Veteran software developer Mark Kern, who served as a Team Lead for Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, published a long, sad thread to Twitter on Tuesday, calling out the company’s decisions — and their Chinese investor, Tencent.
“This hurts,” Kern began the 14-tweet message to his over 71,000 followers. “But until Blizzard reverses their decision on @blitzchungHS I am giving up playing Classic [World of Warcraft], which I helped make and helped convince Blizzard to relaunch.”
This hurts. But until Blizzard reverses their decision on @blitzchungHS I am giving up playing Classic WoW, which I helped make and helped convince Blizzard to relaunch. There will be no Mark of Kern guild after all.
Let me explain why I am #BoycottBlizzard
— Mark Kern (@Grummz) October 9, 2019
In the messages that followed, the ethnically Chinese original World of Warcraft developer laid out his reason for joining the Blizzard boycott. He said that he “watched China slowly take over as the dominant investing force in gaming and movies over the years,” citing U.S. reluctance to invest in the gaming industry as the reason why China has gained “unprecedented influence” over entertainment media.
Kern also spoke publicly for the first time regarding a “2 million dollar kickback bribe to take an investment from China” he claimed to have refused just before “removed from a company I founded (after Blizzard).” He further said that he has witnessed other “American company reps in China [offered] similar bribes to get licenses for large AAA titles.”
His conclusion was bleak:
…We are in a situation where unlimited Communist money dictates our American values. We censor our games for China, we censor our movies for China. Now, game companies are silencing voices for freedom and democracy. China is dictating that the world be authoritarian.
“But enough is enough,” Kern said. “I stand with Hong Kong, and I oppose Blizzard’s obvious and laughably transparent fear of China,” calling for the entertainment behemoth to “grow the spine it used to have.” Unfortunately, that possibility seems remote for the video game corporation.
Kern is not alone. In fact, even a few brave current employees of the company, which is partially owned by Chinese entertainment company Tencent, have decided to take a stand. Less than 24 hours after unidentified personnel reportedly covered the “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters” from a corporate display at the company’s offices, a small group of employees held an “umbrella protest” in support of the Hong Kong protesters.
A picture of the protest, uploaded to image site “imgur” was posted to the r/Hearthstone fan subreddit, after Blizzard shut down their own official community on popular content aggregation platform Reddit. While Blizzard later brought r/Blizzard back online, moderators restricted all discussion of the “Blitzchung” controversy to a single thread.
Support for the protesters among commenters on the r/Hearthstone thread was immediate and vociferous. “I fully respect this,” user “isthisdutch” proclaimed on the top-voted comment. “Standing up against the company which pays your bills takes some serious courage. It’s important you do this. Thank you for stepping up.”
Among those comments were words from those even closer to the situation. “I would like to express a heart-felt thank you from Hong Kong,” said one commenter. “I wish everyone who believes in freedom and democracy can live without fear and exercise their freedom of speech.”