Following Blizzard’s decision to ban a Hearthstone player from competitive play for a year after he shared his support for the Hong Kong protests during a tournament stream, various gaming companies have come forward making their own statements and policies about players making political statements in their games. Epic Games, for example, announced that players have a right to free political speech in their games, and they wouldn’t punish any player for expressing their opinions. Today, Riot Games has joined the discourse, ahead of the upcoming League of Legends World Championships.
A message from John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports pic.twitter.com/5Au9rE7T86
— lolesports (@lolesports) October 11, 2019
Global head of League of Legends esports John Needham released an official statement today about how Riot Games “approach[es] sensitive topics on [their] broadcasts.” He goes on to say that because their players come from various countries and cultures around the world, the company prefers players would keep their “personal views on sensitive issues (political, religious, or otherwise) separate” from the games, as such “topics are often incredibly nuanced, require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and cannot be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides.” He also mentions the various Riot employees who are based in countries experiencing political unrest, such as Hong Kong, and how Riot doesn’t want to “escalate potentially sensitive situations” through “statements or actions on [their] official platforms (intended or not).”
Needham ends on a positive note, expressing his hope that League of Legends can unite people around the world through the experience of playing together, “even if it’s just one game at a time.”
While companies continue to take different stances on the issue of political speech in gaming, a Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget that the company is “assessing the situation for now,” following the large wave of backlash following their decision. It’s unclear if Blizzard will walk back their decision, as angered fans have taken to boycotting Blizzard games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch to express their disappointment.