Aussie Studio Offers To Repay Hearthstone Player’s Revoked Winnings For Supporting Hong Kong

Aussie Studio Offers To Repay Hearthstone Player’s Revoked Winnings For Supporting Hong Kong
Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

With Blizzard banning Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for a year and stripping his prize winnings over the player’s vocal support for Hong Kong during a post-game interview, it was only a matter of time before someone else stepped up. Enter Sydney studio Immutable, the makers of a blockchain-powered collectible card game, and the company pledging to repay all of Blitzchung’s lost winnings.

The studio made the offer through the official Gods Unchained Twitter account overnight, in a move that’s both a good bit of PR and corporate responsibility. The Sydney-based company offered to cover everything Blizzard stripped from Blitzchung for supporting protesters in Hong Kong, as well as providing the Hearthstone player with a ticket into their $742,675 ($US500,000) grand finals.

The company doubled down in further tweets, saying that one of the advantages behind a decentralised model was precisely to ensure players’ assets couldn’t be taken away at the whims of others. “We have built uncensorable items with an open economy and market: even if we disagree with your views, we can’t take away your cards,” the Australian studio said.

The tournament itself will have around 20,000 players competing for cash, so the studio’s invite hasn’t really disadvantaged existing Gods Unchained players or affected the field that much. The blockchain model powering the card game also means that players can resell tournament tickets for cash on a third-party marketplace.

Unsurprisingly, the public response has resulted in a surge of interest in Gods Unchained‘s open beta — which led to a brief server outage. As for Blitzchung, the Sydney studio confirmed to Kotaku Australia that the Hearthstone player has responded to their offer. If he accepts, it probably spells the end of his Hearthstone career. I’ll keep you posted as the story unfolds.


  • Good on them and all, but sheesh, for $4500 this is the best value advertising spend Immutable are ever going to get.

    • This cynical (but probably also accurate) take highlights what Blizzard has already been proven to do: commodifying morality.

      It’s now pretty hard to take Blizzard seriously when they pretend to be a moral company because they’ve just demonstrated that they’re only as moral as they think is profitable.

      “We support Pride!” they’ll say. “Only insofar as it doesn’t hurt your balance sheet,” we now reply. They’re not doing anything challenging, risking profits for the sake of equality… they’re just playing to what’s calculated as popular enough to win them some customers. That’s some slimy, opportunistic bullshit from a slimy, opportunistic company.

      • Exactly, and you can see this with every business out there. It’s only worth having morals if it pays. An optimist would say it’s a way to subvert or influence businesses to make ethical choices, but it’s all bullshit in the end.

      • Having trouble disagreeing with the main thrust of your comment here, but it does seem to me that when it comes to morality there is a difference between legitimate criticism and/or praise of the main protagonist/s, and how cynical we are entitled to be about completely unrelated third parties jumping on a convenient bandwagon.

        Regardless, I certainly don’t begrudge either Blitzchung or Immutable their moment in the sun on this issue. More power to them.

        • /Actionable/ morality, even if it’s just the most cynical of PR moves is a net positive in the world. We’re now seeing the line between actionable morality and barely lip-service morality when it comes to corporate goodwill.

  • Waiting for the Go Fund Me campaign to crop up, we will see if they have the guts not too bend the knee as well.

  • I know this is the cynic within me talking here but I’m feeling a CCP hand here in the whole affair. Can’t be having no democracy in an authoritarian country now can we…

    Good on Immutable for stepping up.

    • China does have a democratic system at all levels of government. It operates like a republic, where local representatives are directly elected to form an assembly, and those assemblies then vote for members of the next tier of assembly above, up to and including the national congress.

      That being said, that’s not the system employed in Hong Kong since the handover in 1997. Initially the system only allowed direct election of twenty seats and the rest were wrapped in a somewhat complicated system intended to protect pro-mainland representation, but this underwent a long series of debates and reform proposals. The last major proposal was in 2014, in which the mainland allowed for universal suffrage in the election of the chief executive and agreed to the development of a new universal suffrage system for the legislative council once the chief executive elections were complete. Those reforms were rejected, and subsequently both mainland officials and consecutive Hong Kong chief executives have de-prioritised democratic development in the region.

      Regarding China’s democratic system, there are definitely arguments to be made that the enormous momentum and influence of the CPC makes it more difficult for non-CPC and dissenting representatives to successfully ascend the ranks, and that’s a whole separate debate that may be worth having (also a problem the United States suffers from thanks to its over-dominant two-party system propped up by non-transferable votes), but a fair assessment of China’s system has to acknowledge that it does operate a representative democratic system that allows non-party candidates, it’s just not a multi-party system.

