Hong Kong Controversy Ensnares WC Vet (October 13, 2019)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
There's been a lot in the news lately about the Hong Kong protests and how various companies are reacting to those that support them, so it was only a matter of time until this story intersected with Wing Commander. Blizzard has been under fire this past week for their punishment of a Hearthstone player who spoke out in support of Hong Kong. The accusation is that they were overly harsh in their response in order to placate China. That whole discussion is far beyond where we're going to go, but the details surrounding Blizzard's response caught our eye. The president of Blizzard is none other than J. Allen Brack, of Wing Commander fame. He was hired in 1994 to help with quality assurance on Wing Commander 3 and continued on through WC4, Privateer 2, Prophecy and Secret Ops. The TCS Brack was one of the first Confed ships to encounter the Nephilim as told in the ICIS Manual. We've followed Mr. Brack's career as he went on to work on Star Wars Galaxies and then World of Warcraft (with plenty of WC-themed easter eggs making their way into the game). So it falls on him this weekend to lay out of the company's position and run damage control. I don't envy him one bit, but it's cool to see how far one Wing Commander vet has gone in the games industry! And it looks like his actions have been at least somewhat well received so far.





One day as I was driving home, I spotted a familiar logo: "We Create Worlds." On a whim I applied for a QA job, never thinking I'd be lucky enough to be employed in the game industry. Imagine my surprise when two weeks later I was an Origin employee! A gamer's dream come true - well, sort of.

Four grueling months later, working seven days a week without a break, sleeping at work, and playing more Doom then I could have ever imagined possible, I helped ship my first game, Wing Commander III. Starring none other than the great Mark Hamill himself!
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Original update published on October 13, 2019
 

Pedro

Admiral
I have two issues with this response: first is the very vague wording of the rule. You can't agree to terms which the other party can decide after the fact.

And the second is it the claim that the content wasn't relevant. Would this have happened had the comment been "cancel Brexit?" absolutely and undoubtedly not; and pretending otherwise is actually the part that has me most angry about the situation. At least if they were honest we could have the conversation about the censorship that the financial pressures (genuine or perceived) China is able to exert can lead to.
 

Worf

Vice Admiral
Ugh, this thread will not end well.

Pretty much every ToS or other agreement will have a broadly worded and nonspecific clause that's pretty much "Just because". It's used as a catch all rule in case there isn't something that addresses what the overlords want to happen.

And yes, the only reason things came this way was because of the stake Tencent has in A-B.. If you displease Xi any other way, well, China just bans you (See South Park and WInnie the Pooh). And they're using their economic power to do so. Think of it this way - the NBA went to China, and in the opening games, 600M people watched. That's just under twice the entire US population. Even when the audience dwindles, it's still likely to be more people watching in China than have ever watched in the US.

China figured out how to use our love of the almighty buck to basically spread their propaganda through the world. They're (trying) to use it to control Hong Kong messaging so the Party Message is the only one people will see.
 

Pedro

Admiral
Worf you're bolder than me, but yes, everything you said. Wing Commander vet or not these kinds of decisions could have consequences for generations.
 
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Quarto

Unknown Enemy
And the second is it the claim that the content wasn't relevant. Would this have happened had the comment been "cancel Brexit?" absolutely and undoubtedly not; and pretending otherwise is actually the part that has me most angry about the situation. At least if they were honest we could have the conversation about the censorship that the financial pressures (genuine or perceived) China is able to exert can lead to.
I'm afraid I agree with you - yes, it was because of the China angle. However, I will add that I would heartily agree with their policies *if* content was indeed not an issue. I would wholeheartedly approve a policy that bans people for protesting about Brexit (from whichever side) as for protesting about China. I don't see why any kind of sports competition should have to put up with political commentary from its participants.

In the Olympic Games, every single time an athlete used the games as a platform for protest, this was received very badly. It didn't matter if it was black American athletes raising their fists in the Black Panthers salute, or Cathy Freeman running a victory lap with the Aboriginal flag - this kind of thing is never approved by the organisers, and very often sanctions apply. Though, that having been said, I've never heard of an equivalent of Blizzard's reaction taking place, where an athlete would lose their medal as punishment.

