The last week has been a landslide of exposure on how commercial sausage is made when American companies do business with China. Both the NBA and Blizzard made massive concessions to the second largest economy in the world with little to no thought as to how this craven ass-kissing would play with their Western consumer base. Get used to it, as a gamer you’ll be seeing this a lot more.
While I don’t watch the NBA unless I’m in a bar with it showing on TV, I do play a lot of video games. Gamers are more exposed to people from other parts of the world than most people: we log into online communities daily and encounter other players from everywhere. This, along with the global nature of most video game publishers means that what we encounter may be the result of another country’s set of rules- the most restrictive and oppressive being China.
Tencent Games is the world’s largest publisher, creating games for the massive Chinese market and owns pieces of many more developers. It also works with outside publishing houses to ensure that content is kosher for the delicate Chinese audience. This includes removing material deemed offensive from games and localization. Like Fortnite, WoW or League of Legends? Guess what: the content for your region is probably being tampered with to conform to Chinese standards. As of 2019, Tencent also owns 5% of Ubisoft so the next Assassin’s Creed may soon have less assassinating and more games that reward you for applause for Xi Jinping.
Pressure from Tencent, partial owner of Blizzard, is most likely what led to the recent suspension of Hearthstone player Blitzchung, who at the end of his winning match said Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age. This statement got him suspended for a year and Blizzard revoked his cash prize stating that he had broken their code of conduct. If you want to know more about this, Kotaku has done a great job covering the controversy. The decision was ultimately reversed with the prize money being restored and the suspension shortened but not revoked.
While this seems like another product of the outrage cycle in which we currently reside, it actually isn’t. This is a legitimate threat to any person who values rule of law and our generally robust system of free and open debate. Hong Kong has come into focus as the best representation to date of what will happen if we allow China, and their mouthpieces, to dictate how we should respond to relatively harmless statements we may or may not agree with.
Hong Kong is not a surprising place to lead a front against Chinese oppression. Its role as a major way-station for firms hoping to make their way into an incredibly lucrative but restrictive Chinese market has allowed the city to expand rapidly and attract investment. It is an incredibly expensive place to live and economic equality has been increasing since the handover from Britain in 1997.
During the first years after the handover, the local Hong Kong population would look at their poor neighbors in China as provincial and backwards but as the years progressed, the Chinese amassed more wealth and began buying investment property in Hong Kong. This has made property increasingly and prohibitively expensive for locals and renders the idea of owning an apartment almost impossible. Add to this class struggle the prospect of decreasing press freedoms, a general unravelling of judicial norms and the increasing restriction on free speech and you can see why the tension has given way to months of sometimes violent protests.
In order to save face, China likes to blame foreign influences for this uprising, as it does for most of its historical problems. This time, the CIA and British Intelligence are behind the protesters actions. Joseph Tsai, Alibaba billionaire and one of the first to rush to kiss China’s ass, dismissed any criticism by saying that foreigners couldn’t possibly understand the hurt experienced by the 1.4 billion citizens of China and that this pain was caused by historic injustices heaped upon the helpless Chinese by foreign governments.
Tsai, who is Taiwanese, should be the first to understand that China’s economic problems existed long before the arrival of opportunistic foreign forces and were exacerbated by the Cultural Revolution, killing millions and throwing the rest into degrading poverty. This historical fact is conveniently whitewashed in Chinese textbooks and glossed over by the government at large.
I’m not a fan of the US or American foreign policy. I haven’t live there in over a decade and I think that the current administration is run by a baboon. The fact remains, however, that I can freely say this and that is what the people of Hong Kong are fighting for. Don’t buy into Chinese propaganda and state sanctioned trolls saying that you don’t understand what’s going on- if you are able to read this now, you can comprehend what’s happening fully.