        • No worries. It’s actually a pretty fascinating system to study, and one we had minimal understanding of until the 90s. You can imagine that with 1.4 billion population, some of the mechanisms that work well with smaller constituencies don’t work so well at such enormous scale. Independently of their efficacy, I’m always interested to learn about different systems of government and the specific problems those systems are designed to try to solve.

      • So basically, in practice, it doesn’t matter? I mean that’s like saying the USSR was democratic. And it ignores the fact that political dissidents are being dragged off to be imprisoned, that their government is still looking towards their social credit system, that they still promote a highly nationalist agenda… the list goes on.

        There’s nothing that adds to a “fair assessment” here. It’s a shitty state, and saying “oh but it’s democratic kinda” doesn’t change that.

        • You can – and should – be able to separate the function of a system of government from the misuse of power by those in charge. The Chinese system is democratic; whatever criticism you have for the Chinese government (of which I have plenty myself), a lack of democracy on the mainland is generally unsubstantiated. Hong Kong is exceptional and doesn’t have proper democratic process.

          • I’m not criticising the system’s intent, I am criticising the reality of it. Democratic government in theory means jack shit if there’s no practical way for it to occur.

            Hence why I said “in practice”.

          • Sure, but you seem to have assumed that I’m hand-waving Chinese government misdeeds because “they’re a democratic system”. My comment was specifically replying to falkirion’s remark that the Chinese government doesn’t want democracy in their authoritarianism, and it’s a pretty broadly held misconception that China rejects democracy.

            I firmly believe that we should criticise based on the things people or groups have done, and not add things in that aren’t actually true. If you were to say “Trump is a racist and compulsive liar”, I’m there. But if you added “and he’s fucking his own daughter”, you’d lose me. I absolutely detest Trump, but for our criticism to have power it has to be based in truth. It’s trivial for a Trump supporter to hear that whole thing and say “well you think he fucks his daughter so the whole thing is wrong”, or for a Chinese partisan to say “well you think China’s not a democracy, so you obviously have no idea about anything to do with China”. It’s much harder to do that when the criticism is all firmly rooted in truth in the first place.

            I hope you can understand, I have a wealth of complaints about the Chinese government of today. Hong Kong is just one, the Uyghurs are another, and of course more. I just think that this is something that precise criticism and pressure; I worry that a scattergun approach that includes misconceptions and feeds fears of racism and ‘us vs them’ tribalism is only going to hurt the cause for change, rather than help it.

          • Saying a non-party member has a chance of being elected in China is like saying an anti-gun pacifist has a chance of being elected to the board of the NRA. In some obscure universe, it could happen, but there’s bugger-all chance of it happening in this one, and they’re gonna get drowned out real fast in the unlikely event that they do. And lets be real, the national people’s congress is essentially a rubber-stamp committee anyway, secondary to the communist party leadership that holds the real power.

          • It’s not as uncommon as people think. Non-CPC candidates get through the nomination process at the local congress level all the time, and even the national congress has a third of its seats reserved for non-CPC members.

            The CPC has majority control of course, but it’s worth remembering that they’re not like a political party in an adversarial system like Westminster. The mindset employed is of collaborative leadership (at all levels) and in that respect they’re about as close to a nonpartisan (ie. zero-party) government as exists today, excepting small countries like Niue and Tuvalu and the like. The CPC has around 91 million members and ideological shifts occur within the party, where in multi-party systems they tend to be external or result in new party formation from splits and the like. In practice, while the single party nature of the system makes ideological shifts slower to take effect, they’re conversely much faster at resolving political and economic shifts.

          • I see what you’re saying but it seems like splitting hairs – it’s clear from the way that the state acts in practice that they’re not interested in actual free, democratic processes. If the system in practice is actually authoritarian (and with the CCP basically the real authority in mainland China, it’s hard to argue otherwise) then saying that they don’t reject democracy because there are some elections that don’t really matter that much is probably pointless.

            It hardly matters that you call yourself a democracy and have elections if there’s no actual, legitimate opposition party.

          • The elections do matter, though. You don’t need a multi-party system to be democratic, as exemplified by Athenian democracy, broadly considered the forefather of all modern democracy. Where a party in a multi-party system is effectively a voting bloc across all issues, the Chinese system has more numerous and more specialised blocs, such that you (A) can vote with bloc {A,B,C} on one issue, but against B and C with {A,D,E} on another issue. In both theory and practice it gives the government the ability to more precisely represent popular opinion instead of packaging a whole set of things, some you might agree with and some you might oppose, into a handful of party-delineated blocs.