As for China itself - I'm afraid we all have to get used to it. Private, commercial companies ultimately are not beholden to freedom of speech. They serve the financial interests of their owners. China can use access to its vast market as leverage to pressure private companies to do what they want. You have this power too, you know. If you're unhappy with Blizzard's stance, you're welcome to cancel whatever subscriptions you have with them, and stop buying their products. In that case, it comes down basically to free market competition - the public over here using their dollars to compete with China using their dollars to influence Blizzard or whoever else.
 

Pedro

Admiral
@Quarto I agree with your first two points. You last one I'm less sure.

I don't really believe in self regulation - only a small fraction of people will vote on the ethics of something with their wallet. Big business rewards sociopaths for not caring, if you wanted to address this issue you'd need regulations. I think Facebook has proved that we are at a point where we could use some.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
Ugh, this thread will not end well.
We'll see.. :) There's just so much awful crap happening THIS WEEK that I'm surprised people have the leftover mental energy to invest so much in this story.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
@Quarto I agree with your first two points. You last one I'm less sure.

I don't really believe in self regulation - only a small fraction of people will vote on the ethics of something with their wallet. Big business rewards sociopaths for not caring, if you wanted to address this issue you'd need regulations. I think Facebook has proved that we are at a point where we could use some.
If you don't agree with me, you're missing the point :). We can regulate some things (though it's a dangerous weapon), but some things absolutely cannot be regulated - and this is one of them. The threat China wields is the same threat all customers wield - the refusal to buy. Since you can't, by regulation, force people to buy something, you cannot eliminate this threat. Companies will therefore run their business accordingly, based on which side is more willing to refuse to buy. Under normal circumstances, there's precious little that can be done about this. We can mock and laugh at the developers of Crysis for having North Koreans as the primary antagonist, when we all know North Korea is a stand-in for China. Or the 2012 remake of the Red Dawn movie - the Russian invasion of the US from the original film should logically have been updated into a Chinese invasion, but instead makes a mockery of reality by supposing North Korea could invade and occupy the US, just so the film could be screened in China (it probably still wasn't). By contrast, we can congratulate Paradox Entertainment for correctly reflecting the history of 20th century China in their Hearts of Iron series, even though depicting China as a failed state broken into rivalling warlord territories got the game banned in China, and probably got all other Paradox games banned, too. It comes down to what the developers choose to do, which markets they value, or whether there is some intrinsic quality of their game they are unwilling to sacrifice for the sake of the Chinese market. What regulations, though, could possibly change anything in these situations?

The only solution to the problem you signal is the "nuclear option" of other countries actually outlawing trade with China in order to prevent western companies from pandering to Chinese censorship. Now, this is not crazy talk - there were whole swathes of business that were not allowed to sell to communist states during the Cold War, for instance - but how likely is it to happen? In any case, if it were to happen, it wouldn't be an issue for games developers - it would be something that would be imposed on them from above, so to speak. And it still wouldn't resolve the problem, as in many cases, the developers may still design their game to be China-friendly, in the hope that eventually the trade ban will be lifted.
 

Pedro

Admiral
None of those situations are the one we're presented with here.

You can't stop creators making their content palatable to different markets; nor has anyone suggested doing so or even touched on that subject.
The only two I raised were penalizing individuals for their views, and allowing the spread of known false information. It's not hard to require fair treatment (that loosely worded rule should not be acceptable), or make companies accountable for tracking down fake accounts and fact checking advertisements before allowing them to be posted.

It's ludicrous to invite Zuckerberg to explain why he isn't tackling issues he has no legal obligation to, just as it's ludicrous to suggest that the final consumer is a suitable way of holding a business to account.
 
