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Overwatch's Mei Is Becoming a Symbol of the Hong Kong Resistance (kotaku.com)
375 points by otikik 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

This is a really smart strategy, and probably much more effective than a simple boycott. If the HK supporters do manage to get Overwatch banned by Chinese censors that will send an incredibly strong message to companies that they risk losing their entire China market if they oppose Hong Kong. However, I worry that the censors are smart enough to understand that this is a ploy.

>I worry that the censors are smart enough to understand that this is a ploy.

If they decide not to ban Overwatch, thinking that this Mei thing is a ploy, HK gets to use a symbol that won't be banned. If they ban Overwatch, they send a message to US companies that complying won't protect them. HK wins either way. The best solution for China would be to instruct Blizzard to release a version of Overwatch that didn't have this character, and if you want my prediction that's what they're going to do.

Wouldn't the protesters simply pick another character to march behind?

The funny part is, if you go by the lore and backstories assigned to each character, the majority of them would support Hong Kong. None of them are (written to be) particularly fond of authoritarianism.

Which is just hilarious that Blizzard's own IP would oppose their decision if they were real people.

or even outside the Overwatch property.

World of Warcraft is filled with characters that'd side with Hong Kong. Probably the most "symbol worthy" being Thrall from a lore standpoint.

Hahaha - the end result would be Blizzard games with only villains

Because none of the villains would support a popular uprising if it gave them the chance to take power in the aftermath, of course...

> Which is just hilarious that Blizzard's own IP would oppose their decision if they were real people.

That is probably the case for 99.9% of all IP worldwide, isn't it? The only exception I can think of is Scrooge McDuck, but very few IP characters are pro-corporatism.

Richie Rich is also pro-corporatism.

> None of them are (written to be) particularly fond of authoritarianism.

I don't think any of the half a dozen or so characters that are part of Talon (the terrorist organisation trying to take over the world) would bat an eyelid

Some of them might, but not for necessarily the same reason others would. Doomfist, for instance, is written as someone that believes in conflict, which doesn't mesh well with authoritarianism.

And Symmetra would probably be on the side of the authorities despite not being in Talon. "The true enemy of humanity is disorder" is her tagline after all.

Username checks out? I do wonder though, doesn't her backstory include something about fighting corruption in India?

> The best solution for China would be to instruct Blizzard to release a version of Overwatch that didn't have this character, and if you want my prediction that's what they're going to do.

Which would amount to ordering a foreign company to remove Chinese representation from a game. (Mei is Chinese, and is the only such character in Overwatch.) So that looks pretty bad, too.

"We regret that our Mei character has been used to promote political opinions. She was always intended to be a neutral and fun character in a video game and not to be used for anyone's political agenda.

It's with a heavy heart that in order to ease tension and restore an healthy and stress-free environment for players from China and other countries we have decided to retire Mei from the rooster.

- Regards, "

They gonna end up out of characters very quickly if they go this way

The protesters should add an Overwatch logo to the top of their Mae posters so the game's whole brand is co-opted.

Long time Overwatch player. Removing mei would be... interesting. It would probably raise awareness of the PR nightmare overall, certainly not be received well, and most likely have a bad outcome for both China and Blizzard. The _irony_ is that Mei's kit is, in a sense, built around "stopping" people from playing and she is frequently referred to as "the devil". Lastly, the game is competitive and very balance sensitive to the point that small changes in single characters can turn them from "never pick" to "must pick every game". The impact is, despite the relatively large number of characters, they are all mentally accounted for in most players minds and not easily removed. Just some thoughts.

I was just wondering about this yesterday. People were noting the reticence by ESPN (owned by Disney) in commenting on the China-NBA drama and assumed it was due to embedded financial interests. Seems like it would be relatively easy to create an association between, say Mickey, and the unrest in Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or something of that nature. And then China is forced to either allow the messaging to exist, or they crackdown and now Disney's interests are less aligned with China's.

I'm very curious to see if this kind of strategy is effective or starts to become commonplace.

I mean, Disney owns Winnie the Pooh.

Semi-related: China completely erased all South Park mentions and media from its internet properties because of their “Band in China” episode. Which of course made me watch it. Highly recommended.

