, petition their government for redress, etc.

> Is your argument that adopting democracy and the rule of law are risky to elites and the ruling party?

No, just trying to explain why China does not go all-in and jump to the democracy train.

CCP apparently don't want to build something (Institution of democracy for example) that will later overthrow them (too risky, even maybe there is something good in it), and elites are bounded with CCP (That's why many of them are allowed to be elites). For CCP, "Without the CCP, There Would Be No New China"[0] is still the safest approach to any domestic problems.

Also, the westerners did not bring democracy into China, so Chinese people are not necessarily benefited from the western democracy. No benefit, no motive.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Without_the_Communist_Party,_T...

I am less pessimistic than you, I just think it will take more time. With the economic prosperity brought by capitalism, a large middle class is appearing in China. And I think ultimately this middle class is what will push for more democracy.

But it takes time for that middle class to form, to reach critical size, and for it to propagate through the senior ranks of the regime. It might happen in 15-20 years.

I'm not sure about this at this point. The way I see it, wealth and prosperity allows liberal values to grow, but does not force them. It's possible there will be a change from within, but it's also possible that Chinese citizens will make a society that's free and liberal for them but not for everyone else. I think it's a matter of what cultural values are allowed to develop, and their government has ample tools to influence that.

> it's also possible that Chinese citizens will make a society that's free and liberal for them but not for everyone else.

In the short term, probably, but change takes time. It took 90 years for the US to ban slavery and another 100 for minorities to officially be equal in the eyes of the law.

And they'll wind up like the American middle class, paupered by the corporate/government back pocket usurpation of process in pursuit of profit and control.

If I could take a time machine back to stop one influential person, it would be James M. Buchanan. Tracing the rise of 'corporations should be unfettered to operate as they wish' thinking back to him, is an interesting exercise.

> English Common Law system combined with separation of power is the greatest accomplishment of the Anglosphere

An extremely weird statement considering the trias politica hails from France and a vast bulk of legal scholars considers civil law superior to common law.

> The West gambled that economic prosperity would usher in an age of Chinese liberty, if not actual democracy

Early on, not without reason. The outcome of the Cold War seems to be to the democratic-capitalist West's favor. It seems to me that as we move closer to contemporary times, this ideological component starts to take a backseat as businesses grew increasingly reliant on China's affordable export economy.

>I was removed from a company I founded (after Blizzard) for refusing to take a 2 million dollar kickback bribe to take an investment from China

Resisting that takes strength. $2m to take more money and keep quiet? I'd probably quit in shame or be fired eventually, but that's life-changing money.

I do wonder if we could take some amount of money from China and simply not give them what they ask for though when they start making demands, or giving them the run-around.

Well, from people who worked with him they said he was frequently absent and a bad leader. He is also blamed for much of their financial troubles for wanting to frequently change direction.


Additionally, the company took Chinese money 3 years prior to him being fired. Red 5 Studios was majority owned by The9 (a Chinese company) early 2010. Prior to being bought out they closed one office and fired about 30 people. So, I kinda doubt he was removed solely "for refusing to take an investment from china". Especially, when they were already owned by a Chinese company.

I was disappointed to find out that the ex-WOW developer in the title was Mark Kern. Sometimes the messenger can undermine the message. Reading his Twitter thread seemed like he is rewriting history. He took The9's money after spending the VC money (Benchmark, Sierra) he had raised originally and not being even close to releasing the game. I'm not sure who he refused a bribe from later (or maybe he meant that he refused to give a bribe to someone?), but he brought The9 to begin with.


It's a counter point from a valid source, that at best complicates Mark Kern's claim. How is that trolling?

Or perhaps he already had enough money that it wasn't that life-changing for him.

This is also next level Streisand effect. I would have never heard of any of all this, if Blizzard had just ignorred the player. Now its on HN a bunch of times, on my twitter timeline etc.

So true! I have 0 visibility into the Hearhstone world, but now I've canceled my pre-orders and my WoW account.