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Oceankhayne

Commodore
The way I see it, if corps want to be treated as people legally, then that comes with some responsibilities. Not to mention the people running these corps. I think there needs to be a provision in the law that holds private companies to the same freedom of speech rules that the government has to abide by. With more and more of life connected through the internet and other media, and private companies in control of that communication, this needs to be done or you'll end up with same censorship. Case in point? Do I want to be beholden to private companies telling me what I can say and what I cannot? Let's try it. **** **** Geek, Fatass, etc. Let's see how long it takes this post to be removed. Any time you make a forum available to the public I think you must abide by freedom of speech rules, even if said speech is against what we think. Would this be an issue if he'd stood up and said heil Hitler rather than free Hong Kong?
 
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AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
Let's see how long it takes this post to be removed.
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WCNews is not a private company. It's a fan site ran by fans, for fans, and not for profit. You agreed to live by our rules when you signed up for the forums here, and as such we've allowed you into our house so that as a Wing Commander fan you can discuss Wing Commander stuff. This is the equivalent of coming in and taking a crap in the middle of our living room and saying "what are you gonna do about it?."

Frankly, your juvenile nonsense is wasting all of our time. This is an adult community that should have grown well past this edgy teenage crap. Focus more on contributing and less on picking dumb internet fights.
 

Stinger

Vice Admiral
Hmm... that letter is dated Oct 18, but references Blizzard's original punitive measures, which have since been reduced. All winnings were restored, and the ban was reduced from one year to six months.
 

Pedro

Admiral
True, although the entire sentiment still stands.
The reduction of the punishment was not one based on morals; it was the only move they could make the appease both sides without taking any kind of stand.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
You know, I keep thinking about this whole situation, and I really can't help being reminded of Hungary in 1956. When the demonstrations started in Budapest, Radio Free Europe made a really strong push to encourage Hungarians to rebel. It was successful, and over thirteen days, it seemed like Hungary would actually be free from Soviet influence. Unfortunately, Radio Free Europe, while encouraging the Hungarians, lied about one tiny detail - namely, the radio suggested that American forces would help Hungary if push came to shove. The Americans had no intention of doing so, and the uprising was crushed brutally by Soviet forces.

Now, Radio Free Europe, while it played a crucial job in keeping people in Soviet-controlled countries informed about the world, was also a CIA operation, and it was also about realising US interests, rather than only the interests of the people in Soviet-controlled countries. The CIA was interested in testing the limits of Soviet tolerance for dissent, and that's precisely what happened - but the cost was pretty darned heavy for the Hungarians.

As I look at Hong Kong, where the demonstrations continue even though the original cause for the demonstrations is gone (it was de facto gone weeks or months ago, and now it's officially dead and buried, too), I can't help thinking back to Hungary, and thinking that here, again, someone has an interest in seeing the limits of someone else's endurance. Would China be willing to send tanks into Hong Kong? Well, they're already there, it's just a matter of giving the order. Would they give the order? That would be a disaster for the people of Hong Kong, but interestingly, because it would also be a disaster for the economy of Hong Kong, it may well be that there would be a heavy financial toll on the Chinese economy. China's competitors just might have an interest in that.

Now, don't for a moment think I'm suggesting any sort of conspiracy theory about Blizzard. Quite the opposite. What I'm suggesting, is that just maybe, Blizzard's ban on Hong Kong supporters is in fact the best course of action. The motivation behind it is, without a doubt, a desire to keep the Chinese government happy. Definitely no idealism there. But if Blizzard genuinely wanted to do the right thing morally… I think they would in fact ban support for Hong Kong protesters.

Think about it: what's the use of the world cheering protesters in Hong Kong on? Encouraging local resistance to an authoritarian government may be commendable when you have an invasion force ready to enter to actually help the locals (though I hardly think people in Hong Kong are so terribly oppressed that their situation would justify war). But encouraging local resistance when you know that if push comes to shove, they'll be all alone? That's either thoughtless, or despicable.

tl;dr: life is more complex and less idealistic than we like to imagine. Supporting Hong Kong protests from the safety of another continent may seem the idealistic thing to do - but you're not going to be there to scrape the blood off the pavement afterwards, right? If not, then banning Hong Kong protests may in fact be the wiser course of action, no matter the intentions behind it.
 

Pedro

Admiral
Talk to me when we approach 2047, until then such comparisons are unrealistic.