Who has no resemblance to living or fictitious person, especially not Chinese.

It’s not the resemblance. It acted as a stand in given that censors censored the premiers name. They could have used “lightning” or whatever to act as a stand in for the target person.

It’s like if Twitter were to ban the poop emoji, so people use an alternative emoji with no connection except the understanding that it represents the poop emoji and then Twitter banned this emoji and then people come up with another alternative...

Guerilla appropriation.

Leveraging the heavy handed approach of China to pit them against the western companies.

As a second order effect, by getting Overwatch and the likes banned (if that were to happen), maybe create some dissent within China itself, though that's a bit far fetched.

Its bread and games to keep the people happy. So what would be a widely cherished food item in china that could be hijacked for a political message?

I think it might be harder to do with Disney because they’re so diversified. Banning any one franchise is a tiny drop in the bucket for them. Blizzard, though, relies on just a handful of IPs for all its income. Losing one would be a massive hit to its China market.

Does ESPN have a stake in China? Was it's reticence to comment on the NBA controversy because of a potential direct retaliation or was it an indirect threat? China potentially coming down on other Disney companies?

>However, I worry that the censors are smart enough to understand that this is a ploy.

They don't care. Blizzard's well being is none of their concern, their only job is to prop up the party, even if it means genera disdain from the West.

All of these Western companies kowtowing to the Chinese market could pack up and go away and the CCP wouldn't care. They have enough domestic industry to not be bothered.

Saw a comment on Twitter (now lost) that said something along the lines of: remember that the censors are also individuals with a boss, operating in a highly ideological environment.

As the paranoia ramps up expect over-censorship to ramp up too. Not because of official policy but because of individual decisions made by people who don't want to be fired for a too-liberal interpretation of the policy at the wrong time.

It gets smarter. Blizzard has dumped over $100M into Overwatch ESports. Of the 20 teams three are named after Chinese cities: Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. Now imagine if a symbol of Hong Kong freedom is played in any tournament against or for these teams?

Nah, the Chinese government is not a bunch of amateurs. They've been playing the game of censorship for decades, they know how to play it, and they hold more cards than any other player.

Beijing can easily transform the whole lesson to "make sure your company never finds itself in a situation as stupid as Blizzard, or else." I don't like it any more than you do, but that's the reality as far as I can tell.

The censors aren't smart enough to realize that this whole thing with the NBA makes China look like a bunch of five year olds to the rest of the world so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

Do the censors actually have any interest in what he rest of the world thinks? Presumably this is mainly for internal consumption.

How many five-year-olds in power can the world handle and//or survive?

Or if they start using Star Wars/Marvel symbols is China going to ban the next Star Wars/Marvel movie or maybe bleep out "Rebel Alliance" or "Avengers Assemble"?

Good strategy indeed.

Hold on, let me go test it.

Admittedly I know nothing of overwatch, but I would expect blizzard or whoever makes it to change the game/character to accommodate China and avoid association with HK.

They can know that it's a ploy, and still be forced to censor it to maintain their web of official lies, aka "censorship".

What if they just ban that character in the game?

Then the protesters could just switch to the next character, or even better: simply appropriate the Overwatch logo itself as a sign of their movement. Imagine trying to sell a brand in China that's completely associated as a symbol of the HK protests.

Blizzard can't just change that logo either, as it's not only buried everywhere in the game but also used in countless places on the internet, not to mention merchandise, comics, official advertisements etc.

What about Mei is grounds for banning Overwatch in China?

> What about Mei is grounds for banning Overwatch in China?

The title of the article is:

> Overwatch's Mei Is Becoming a Symbol of the Hong Kong Resistance

I have been reading r/hongkong on reddit for the past few months. The hong kong protest will likely go down as one of the smartest protests ever - use of lazers, memes, bluetooth based messaging, etc.

Depends on how it ends, I just can't see any way for them to win. I fear China will just slowly escalate their heavy handedness until nobody is left.

This is the first major, sustained, modern, technology-enabled, urban conflict between central authority and ambient/peripheral/distributed community.

Without benefit of hindsight it's impossible to know, but I'd wager that this is the single most important political event in the world right now.