I've read elsewhere that such move might be deliberate, by complying to Chinese demands, but also drawing a lot of attention to the situation.

Not really. Presumably it was already big news in Asia.

My wife heard about it, and she doesn't follow any gaming at all. She said that writers and beauty bloggers she follows on twitter were talking about it. US politicians from both sides of the isle were criticizing Blizzard as well. Blizzard made it a big deal everywhere.

Right, but ostensibly Blizzard's main reason for this sanction was to protect its business interests in China. The parent commenter suggests that if Blizzard just "ignored" it, the issue would go away, as if Chinese censors and the mainland public hadn't already taken notice.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_XJxqnxzaY has to be the most clever means for the creative class to fight back. Reminds me of cultural jammers of the 90s.

I'm not sure if it was as prevalent in other games (WoW et al), but the cutthroat, zero-sum nature of Eve Online produced a ridiculous volume of user-made, pro-group propaganda videos.

Goonswarm was especially famous for it.

All versions of "People sitting on the sidelines outnumber people with an opinion, so it's more productive to sway them to your cause than your enemy."

That was very well made and the spirt of democracy is a nice touch.

> It’s one thing to keep politics out of games, which I am still a proponent of doing. It’s another to unfairly and harshly punish voices that speak out against corruption, against abuses of human rights, and freedom.

What does he mean by this tweet? It seems somewhat contradictory. I assume he means that he's against Blitzchung bringing up politics, but he's more against Blizzard's punishment? Seems like he wants to have his cake and eat it too. Not sure how you can prevent politics in gaming without creating and enforcing rules to prevent politics in gaming, which is what Blizzard has done here.

Kern is consistently against art daring to have a political message. Or he doesn't think games are art. It's never been clear. But his stance effectively reduces to that games should never present a moral (what he calls "political") challenge, no matter how anodyne, to a player, and he's consistently legitimated the idea that these moral challenges include "a game, somewhere, is not explicitly made for a majority-straight, majority-white, majority-male audience."

That Kern is on the side of decency on this particular issue is to his credit; he spends most of his time on Twitter contributing to the open-sewer effect. In the calculus he has exhibited since contributing to the original flare-up of "ethics in game journalism" he's made it pretty clear that Call of Duty "oo-rah" and carting out the drone strikes is apolitical but a game focusing on a homosexual relationship is political (because such a game "shoves it in the face" of that majority audience by dint of its existence), so make of it what you will.

There's politics, and there's politics. There's a difference between discussing whatever the US President blurted out on Twitter today, discussing whatever gaffe some local politician made, discussing which party is better and why, whether a group is pushing it too far, and then "abuses of human rights and freedom". The difference has a bit of "you'll know it when you see it" flavor to it. I think that in this light, he sees the issue of Hong Kong not as "politics", but as the real deal, an issue of more fundamental values and freedoms.

I've recently noticed that some people don't see the difference between "types" of politics. I don't understand why. To me, the difference has always been obvious. Some politics are about really important issues. Most of it is bullshit, just something that makes people with nothing better to do to jump at each other's throats. People have been creating "safe spaces" shielded from the latter for ages. The concept of not talking about the bullshit politics and religion at the dinner table is quite old.

Yeah, advocating for human rights isn't a political issue. To claim "I don't want politics in my games" is a cop out to ignore having to deal with/learn/understand what's going on.

If someone just doesn't care, OK, but don't hide behind "I don't want to talk about politics". This isn't politics. This is life.

It means that is in favor of keeping a game's content apolitical, while he supports free speech and calling out corruption in the gaming scene. The former is a long standing debate point in the gaming community sparked by developers of many high profile games with clear political messages saying that their games are not political. The other is the current situation with Blizzard and NBA.

>Seems like he wants to have his cake and eat it too

Your premise only makes any sense in an utterly black and white world.

There are many different levels of enforcement. Blizzard could’ve sent Blitzchung a note pointing out their significant Chinese audience and asked him to refrain from such comments in the future during Blizzard events.

I'm pretty confident he means keeping politics out of games' content.