Right now the fewer eyes on Hong Kong the easier it is for China to ignore the Basic Law; they overplayed their hand subverting it. There's a world of difference between supporting and not suppressing.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Talk to me when we approach 2047, until then such comparisons are unrealistic.

Right now the fewer eyes on Hong Kong the easier it is for China to ignore the Basic Law; they overplayed their hand subverting it. There's a world of difference between supporting and not suppressing.
I don't think you're seeing all the facts. China didn't overplay their hand - rather, they were forced to do more than they wanted to. They've been continually playing with one hand tied behind their back for decades and decades. Back in the day when the subject of Hong Kong's future first came up in diplomatic conversations between the UK and China, the Chinese offhandedly noted that they could seize Hong Kong by force within hours, if they wanted to. This was true in 1980, it was true in 1997 - heck, it was true at least as far back as 1960, when India did precisely that with regards to the Portuguese enclave of Goa. Certainly, the world wouldn't have boycotted China, just as they didn't boycott India.

China is *happy* with the status quo in Hong Kong. The city has self-governance not because the British were tough and unyielding in the negotiations, but because China wanted this exact arrangement. They wanted Hong Kong's financial industry to stay put, and they wanted to signal to Taiwan's political classes that unification wouldn't mean show trials and executions. When 2047 rolls around, you're not going to see China suddenly clamp down on Hong Kong. Yes, they'll probably revise its status, but the revisions won't be enormous, because China has had every reason to be satisfied with how the one-country-two-systems concept has been working out.

Until now.

The changes introduced by HK's legislature weren't really in any way a violation of the treaty. Obviously, the idea of HK being able to extradite anyone to China is horrifying, but let's be clear - it's well within the boundaries China promised to respect. Nonetheless, China has allowed their HK puppets to back down and revoke this law. Why? Because China has no interest in dismantling Hong Kong's autonomy, only in ensuring HK doesn't become a refuge for mainland dissidents. Yes, China wants to gradually increase control over HK, and in some aspects, this makes a mockery of HK's Basic Law - but China does not want to dismantle the system. They have no interest in that.

You need to think about that. Of all the actors involved, China is the one showing the most restraint on Hong Kong. The west, meanwhile, is continually egging the protesters on. Why? Well, I'm going to err on the side of naivete, and say that it's purely because of our silly idealism which often blinds people to seeing the world as it truly is. But I will also point out an alternative possibility: that while China is perfectly satisfied with the status quo, China's competitors in the world would be very satisfied with any sort of turmoil in China. The US in particular, for all their hand-wringing, would be ecstatic if China found it necessary to quell unrest in HK by force. This would not only affect China's economy very adversely, it would also serve to further push other countries in the region away from China, especially Taiwan (which has been, over the years, making all kinds of quiet progress aimed at slowing down China's push toward full unification by making numerous compromise steps towards partial unification).

To be clear: I'm not saying China are the good guys. They're an authoritarian, repressive state that routinely imprisons people without trial, or with only a show trial, and imprisonment is actually one of the least-bad options they inflict on their own citizens. But that doesn't mean China's political opponents are working in the interest of Chinese people vis-a-vis the Chinese government, and that doesn't mean all anti-government dissent is worth supporting.

Returning to Blizzard, I doubt, of course, that Blizzard's policies could make any major change in this situation. It's not like a protest using Blizzard's games is going to be the straw that broke the camel's back. So, certainly, Blizzard could remain completely neutral on the issue, and the reason it doesn't is because of self-interest. But I also fail to see how anyone could benefit from Blizzard not suppressing these protests.
 

Pedro

Admiral
You tend to sound like you're implying people haven't considered all the facts if they disagree with you. I'll try not to read it that way.
Ofcourse I'm well aware that China has a vested interest in maintaining the illusion of an independent Hong Kong, infact it's one of the primary reasons I believe the notion of them rolling tanks into the streets to quash protestors is a highly unlikely outcome. I doubt we will have to wait long to see how this round of protests come to an end; but I’d put money on that not being anything like that scenario.

