Brian “Kibler” Kibler, one of the most well-known members of the Hearthstone community, has announced that he will be stepping away from participating in Grandmasters livestreams as a commentator or caster. The announcement comes following the ban of Ng Wai Chung, better known as Blitzchung in Hearthstone, for his political statement during the interview portion of a competitive event this past weekend.
Kibler made the announcement through a blogpost on BMK gaming, which began with an explanation that he never expected his position within the gaming community to lead to a statement on such a sensitive topic on an international level. He laid out the facts of the incident in a straightforward manner, and described the actions of Blitzchung to be, at their core, rooted in bravery.
Following this however, Kibler described Blizzard’s actions less harshly than others have in the past few days. He stated that Blizzard did not ban Blitzchung for his support of Hong Kong protests, but instead, “they penalized him for breaking the rules by using their official broadcast to promote that stance.” When Kibler takes on the mantle of commentator, he states that he is sure to represent Blizzard above all and leaves his personal political views at the door.
With that in mind, Kibler laid out the fundamental problem with the incident, which lay not in that Blizzard dolled out some form of punishment, but that they did to in such a severe fashion:
“The punishment meted out to Blitzchung is incredibly harsh. I could understand a fine, or even a short suspension from competitive play, but removal from Grandmasters, clawing back the prizes he already earned, and banning him for a full year seems completely overboard to an extent that feels completely unwarranted and unfair.”
He continues on in this way for a while before announcing that “This kind of appeasement is simply not something I can in good conscience be associated with,” and that he will not have any involvement with the Grandmasters moving forward unless there is something fundamental that changes in the decisions made recently.
Kibler’s concluding remarks reveal another issue that comes with this entire situation. He states that not all other individuals have this same luxury as he does to back out of participation, and that observers should not take out their anger on casters, streamers of employees of Blizzard. What is a player of commentator to do if their livelihoods are on the line? Is it worth speaking out against Blizzard if they may lose what they have worked so hard to attain?
There are no easy answers, and Kibler is so well known among other circles of collectible card games that he could disassociate himself from Blizzard forever and not suffer financially or in the progression of his career. For everyone else who is currently tied to Blizzard in their professional growth, the situation is far stickier.
For now, it is unfortunate to see someone as high profile as Kibler step away from Hearthstone, but this may be exactly the type of behavior needed to make Blizzard reconsider the severity of its actions.