Or (remembering older tweets from him), keeping out political content/messages that might appear too blatant, preachy or out-of-place in the context of the game.

With the caveat that his idea of "preachy" or "out of place" is existing, sure.

There is a mendacious and regressive strain of insecurity amongst game consumers these days where being expected to countenance the existence of those unlike them in their entertainment--when that Other doesn't just exist to be killed anyway--is an attack on that consumer, and Kern has done a lot to feed that tire fire.

I read this bit as an emphasis on the unfair punishment. It's one thing for Blizzard to disqualify and ban Blitzchung. It's another thing to withhold his winnings and fire the two event commentators who let Blitzchung make his statement.

Is it safe to assume those same bribes to game studios and gaming journalists have likely also been applied to Software start ups and tech journalists?

blizzard hasn't made a good game for about 15 years now. When I was kid Blizzard produced games like warcraft 2 and Diablo. That all ended when they discovered the cash cow of mmorpg. The last unequivocally old blizzard quality game was frozen throne.

People have a tendency to remember games from their childhood more favorably. World of Warcraft and StarCraft 2 were very high quality games. Obviously the business model had to change, we don't live in the 90's shareware world anymore.

> we don't live in the 90's shareware world anymore.

We do more than any other time since the 1990s; the modern F2P + IAP model is pretty much exactly a resurrection of the 1990s shareware model taking full advantage of low-friction online payments.

The difference being the Shareware was much less obnoxious - you got the first act of Doom or Wolfenstein, and it was fully functional, you could enjoy it as much as you liked, the only impetus was to get more via shareware - modern F2P means that your experience is always hampered - even what you do experience is less than what it could be. Doom E1M1 was complete - you couldn't make the experience better by paying money, but there's always that XP potion or better item in a F2P model.

I disagree, there's often no "full version" of these free to play games to buy. There are a few developers that do the in app purchases to unlock the full version, and it seemed to a more popular business model in the early days of mobile app stores, but now they seem to be drowned in a sea of games that rely on an unending stream of in app purchases that incrementally move you forward.

They're also both 10-15 years old!

Shut up youngster! Oh god we're so old...

Overwatch is a fantastic game.

um, have you heard of Starcraft 2?

Quality-wise SC2 was a huge disappointment for many of us.

"At this point, as had been hinted in the last two games, StarCraft’s story has morphed from “war between nuanced characters with their own motives and feelings” to “good heroes vs. evil demons,” which is a real shame."


>If you have been living in a supply depot for the past 20 years and have never heard of StarCraft, here’s a brief explanation: This is a real-time strategy game, with a top-down perspective.

SC2 actually has an isometric perspective but I wouldn't expect Jason Schreier, of all people, to know the difference.

Kern is an unhinged, extreme right whackjob so I would take anything he claims with a grain of salt regardless of your feelings on Hong Kong or Activision Blizzard.

I am certain nobody will agree with my opinion, but I will share it anyway.

This sounds to me like a design problem. If you don't want to risk someone expressing an opinion, then give them a drop down of things they can choose from to say. "zug zug" "LokTar O'Gar!"

If you want a social platform where people can express opinions, then keep that thing distanced far away from anything where money, competition, politics, etc... are involved. People will do what people can do. In this circumstance, humans were set up for failure and they will fail again. Keep the social platform identifiable names away from names used in a competition.

And yet the International Postal Union still considers China a developing country so we all subsidise their shipping.

What counts as a developed country if it isn’t giant pools of money that every corporation around the world wants to be involved in?

The writer of the thread opened my eyes to an entire new perspective on the world. History, philosophy, humanity...

Much more than about a video game...


It's important for those with a large following to speak out on these topics too. Not everyone has to be in the streets protesting. Some people can use their influence and following to spread the message further than it would otherwise. He used his platform to speak out, at risk of harming his livelihood and ability to do business in China. Meanwhile, you've done even less. Don't be a hypocrite.

I don’t care about Hong Kong. It’s their business to deal with. Some people can influence, not him. So the guy lives in US and “spoke out” to his audience to lose “an ability to do business in China”, yeah sure. I don’t see how this makes me a hypocrite though.

