One of the biggest controversies in videogames in 2019 revolved around Hearthstone grandmaster Cung "blitzchung" Ng Wai, who was suspended from pro competition for a year and stripped of his winnings after declaring "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" during a post-match interview (opens in new tab). That startlingly harsh punishment was eventually walked back to a six-month suspension (opens in new tab) and no forfeiture of winnings, but it was still an ugly mess that reflected far more poorly on Blizzard than it did on Blitzchung.
In a new interview with People Make Games (opens in new tab), Blitzchung said that his call for freedom wasn't something he'd planned, but rather an in-the-moment reaction to the ongoing street-level protests in the city against Chinese policies.
"That day was a weekend. And our protests, our major protests, usually just goes on the weekend," he explained. "When so many people are protesting out there and I just sit there, playing my tournaments, I just feel kind of bad and I want to do something."
"Gaming is just part of my life, but I want to live in [Hong Kong] for the rest of my life. I really love this place. So I mean, there is something more important than my career."
Blitzchung revealed that he'd taken a semester off from university following the suspension because the stress of being in the spotlight kept him from properly focusing on his studies. But he seemed more concerned for the two casters who were suspended along with him, and whose punishments weren't reduced by Blizzard.
"I was really worried about them as well," he said. "I traveled to Taiwan in November to meet them, and for some other gaming activities. And I meet them, I talk with them. And then I felt better afterwards. One of the casters, he worried more about me than about himself. He just told me that everything is okay and you just need to worry about yourself and everything here in Hong Kong."
Blizzard's decision to reduce his penalty was "kind of fair," he said later in the interview, "but I'd be more happy if they changed the decision on the two casters."
Despite his disappointment in Blizzard's handling of the matter, Blitzchung said that he can understand why it did what it did, and made a very interesting analogy comparing the studio to the city. "To me, Blizzard is like what Hong Kong is like to me right now," he said. "Maybe it's getting worse. But do I hate it? No, I don't hate it."
While the controversy over Blitzchung's treatment was big news in videogame circles, particularly in the West, he said it was a "very small thing" in Hong Kong itself. Still, it was public enough that he admitted he was worried about the potential repercussions of his public outburst: "When you are more well known, you're more dangerous," he said.
Even so, he doesn't regret his actions. "Even if I had a chance to go back, I would still do it," he said. "Because it's a must-do thing. I have to do it."
It's an excellent interview, and deserves to be watched in its entirety: Despite the impulsiveness of the act that started his troubles, Blitzchung comes off as thoughtful, well-spoken, and quietly passionate about the future of Hong Kong throughout. He's set to return to competitive Hearthstone play in April, as a new member of Tempo Storm.