            The main tradeoff in the Chinese system is this: they gain flexibility and agility to respond rapidly to the changing needs of the country (eg. both their environmental policy and anti-corruption war were adopted incredibly quickly, compared to western countries), but lose the ability to change rapidly to grassroots ideological changes. The system still supports both and objectively can’t prevent a grassroots campaign completely ideologically opposed to the current government, but it takes longer for it to be able to take meaningful effect. You’d never see something like Trump’s election happen in the Chinese system, but you’re also very unlikely to see things like dragging feet on environmental and natural resource policies like we’ve seen both in the US and here in Australia.

          • @zombiejesus None of that matters because any real party exists only because the CCP allows it. Anybody who is elected is ultimately toeing the CCP line. Nobody thinks they’re democratic.

            You seem to be continually rehashing the definition of the system appealing to some fear of being racist or xenophobic. Who cares? They could hold Australian style elections and it wouldn’t mean a thing because the CCP is running the show and any real political dissent will be eliminated.

          • Respectfully, your views of how the Xi-era CPC regard political dissent are overly simplistic and aren’t consistent with current policy and practice. If you’re willing, I recommend reading academic studies from the last 15 years or so on modern Chinese politics and the significant changes under Xi’s tenure, both for better and for worse. If you have time, you should also check out Hu Jintao’s legacy, particularly as contrast for Xi’s.

        • What is your evidence? Western pop culture and pop media reports that you half read? I’m not defending or promoting China but sweeping generalisations (like your one above about “every business out there” – except for Immutable of course which is the crux of this article) don’t an argument make. What I do know is that the majority of Chinese people are genuinely happy with their government and political system, and that is with zero fear of coercion or concern with dissent.

          • it’s easy to be happy with your government and free of fear when the government makes damn sure every single possible critical news article, blog or comment is ruthlessly suppressed to the point where people often disappear when they speak too loudly about it.

        • That’s true in name but not in practice. North Korea’s elections are theatre outwardly resembling democracy, but because the candidate pools are fully determined by the DFRF it essentially undermines the popular vote. They do run multiple candidates per electorate, there’s just no way for anyone not pre-approved to run.

          In contrast, any citizen can be nominated for Chinese elections provided they have as little as three other votes of support. Reduction of the nomination is done as a three-stage process involving the local election committee in collaboration with a representative group of voters within the electorate, both needing to concur with the final selections to present to the electorate for direct public vote.

      • Having more than one party control candidate preselection and allow independents is kinda a big deal though.

        • That’s absolutely an important property of multi-party democratic systems. Party preselection doesn’t exist in the Chinese system though, since candidacy is open to anyone in the electorate. I detailed this a little in another reply above, but essentially local assembly elections accept nominations from anyone with at least three votes of support. That list can be enormous (I remember one example of around 750 candidates nominated for only three positions), so a three-stage collaborative process is then followed between the local election committee (comprising current elected officials in that local assembly) and a representative group of voters from within the electorate.

          This ‘three ups, three downs’ process is effectively the preselection process, but it runs individually and collaboratively between the existing assembly and the voters themselves to narrow the field. It’s not as powerful as a transferable vote system (which I’m quite partial to), but in the absence of parties to reduce the candidate pool it’s not really feasible to send out ballot papers with almost a thousand names on them all in one fell swoop.

          • So elected officials (at any level) technically don’t have to join the CCP? Interesting. In some ways that makes the way China conducts foreign policy even more scary. Still, I’d imagine that the party bureaucracy holds a lot of informal power over the proceedings that is held in check in a multi-party systems.

          • Yes, on both counts. There are elected officials at all levels of Chinese government that are not members of the CPC. The party does also hold significant informal power that doesn’t exist in multi-party systems. That power isn’t total, but contributes to the system’s slow ability to respond to ideological reform.

      • It’s more than just the Communist Party being dominant in China. While they do allow for other parties, the system is set up to ensure domination by the CCP.. They have a fair bit of control over the nomination process, and elected officials can not effectively govern without support of the party. The CCP can also decide which other political parties are allowed to exist, so the end result is that there is no “alternative government” opposition as we’d recognise it in democratic societies.