China has allowed their HK puppets to back down and revoke this law. Why? Because China has no interest in dismantling Hong Kong's autonomy
You can't have Chinese puppets in government and claim autonomy; and those puppets are altogether in far too plain view. They were always going to increase control; they handled it clumsily.
I don't have a lot of time for the word 'naivete' in these kinds of debates, it implies ignorance where the reality is usually dissatisfaction.
Blizzard won't by themselves keep any focus on the issues, however if it's seen as acceptable to bow to Chinese financial pressure (on this issue and any others) it will increasingly become the norm. Those pressures will always be there but it does no harm for corporations to have a few negatives of capitulating to worry about.
 
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Oceankhayne

Commodore
coming in and taking a crap in the middle of our living room
Yeah, no. This site is in no way like that. The closest analogy I could make to this site, is this: A gated privately funded monument with a guest sign in sitting in the middle of the city. It has public access, since the guest sign in only serves to know who is speaking, and is not by invite only. Not to mention it stands as an effigy to something long dead and only revived occasionally by it's followers :D. It has a bulletin board just inside the fence that anyone passing by can see but only those who sign in can comment on, etc. I can go on but I think you get my point.

About this site not being a private company. You might be right, but you also might be wrong too. There has been cooperation between Wcnews and EA in the past if I remember right. Something over the Prophecy or Secret Ops launch where EA paid for something? I can't remember, but then again that was 20 years ago. The minute money changes hands for the expectation of some service or product I think that can fit the criteria to become a business, at least in fact if not in law even if there is no profit.

As far as the juvenile thing, I got a chuckle out of that. It always makes me laugh at what a few words can do. Who is more illogical? The person who says a word with no intent or context to make one think they intended something to cause another pain, or the person that hears or reads said words and reacts as if there was harm intended. The black speech of Mordor shall not be spoken here, perhaps? Reminds me a bit of Massachusetts trying to ban the word bitch. Hilarious.

As far as the situation between China and Hong Kong? This is noting but good news for the west. No matter how it ends, outside of another Vietnam or Korea, we win. The issue with any modern technological society with access to cheap communication is organization and access to information and ideas. It's the reason why China has the stance on the internet and other forms of media and communication that they do, though everyone here already knows that. They're already hurting financially, much more than many other countries. Whole cities with no one moving in, lawsuits about stolen technology, bans on Chinese communication equipment and other it products, companies pulling manufacturing out of china left and right. No one important has forgotten about Super Micro, and I'm sure that there are many more instances of that (not that we in the US aren't doing the same thing at some level).

China can have nothing but restraint with Hong Kong right now. They're terrified at what the rest of the world could do. They're too dependent on their soft power so actually cutting our access to their cheap labor force and the supply of rare earths would be disastrous for them. The US has plenty of rare earths, and at China's current prices it would be profitable to extract them. The only thing stopping this is the fact that China could gut their price easily, making such a venture very risky. If China limits access or causes issues? You better believe that there are already plans in place for alternatives. The world doesn't really need China, and they know it. They cannot act too belligerently outside of their own traditional borders. Not to mention that this current situation is informing the populace about China and it's policies.

As far as our access to their markets? That's something different, and we'll have to see how the current situation with Blizzard and Netease and with the NBA plays out. I don't see China too thrilled about money leaving and not entering their borders though. I will say that Brack is a sellout though. I've rarely laughed more than the time I saw him on stage making an apology for not acting fast enough in regards to Blitzchung's ban for making political statements while wearing an LGBT (and whatever other letters the kids are tacking on to that these days) pin on his collar. He's a douchebag, plain and simple. He's either bound by contract, too afraid of the results of speaking his mind, or angry that he might not make all the money. It's obvious that his principles can be purchased.

As far as China being a repressive state, I don't think that's worded strongly enough. As cliche as the comparison sounds, they're not too far from Nazi Germany in the 30's. They're targeting and imprisoning religious groups and dissenters, controlling access to information, making aggressive claims and pushing into the South China Sea, implementing a social score, etc. I could go on but I think you get my point.
 
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