The Video James Corner: A Blizzard in Hong Kong

When games like Pong came out in the early `70s, most people thought video games were designed to be nothing more than a way to pass the time, but just as people develop passions for sports like golf or footy, a competitive drive for gaming amassed over time and now, the video game industry has exploded internationally. The once passive and sheltering pastime of video games has been influenced by the international spotlight and everything that comes with it. What we know as “gaming” has evolved from filling a living room to filling a stadium and is consists of people of all ages and backgrounds.

 

I was first introduced to video games when I was three years old, catching a glimpse of my parents playing Super Mario Bros on their Nintendo system. Little did I know then just how much games would impact my life and how relevant games would become to the outside world. During my childhood, getting paid to play games was a dream that was never expected to become more than just that, but these days people are getting paid to do more than just “play games” and I for one could not be more excited.

 

Today, people can now record videos, commentate matches, visit conventions and compete in competitions all within the broader video games scene. Players from around the globe play video games in front of million of fans to win prizemoney and sponsorships, with games ranging from first person shooters to tactical card games and everything in between. All of this has contributed to an industry that has made more than $1 billion USD this year alone, and everyone is getting in on the action. Hell, even the Bombers have an esports team.

 

While the premise of playing-games-for-money is fascinating, there is a lot more going under the hood than meets the eye. As with most others, the games industry needs sponsorships to help fund projects, and when companies become tied to businesses with political agendas, things tend to get messy. This was the case when Blizzard Entertainment banned a player for showing support for the Hong Kong protests.

 

On October 8, Blizzard banned professional Heartstone player Ng ‘Blitzchung’ Wai Chung after he appeared on an official Heartstone livestream wearing a gas mask and saying “Liberate Hong Kong”. As of right now, Blitzchung’s punishment sees him receiving a one year ban from competing and his removal from the Grandmasters program. While Blizzard CEO J. Allen Brack released a statement saying their decision was “not influenced by their connections to China”, many considered this punishment to stem from Blizzard’s relationship with Tencent, a Chinese company with stock in Blizzard.

 

 

 

 

Discourse surrounding the issue of “politics in games” has always been left as an unresolved debate topic, but the Hong Kong movement has pushed its way out of the gaming sphere and into the eyes of the wider public. College Heartstone players speaking out, a “free Hong Kong” shirt at a basketball game and a fully developed protest at Blizzcon are only a few examples of the people that are continuing to speak out about the issues they care about and showing that issues that involve video games are to be taken seriously.

 

 

It may be hard to wrap your head around how anything relating to video games could have turned into this mess, and trust me, it’s just as hard for me to explain. I’ve been living and breathing games since I was a child and have seen first-hand just how expansive and universal video games can be, but I still struggle to grasp all the drama of the industry and how it might impact for the games I love most. Gaming culture is more than just mashing buttons in front of a screen until you’re told not to, it is an important form of mainstream entertainment that everyone should be paying close attention to. What was once seen as a phase to grow out of has turned into a global culture and enterprise.

 

Tune in next week for another instalment of my column, where I’ll be visiting some of the other incredible corners of the video game industry. Video games are more diverse than ever before, so there has never been a better time to pick up a controller and join in on the conversation.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. James, I recall playing “Pong” on a table-top video game in the Customs House Hotel(Williamstown) in 1981 when i was just 15 years of age. I could not believe how advanced the technology was. A few years later, I cost myself a year of uni by getting addicted to Galaga.

    I know nothing about e-sports – as I suspect do many of my generation – so I am looking forward to your columns.

  2. Henry Ballard says

    Really good read James, in a niche you can really make your own in our day and age. Especially on the Almanac I haven’t seen any gaming content so far, so its all yours to fill us in. :)

    If it fancies you I’d love to learn more about the Australian eSports teams, think it would interest a lot of Almanackers.

    See you at Grad :D

  3. Earl O'Neill says

    Interesting read, James, looking forward to more.

  4. Welcome James. Nice opener.

    Yes, I agree with Henry. I think your column will be instructive especially for tose of us who grew up with the Space INvaders revolution.

    Big admission Smoke.

    I was addicted to multi-ball pinball.

    Looking forward to column 2.

    JTH

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