Before gamers descend on Activision-Blizzard’s annual conference, BlizzCon, to protest their censorship of political speech and free expression, they are planning an online day of action. On October 29, activists & gamers will launch an all-out campaign to demand game developers & BlizzCon sponsors take a stand and state that they will not participate in authoritarian censorship. It’s a way for everyone to protest, even if they can’t show up outside BlizzCon.
Info about the online day of action is here: https://www.gamersforfreedom.com/#online
GamersForFreedom.com includes a scorecard to keep track of which companies have publicly pledged to not censor players the way Blizzard did, and which companies may already be caving to pressure from authoritarian governments. Companies including Epic Games and Immutable have made statements confirming they support free expression. In a statement to The Verge, an Epic spokesperson said that "Epic supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights. We wouldn’t ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics."
Three days before the BlizzCon protests, gamers will storm the internet to demand the same courage from others in the industry, using the #GamersForFreedom hashtag.
"Many people have reached out saying they want to do more, but cannot make it to the protests in Anaheim. Now, they can. We’re calling on every gamer to tweet and email their favorite developers, pros, and event sponsors. We’re calling on artists to send us art of their favorite characters supporting the protest. We’re calling on sponsors to pull out. And most of all, we’re calling on game developers to speak out in solidarity," said Dayton Young, Product Director at Fight for the Future, (pronouns he/him). "Game developers have been mysteriously silent, despite the blowback from BlizzCon’s censorship being the talk of the industry. Silence is complicity, and they need to see that this isn’t just going to go away."
Meanwhile, with their social media overrun by #FreeHongKong comments, Blizzard broke 19 days of silence to announced their schedule Tuesday, with a significant portion of panel programming marked as "Coming Soon!" only days from the event. Current sponsors of the event include Facebook, T-Mobile, Coca Cola, Intel, Nvidia, Samsung, Cisco, HyperX, Corsair, MSI, & ESPN.
Protest organizing has only intensified after Blizzard issued a statement where it attempted to quell backlash by reducing its punishment of Hong Kong-based professional gamer Blitzchung, but doubled down on it’s absurd policy that bans all forms of political speech and free expression.
Fight for the Future is calling for the protests to be nonviolent and creative, encouraging participants to show up with umbrellas, in relevant costumes, and with signs and banners focused on free expression for all. The group is crowdfunding to support the protests.
"Decisions about how to moderate online speech are some of the most important decisions of our generation, and have profound implications for the future of humanity. Companies should not be making these decisions under pressure from ANY government, whether it’s China, the US, or the UK," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), "Blizzard’s attempt to quell this controversy is cowardly and it’s only going to backfire. This is not just about Blitzchung or Hong Kong –– they need to make a clear commitment to not act as the speech police on behalf of governments in general. A blanket ban on all political speech is inherently at odds with basic free expression. It’s taking sides with the status quo, and those who wish to suppress free speech. How you determine what is "political" is a political decision in and of itself."
"Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it," she added. "They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they’ve unleashed. We’re going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated."
Fight for the Future is coordinating with gamers and activists in a Discord channel and across social media, where game fans from around the world have been voicing their outrage at Blizzard and planning their own creative protests for BlizzCon. More updates to come.