        • The CPC has no systemic control of the nomination process, the primary mechanism by which they ‘control’ it is momentum. They have sufficient existing numbers in the upper assemblies to make it difficult for strongly dissenting candidates to ascend beyond the mid-tier. This is what I was referring to when I said that ideological reform is much slower to manifest in the Chinese system than in western systems – it can and does happen, but it takes more time to build the necessary voting support in the lower assemblies to be able to push candidates up the chain.

          • That system applies to the appointment of offices and related executive positions amongst already-elected representatives (eg. assigning ministers and task group leaders in Australian politics), and to my understanding isn’t applicable at lower assembly levels. It doesn’t apply to the nomination process for election to the assemblies themselves. It may affect the composition of the election committee if I’ve recalled incorrectly about its applicability to lower tier assemblies, but the safeguard for this is the ‘three ups, three downs’ process which requires three rounds of collaborative agreement from local voters and not just the committee.

          • All that said, let us be realistic. We’re talking of a government that is doing the kind of atrocities that I’m sure you are aware of. If a candidate/party suddenly surged up to the point it could potentially erode even a teensy bit of the hold of the CPC on the government, you don’t think that the CPC would not use their well-documented propaganda arm (in the best scenario, in the worst, the candidates themselves would be disappeared or jailed under false accusations) to put an end to it?

            If a political system allows the reigning party to remain in power through abuse, in spite of all the existing mechanisms meant to allow the people to stop it, the system is broken and insufficient, no matter how technically nice and sophisticated it looks.

          • There are some interesting details that contribute to this being somewhat unique, and in particular different to places like the DPRK. The majority of mainland Chinese are genuinely supportive of both the system of government and its policies. Not coercion or fear like the DPRK, but real support and belief that the government has the country’s and people’s best interests at heart. There’s a widespread belief that foreign criticism of China stems from not understanding the country, which is not untrue in some cases.

            How public opinion has gotten to that point is complex. The Chinese government obviously exerts imperfect control over the flow of information which creates a similarly imperfectly informed public. One problem is a core principle of democracy that everyone has the right to vote, even the uninformed. I apologise in advance for what will undoubtedly sound like whataboutism, but this problem isn’t unique to China, it’s playing out live in the United States as we speak with widespread, voluntary rejection of facts and evidence from people more interested in supporting the current state than the truth. It’s also been playing out in the UK with Brexit, with the same hallmark willing ignorance of the real facts involved.

            Even if China had some kind of adversarial system, there’s enough of a culture of support for government that I don’t think you’d see the popular vote going anywhere other than where it already is. Whether you’re voting for parties or for individuals is somewhat immaterial if whoever is elected still upholds the same policies and principles. I agree with you that there are deficiencies in the system, but I wouldn’t call it broken; at least, no moreso than most alternatives.

          • @zombiejesus

            I get what you’re saying: there’s no need to bend anybody’s arm if propaganda has been so effective that people will happily contort themselves out of shape. It is indeed the same that is happening in the US and the system is not to blame for it. However, that’s why I proposed a hypothetical.

            Allow me to expand it a bit: let’s say that all the boycotting on one hand and the banning by the Chinese government, on the other hand, contribute towards generating malcontent among the new generation of Chinese, who then make a bid to challenge the existing hegemony, either via formal politics or revolution. Do you really think that either effort will be tolerated, being realistic? What good is to have a good system in place if there’s an established tyranny for which the system is but a facade which will be discreetly pulled back to quickly remove anybody attempting to use said system to overthrow the tyranny.

      • Democracy other than in name alone requires a vibrant, pluralistic ecosystem of non-state organisations, a free media and intelligentsia, respect for human rights and a tolerance for and multiple outlets of dissent.

        China has none of these things, and most certainly not if you happen to be Tibetan or Uyghur, even if members of the dominant Han Chinese culture do occasionally have a touch more flexibility within the system.

        For God’s sake, even references to the leader looking a little like Pooh Bear are ruthlessly purged from even casual conversations on social media.

        A system with no literally capacity for self criticism or dissent, that purges any reference to inconvenient history or policy from every single avenue of potential discussion both public and private, can under no circumstance be described as ‘democratic’ regardless of what spin you want to put on the fact that a select few local communities get an occasional token say in which particular individual they most prefer to oppress them.

        • You’re projecting properties of western-style multi-party democracy, as well as independent ethical stances, onto democracy as a whole. Democracy is simply a form of government in which the population has the power to determine its own legislature. There are many types of democracy: direct, representative, republican, socialist, liberal, dozens more. Some include the properties you listed, some adopt them incidentally to the democratic nature of their system, and some don’t.

