Actitivision Blizzard isn’t exactly a paragon of morality in the games industry, and critics are now calling out the company’s support for Black Lives Matter protests as hypocritical after the company took a central antagonistic role in the Blitzchung controversy during last year’s similar Hong Kong protests. It’s always raises eyebrows when international conglomerates known for their general lack of moral scruples suddenly latch onto symbols like Blackout Tuesday, but it’s rarer that those calculatedly “safe” PR moves fly directly in the face of a corporation’s recent poor behavior.
Activision Blizzard, the games publisher from the proverbial black lagoon, was on the wrong side of history as recently as late last year when the millions-strong protests against Chinese extradition from Hong Kong were still raging. In addition to silencing and banning pro Hearthstone player Blitzchung for expressing his desire for Hong Kong’s independence on-air, developer Blizzard underscored this flagrant support of human rights abuse in China by actively muzzling other critics of the Chinese government on its online platforms. The company showed its true colors when it somewhat successfully swept the entire deplorable event under the rug by announcing Diablo 4 and issuing a non-apology at BlizzCon 2019.
Now, protests and riots are raging across the US following the gruesome, on-camera murder of black citizen George Floyd by a white police officer, and Americans are vehemently demanding racial justice for their nation both on the streets and online. Activision Blizzard joined many other private individuals and corporations in tweeting their support for the Black Lives Matter movement before taking a day of silence on Blackout Tuesday, powerfully stating, “Today, and always, we support all those who stand against racism and inequality. There is no place for it in our society – or any society. Black lives matter.”
Of course, those familiar with the company’s very recent (and technically ongoing) role in assisting China to brutally put down Hong Kong’s own revolutionary protest movement were quick to pick apart Activision Blizzard’s contradictory stances. A Reddit post on the popular r/gaming subreddit juxtaposed the two events in a simple meme, calling the company’s purported support for the Black Lives Matter protests “hypocrisy at it’s [sic] finest” and garnering well over 100,000 upvotes from like-minded critics. Many are having an easier time recalling Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick hand-waving Blitzchung’s ban away by claiming that the entire gaming industry had no place in politics, a statement he’s probably come to regret.
Whether it be corporate cynicism encouraging the company to exploit a meaningful online protest for self-damaged image repair or a genuine change of heart on the part of Activision Blizzard leadership, their professed support is still likely appreciated by protestors during this time of great crisis. If it feels so inclined, Activision Blizzard has the opportunity right now to prove once and for all that it’s truly learned its lesson in propping up corrupt, violent power structures by throwing around its financial weight and influence to pressure the federal and state governments to stand their police forces down before they escalate things further than they already have.
Much like Blitzchung, those who take a meaningful stand for racial equity in the US won’t come to regret their contributions to the larger protest movement, no matter how large or small their part. It’s Activision Blizzard’s turn to decide if it intends to stand with or against the people whose lives it claims it believes to matter.