He influenced me, and others too based off the replies to his message. Why are you so upset about someone speaking out against injustice?

I'm not upset, I see this as "seeking an attention from an audience". And speaking will not change anything only taking actions which are not "I declined subscription to a game and made the world know about it". People in the Hong Kong are clearly taking actions against injustice and not the ones who sitting at home and tweeting about it. It's just how I see it and it's my opinion. Such events could happen with any public company which make a living from international deals and their business could lose money. Blizzard didn't even make it clear on what they think about those injustices and people already taking sides. This is just a consequences of taking an action to protect their business.

Your comment is even cuter.

For some reason, gamers appear to care about Hong Kong but didn't bat an eye when other gaming companies shut their servers down in Syria/Iran in order to comply with the U.S..

If a large portion of Blizzard's players hadn't been Chinese they wouldn't have reacted that way. So to me, Blizzard is the victim here, they were put in a lose-lose situation.

Regardless, I don't see how a company refusing to have its events politicized is considered so bad.

If people are so adamant about sticking it to China, they should boycott their actual products instead.

Because China dictating what can and can't be done affects them, the Syria/Iran embargo didn't.

I dont think Blizzard are in a lose position at all, they've already made a ton of money. Worst that will happen is the gravy train is a little thinner.

That's why, following the very-broken "vote with your wallet" mentality, I'm asking for a buyer's remorse refund for everything I've ever bought. SC1, brood war, Diablo 2, SC2, Diablo 3.

I don't expect to succeed but it'll be one voice in a chrous, and some $ in some internal "potential lost money" metric an MBA is frantically trying to compute.

I'm genuinely curious: Why do you think the "vote with your wallet" mentality is broken?

A system where power is dictated by a set period of every X years where, for one day, everyone biological person is issued exactly 1 unit of "voting currency" that is equal in value to the 1 unit of "voting currency" every time period before to determine that power shift; is not comparable to a system where biological people and non-biological constructs are continuously exchanging "voting currency" which itself has fluctuating value and can be accumulated such that a "later vote" is often unequal to an "earlier vote" which can lead to highly unequal power concentrated where there is high "voting currency" concentration, and there is never a set time where power is designed to shift.

It's a long winded way of saying "I don't believe the analogy holds up to scrutiny".

Very good point. On the other hand, I'm a somewhat passionate proponent of the mentality because it provides more frequent feedback loops and to me it seems to effect more actionable change in some situations. But you're right, I hadn't thought before that it's inherently much more flawed (read: unfair) than formal voting systems.

In this case: China will always have more money than NBA Fans or gamers.

Very good point, I had failed to make the connection.

If I am not wrong, the situation in Iran/Syria was due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. government, not by censorship demanded by those countries. See the recent situation with Adobe and Venezuela for something similar going on.

Indeed it isn't a fair comparison.

What companies can do about it? They have to comply with trade control laws and we can't boycott companies for complying with the law.

In the other hand probably some pro government Chinese could argue that was incitement or act of encouraging violence. So probably it depends who you are asking.

I think in this case we could argue that Activision Blizzard is an American company and it is obliged to follow U.S. trade laws, but not Chinese laws. A trade embargo is also something that multiple countries agree and abide to, so it can't really be seen as censorship in the same level as Chinese censorship. And while I understand the appeal of the Chinese market, that thirst for profit should not trump values that the company imposes on itself, which in this case are "Every voice matters" and "Think globally". Nor should the company go against the values of the country it belongs to, in this case the democratic values of the U.S..

The interesting thing is this occurred in Taiwan. So the answer of whether China has jurisdiction here is an intensely political question. Heck, you're not even supposed to call it Taiwan - it's Chinese Taipei.

If you have a market in both China and Taiwan, you're getting into politics. There's no way around it.

It's censorship demanded by the U.S. government though.

No, it isn't. It's cessation of economic activity that is demanded.

Are you asking why Americans don’t care about what happens to Iran?

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