          Xi Jinping’s behaviour, particularly when it comes to mockery, is not a product of the Chinese system, democratic or otherwise. Xi’s approach to leadership is novel in China: he developed a cult of personality around himself, and use state apparatuses to restrict personal criticism including parody. This didn’t arise because of a lack of democracy, it arose because he was able to apply publicity on top of his electoral support to further enhance his domestic popularity. Trump has done similarly in the United States, and while in both cases the effect is detrimental, in neither case are they indications of a democratic failure in the system.

          The Chinese system has capacity for self criticism and dissent. Xi Jinping’s election itself was a good example of dissent, with his anti-corruption policies, in stark contrast to multiple predecessors, securing him the win. You can argue that it has less capacity than western countries do and I’d agree with you, but black-and-white statements like that are simply untrue.

          This is ultimately the problem when it comes to objectively assessing China. For average people who haven’t researched modern Chinese politics, their systems are not well-understood. The scope and effect of their domestic policies across the spectrum tend to be overlooked and focus placed solely on the stories the media covers. That’s fine because those stories are very important, but they don’t give people a comprehensive view of what the country is like.

          For example, if you don’t know anything about particle acceleration and news reports predominantly warn about the dangers of explosion and micro-black hole creation, you’d be forgiven for thinking particle acceleration was more dangerous than it’s worth. Those news reports aren’t wrong (per se), they’re just not showing you enough of a picture to make sweeping statements like ‘it’s not worth it’. Similarly, coverage of Chinese mistreatment of Uyghurs and reeducation camps, or censorship of Winnie the Pooh references aren’t wrong, and those are absolutely problems, but they’re not broad enough knowledge to make sweeping statements like “China has zero capacity for dissent” or “a select few local communities get an occasional token say in which particular individual they most prefer”, both of which are objectively wrong.

          It’s important to make sure criticism is informed and justified. Seeing a fluffy tail and assuming you’re looking at an angry lion when it turns out it’s an elephant is neither. If you’re not inclined to look at the rest of the picture, as is your right, then it’s better to keep the criticism to things you’ve actually seen. There is mistreatment of Uyghurs; there are reeducation camps; Hong Kong doesn’t have the same democratic freedom even the mainland enjoys. I’m with you on all of these. I’m just not with you on the gaps you’ve filled in yourself.

          • This thread has long passed the prospect of anyone else contributing other than you and I, so I will just say this.

            You’re wrong. Like a lot of the argument I see around here, you make a ludicrous semantic long-form argument based on a dictionary definition of a particular term, wrap it around some straw men and a bunch of things you’ve read on the internet that reinforce your original opinions, then present that opinion as if it’s the one true view of the universe despite it being completely contradicted by thousands of career diplomats, academics and similar professionals.

            As noted elsewhere, you can call North Korea the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but that doesn’t make it one.

            The core features of a democracy include free speech, pluralism, respect for human rights and equality under the law. Any system that does not include these essential features is a democracy in name only. This is a widely accepted definition and one that is hardly negated by some random bloke on a computer gaming blog.

          • You’re welcome to your personal opinion, but it doesn’t really change anything here. I’m confident in the knowledge I have, and acutely know the boundaries beyond which I don’t. I’ve done years of research on China, from ancient to modern era; middle-east and east Asia were my area of expertise when I was working a geopolitical data analysis contract with the DIO. Everything I’ve said is accurate and verifiable, so if you identify what specific claims you want more information on, I’m happy to provide what I can.

            Again, the characteristics you’re describing are properties of western multi-party liberal democracy, not of democracy itself. This is something you can easily verify with dictionaries and encyclopedias:

            – “A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives” – Oxford
            – “Government by the people; a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” – Merriam-Webster
            – “Democracy is a system of government in which people choose their rulers by voting for them in elections.” – Collins
            – “Democracy, literally, rule by the people.” – Britannica
            – “Democracy is a method of governance or decision making for organizations or societies in which the members of that organization or society participate, directly or indirectly, in the decision making of that group.[…] In short, democracy is a system of governance in which members control group decision making.” – Encyclopedia of Sociology

            Case in point, Athenian democracy, the ancestor of all modern democracy and the origin of the term, had none of the traits you describe: no pluralism, no human rights, no legal equality. There’s a reason the term democracy is qualified with prefixes like ‘liberal’ – the base term has a specific and focused definition.

  • I think I’ll have a look at Immutable’s game. They sounds like a much better company than ActivisionChinaBlizzard

  • I hope Immutable are paying their cyber security person cause they’re about to get a visit from Uncle Mao.

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