“Why yes, money IS more important than people.”

 

Wow, what a week it’s been, huh?

For those not in the know, Blizzard Entertainment banned Hearthstone player Blitzchung and two casters over the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong.”

Here’s the video in question if you wish to watch it:

To be honest, after much of what I’ve been reading about Activision-Blizzard, from the devil horn headed CEO Bobby Kotick to the company earlier this year laying off nearly a thousand people in order to prop up the profit of shareholders, Blizzard banning a game player for making a political statement is of no surprise to me. After all, Activision-Blizzard has shown its number one priority is the money it makes.

However, what truly concerns me was this phrase I saw in the ruling of the Hearthstone Grandmaster, which you can read on Blizzard’s own website:

2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4   p.12, Section 6.1 (o)

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. 

‘Or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image’ is such a vaguely worded phrase because of how easily it can be used to view anything negative about Blizzard as damaging. In this case, as Activision-Blizzard has 5% of its shareholders owned by a Chinese company called Tencent (who has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies from what I’ve heard), Blitzchung’s comments were easily seen as damaging to Blizzard’s image. After all, you don’t want to anger your investors who are bringing you in a lot of money via streaming overseas.

Now, Activision-Blizzard will want you to believe it’s ruling had nothing to do with China or Tencent’s investment in them, but don’t kid yourself. It was, and is, even if Activision-Blizzard has refunded Blitzchung’s prize money and reduced the ban on both him and the casters. More and more, entertainment companies are seeing China for the money making machine that it is, and they desperately want a slice of that pie.

And if human rights happen to be trampled and are being trampled by the Chinese Government? Well, you can just sweep all that aside. Bobby Kotick needs a new yacht, and you don’t want to be selfish and deny a man whose net worth is a measely 7 billion dollars, do you?

 

Bobby Kotick

I heard once he finds it difficult to get dates on account of all the devil horn drawing. Allow me to immaturely continue that tradition.

Now, on a live stream of a game, they’ve banned someone for saying a political statement that could damage their image, I have to ask who else could they ban, block, or come down hard on. Say, you’re just a regular streamer on Twitch playing WoW classic and you note about some of the improvements on the game followed by criticism. Is that considered damaging the image of Activision-Blizzard? Would Activision-Blizzard send out a cease and desist to the streamer, maybe get in touch with Twitch and ask them to do something about it? Because the only other thing companies fear aside from losing money is litigation… which would also cost them money.

And yes, I know this decision was made within the context of a competition, but that phrase scares me, and it should scare you too. If some other competitor is wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt or showcasing the Pride flag somewhere in their room, would those political statements also be seen as damaging Activision-Blizzard’s image? What reassurances do we have from a company that values profit over human rights that they won’t ban other players for any kind of political statement, overt or otherwise implied?

And what of the precedent set now? Blitzchung and the two stream casters may have had their bans shortened, but they’re still bans. Will other companies follow in this stead? What if Fortnite’s company, Epic Games (who Tencent also has an investment of 40% of the shares) doesn’t like what someone says during one of their tournaments, will they also be banned? Or if someone gives thanks to the queer community for the help they received, or the black community… lord knows how over-reactive gamers can be another any kind of social justice, up to and including harassing developers and writers.

AreaNet, best known for Guild Wars 2, fired writer Jessica Price on account of some comments she made about the bigotry, sexism, and misogyny of gamers, something that is very real. AreaNet showed itself to be more in line with keeping the loyalty of some truly revolting people in a fandom that’s given rise to one of the most sadly influential hate groups/harassment movements online: Gamergate.

And she had done that on her own private Twitter, not in the midst of any stream in a competition.

All in all, game companies have shown time and time again their main concern is money, from breaking people down via the crunch period to instigating horribly addictive gambling practices that they’ve tried to pass off as ‘surprise mechanics’. That one would ban someone because of a political statement about very real government crackdowns is just not that much of a stretch.

Before I finish though, I want to add in one more thing, which is that currently, #BoycottBlizzard has become quite the trending hashtag on Twitter, and to those who want to boycott them, all the more power to you. While I have uninstalled Battlenet from my PC and all of the games from Blizzard I’ve bought, I realized I still had an account and wanted to delete it.

There was just one… small… snag…

Screenshot_8

Government ID?! You want me to trust YOU with MY government ID?

I am in no way giving Activision-Blizzard a copy of my government ID, ANY of them. Not my Driver’s License and certainly not my Passport. While they say that all personal data would be deleted, I find it mighty suspect that they want a copy of my government ID, especially after this public debacle* they’ve been rightfully raked over the coals for. Companies are always releasing statements about how the personal data they’ve collected is leaked, and I can’t help but wonder if Activision-Blizzard would accidentally ‘leak’ your government ID to, say… the Chinese Government.

It would make visiting the Great Wall a tad difficult.

At the least, I was able to delete all of my payment methods and some personal information, so they can’t charge me for anything, but in the meantime, I’m stuck with an account I no longer want.

