Blizzard just announced the firing of two casters after they allowed a player in a major Hearthstone tournament to express his support for the people of Hong Kong in their struggle for autonomy. The player was also kicked out of the competition and stripped of his earnings. The company’s stated reason behind the move is that “[the player’s statement] damages Blizzard’s image.”
I’m not going to pretend I have anything but distaste towards corporate politicking and the increasingly difficult balancing act that many software and entertainment companies have to do when attempting to appease both the Chinese and Western markets. I’m not going to pretend to have anything but sympathy towards the player and on-air talent who were stripped of their jobs for speaking out (or in the casters’ case, giving a brief platform to someone campaigning) against the violation of human rights and dignity. But what you have to understand when navigating the endless stream of news regarding any single decision made by a corporation with regards to social or political issues, is that corporations have one goal, and one goal only, and that is the pursuit of profit at all costs. There is no such thing as corporate ethics when chasing greenbacks is the one true purpose of a private entity’s existence, and bearing that in mind, Blizzard’s call is the right one. Game theory would dictate that failing to comply with China’s demands is a moronic move that could lead to the worst possible outcome of all. Irrationality, or what us pesky humans see as common decency and respect for the life and well-being of our fellow man, has no place in the economics of endless expansion. And thus is comes to be that appearances are shed and all pretenses to support for progressive causes are rubbished.
Of course this is all going to cause a bit of a stir – the focus of global media is honed in on Hong Kong and everything that is evenly slightly connected to the movement in the enclave will also make headlines by association. There’s going to be talk of Blizzard’s immorality and how the once-loved company behind World of Warcraft grew into a monster of a multinational corporation that seems to be fueled almost entirely by greed. A point that must be emphasized, though, is that there is no such thing as a corporation ‘becoming’ greedy, or aggressive, or reactionary, or unethical. These are all characteristics that are an inextricable part of corporate nature. If there is one scenario where the common right-wing buzz term ‘virtue signal’ can be used fully and without fail, it is in the case of private entities supporting political or social causes and standing up for anything that is not strictly related to their business. Companies like Coca-Cola, H&M and Samsung aren’t champions of the LGBTQ community, or gender equality, or human rights. They’re unimaginably complex economic organisms run by opportunists who see the superstructure of society as a series of potential inhibitors for increased year-end earnings. If the public opinion were to suddenly shift, and, say, hunting queer folk became the norm, you can bet your life savings that not a single corporation would stand up for those prosecuted. Indeed, they’d probably happily fund the death squads as they’ve done before in various Third World countries. But all is well as long as we get a brief, negligible increase in our overall living standards, right?