If the people of Hong Kong can stop the aggressive imperialism of the CCP that will be a guiding light for everybody. Conversely, if the CCP succeeds in crushing HK who else is there to stop them consolidating their power?

Matt Stone and Trey Parker?

Taiwan is next on the list after HK, maybe Vietnam too, and they have militaries. Whatever happens in Hong Kong, everything after that is uphill for China.

That in itself may be considered a victory, depending on how far China is pushed and how they respond. If the rest of the world won't/can't do business with China anymore, that would be bad for China. HK's last ditch objective could end up as goading China into chopping off it's own feet to put down the protestors. A pyrrhic victory for sure, but still a victory in the long run.

That's an optimistic world-view. If they put down the protesters violently, I'm not convinced it would really have an impact more than 6 months out. Maybe I'm too cynical, but honestly, there don't really seem to be any negative long-term repercussions for bad actors in today's world.

A HK crack down would be flash point which would force the hand of many countries. European nations such as Germany have been trying to avoid taking sides in order to preserve market access. Thus far the CCP have succeeded in gradually degrading free societies ability to speak ill of them. A HK crack down would force all who believe in liberal values to grow a spine.

I hope so. I just don't see how relations wouldn't be slowly normalized again within a year. I've seen very few lasting measures for bad actors. Even Russia, which was responsible for the downing of MH17 killing 193 Dutch citizens, is a major trading partner of the Netherlands.

This still makes me angry and I don't know what I can do about it.

or show complete geopolitical weakness. I am hoping for the spine growth.

It pushes innovators out, which is strategically problematic long-term. If you were an innovator, would that be the kind of environment you'd want to stay in?

it pushes innovators out only in the short term

How is an oppressive and/or corrupt environment any more welcoming to innovators in a longer time horizon?

It is already oppressive and corrupt today, yet it has no problem attracting as many "innovators" as it needs to. The only thing that may be unwelcoming are local instabilities like the hong kong stuff.

that happened at least once before: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Tiananmen_Square_protests - next 30 years weren't exactly bad for China.

sounds very interesting! is there any compiled list that summarizes the protester's technological countermeasures, how these steps circumvented previous regulations and how the government responded to interfere with those novel approaches?

HK should just do the same with Xi and make him a symbol of HK resistance, just like they're doing with Mei.

Maybe Chinese censors will then ban Xi.

Haha, clever. I have the same thought.

Lets hope she doesn't get banned from the game /s

This prompted a thought: did Blizzard take the action they did because China threatened to withdraw its players from the Overwatch League? That would kill entire teams in that esport, and be much more visible than merely losing ordinary players.

There's only one Chinese-majority team (which, oddly enough, also has the only Taiwanese player). In total it's probably less than a dozen players.

It’s to sell their east-Asian inspired loot box games to Chinese users. Blizzard has been learning from Chinese and Korean gaming companies and how they skirt gambling laws and want into that market

Incoming subtle nerfs (or buffs to other characters) to shift the meta away from any usage so there's no controversy, no chance of anything Mei being used in a tournament.

Internet can easily turn another character to the next symbol XD

Lot of people don’t understand is that it’s not Chinese government vs Hong Kong public but Chinese mainland public vs Hong Kong public. The easiest solution for Chinese mainland public would be also create fan art for Mei to claim Hong Kong will always be part of China and fighting against all the rioters in Hong Kong. Billizard wouldn’t need to do anything at this point and Mei will become a hero image in mainland China as well.

Ignorant westerner here. Is this a recognizable symbol to Hong Kong residents in general, or only to the much smaller gaming subculture (assuming that it is, in fact, much smaller)? I mean, I know e-Sports is much bigger in the east, but is it that much bigger relative to the populace as a whole?

Wow, then the internet just take whatever famous symbol in China and turns it to HongKong symbol, China have to ban it all. Haha. First is the Winnie the pool, then Mei, what's next?

In all likelihood, Blizzard will probably increase in game moderation to eliminate this kind of messaging.

How would that help? Winnie the Pooh could have had all the in-cartoon moderation it wanted and it's still mocking Xi.

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