*Although I’m unsure how long this policy has been in place, if it’s something more recent or been there all along.

Why Yes, Your Art Can Have More Than One Meaning

 

So, about that Joker movie, eh?

Oh, I should say, about the director of the Joker movie, Todd Phillips who has recently been expressing distress, even anger, and not a little bit of snobbishness, that people would dare, DARE criticize his movie.

There was also this blatant misdirection Todd attempted, most likely while his publicist screamed at him from afar to just shut the hell up.

Just a reminder to Mr Phillips, Keanu Reeves isn’t white, he’s biracial, his first name means Ocean Breeze Over A Mountain, so please stop erasing his Asian heritage, as he was born in Lebanon.

That being said, I find the actions of this director vehemently opposing any idea that his film could be held up as the endorsement of white male violence upon the world as astoundingly childish and also a sign of white privilege in and of itself. Movies, aside from being a medium of entertainment, are an art form, much like books, video games, and graphic novels.

And as a form of art, there can be more than just the creator’s intended message that people can take away from it. The history of cinema has shown this time and time again.

For example, Alien is not just a scary, claustrophobic movie about a dangerous creature hunting a bunch of truckers in space, it’s also a commentary on capitalism that seeks to gain profit even at the danger of destroying humanity. Aliens continues along this thread but was also seen as a metaphor for the Vietnam war, where a technologically superior invading force is wiped out by the native life there.

The original Blob movie? A metaphor for the encroaching communist spread across the world during the McCarthy Era as well as a movie about a faceless ooze that devours people.

And those are just but a few examples, and different takes can be taken from art according to one’s own life experiences.

Take me, for example: I’m a cis, white, abled bodied male, so the views and critiques I could take away from a movie would be vastly different than someone who is black, trans, and female.

This is why there’s been discussions of cop shows as copoganda, from CSI and Law & Order to Brooklyn-99. I’ve read critques from a feminist POV about the lack of leading women with their own movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ones that question that further, looking at the diversity of women and the lack of women of colour in the MCU on a whole.

(And before anyone comes in and says it, no, Gamora and Nebula do not count. Green and Blue people aren’t real, even if one of them is played by Zoe Soldana.)

And of course, there’s discussion of the diversity of people behind the scenes, such as was April Reign’s coining of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite when looking at the line up of winners at the Academy Awards back in 2015.

I say all of this to add further context to the importance that we critique the media we watch, especially in this darkest timeline in which we live where there’s a domestic terrorist attack in the US just about every other week. The premise of the Joker movie, about a nice guy who has a bad day and simply snaps, is disturbing to say the least, because of the real world parallels we see weekly, if not daily, in the news.

Parallels such as the self-proclaimed Incel who drove his van into a crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people, who was in turn inspired by another ‘Nice Guy’ who had a bad day, Elliot Rodgers. Incel culture in and of itself reeks of white male privilege and the rage over being unable to lay claim to women and the coveted prize of sex. If you’ve the stomach for it, I’d recommend the website We Hunted The Mammoth and click through the Incel tag for more on the disturbing behaviour of these men.

Those of us who are critical of the message of the Joker movie, which points very strongly to the Nice Guy Who Has A Bad Day take, worry about how many men will take heart to this, and then enact on it.

As the US Military did recently with this warning to their troops who might be seeing the movie.

And if you don’t think people don’t act on racist, sexist, messages in our media, look no further than the screening of “Birth of the Nation”, a movie made BY the KKK to inspire more recruitment into the KKK, at the White House itself. The KKK received a boom in size after that, which continued on until another piece of media, the Superman Radio Drama, tore apart its veil of secrecy and metaphorically pantsed the organization.

And these are just the examples I can think off the top of my head while casually writing this. Others have put significantly more time and effort into looking at the messages in our media and across more than just movies that enforce terrible racist stereotypes as well as outmoded and harmful standards of beauty.

Don’t even get me started on the genre of films I consider to be Transgender Pain Porn.

All being said, for Todd Phillips to plug his fingers into his ears and yell “Lah lah lah, I can’t hear you, you’re all wrong!” speaks to his ability to accept any kind of criticism, which is as flimsy as wet tissue paper. It also says volumes about his lack of understanding of the messages art can have.

Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of the man up until now, and I honestly have no intentions of watching or supporting any of his work. If I wanted to watch a tone deaf, whiny, self-entitled dude who can’t stand that no one wants to appreciate his genius and understanding, I’d dive head first into the Rick and Morty fandom.

Smash Pages – A Comic Review and News website

Hey everyone!

In light of Comics Alliance closing the doors, a friend of mine, Stephanie Chan, is promoting and working on a comic news and review website called Smash Pages.

You can find them here.

And on Facebook.

The contributors come from a diverse background with people who have worked on Robot 6, Newsarama, and more. In short, they’re a well rounded bunch of journalists.

In fact, I managed to snag a bit of free time with Stephanie and conduct a short interview:

Continue reading “Smash Pages – A Comic Review and News website”