As the videogame and esports industry reflects on the controversy over free speech, brought on by Blizzard’s punishment of Hong Kongese Hearthstone players Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai, another company has warned its employees from discussing politics on social media.
As first reported by Hong Kong Free Press, ESL’s co-founder and co-CEO, Ralf Reichert has told over 700 members of staff on Slack not to “actively engage” in discussion about Hong Kong or politics “especially on social media”
“All of your might have heard [about] the political discussions and strikes surrounding the situation in Hong Kong, China,” Reichert said. “ As a global company being active in many countries around the globe, we naturally do abstain from political discussions and setting the best example by living our values. Therefore we would like to suggest to not actively engage in this discussion, especially on social media.”
The directive comes a week after Blizzard banned Blitzchung for shouting “Liberate Hong Kong” during a post-match interview at Grandmasters. Despite originally being banned for a year and having his prize money revoked, Blizzard reconsidered the punishment on October 12, following backlash from the gaming community.
Riot Games also issued a statement last week after viewers of the League of Legends Worlds Championships believed casters were deliberately abbreviating Hong Hong Attitude to HKA. John Needham, the global head of League of Legends esports, also noted that they wanted to keep the broadcasts “focused on the game, the sport, and the players.”
Fortnite players were also reassured by Epic Games, with the gaming company telling The Verge it “supports everyone’s rights to express their own views on politics and human rights.”
ESL, which was founded in 2000, recently signed a deal with Huya, a Chinese streaming platform, partly owned by Tencent. Despite this, a spokesman for ESL said the statement was simply a “reminder” to staff.
“Mr. Reichert’s internal message on Slack was a reminder to ESL employees about the general social media policies that have been in place for many years; that we do not use ESL’s brand or platform for personal political statements, and to show respect for colleagues with views different than our own,” the spokesman said.