After the Korean professional from Overwatch, ‘Saebyeolbe', made controversial comments, Chinese Overwatch League teams are proposing a boycott of league games.
the scenario of sports Electronic Overwatch has a worldwide reach, with teams on every continent. With players competing from everywhere and fans in every country, occasionally political issues creep into the dialogue.
Countries that have strict censorship policies can make life difficult for sports competitors and streamers in general. The Korean professional Overwatch Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park caused ire among his Overwatch competitors League of China by comments made about Taiwan and Hong Kong, and now a boycott of Chinese players may be imminent.
Censorship in China is a thorny and difficult issue for the video game industry to navigate. Developers and publishers want to do business in the country, but struggle with the stifling of free speech that is sometimes necessary for a game to be approved for release.
Overwatch is just the latest arena for that to happen, as last fall it was another property of Activision Blizzard facing censorship. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War had a trailer banned from China for featuring a clip of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Park, a professional Overwatch of the Seoul Dynasty, was criticized for expressing opinions about Taiwan and Hong Kong, frustrated that he couldn't even say their names without being reprimanded.
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Park streams to Chinese streaming platform Douyu, and was told by his administration not to discuss the two disputed territories, as China claims sovereignty over them and refuses to acknowledge any narrative to the contrary.
This is a particularly hot button issue in the gaming world, as in-game text in Genshin Impact automatically censors any attempt to type 'Taiwan' or 'Hong Kong'.
In addition, players from various teams in the Chinese Overwatch League, Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters, Hangzhou Spark e Guangzhou Charge, announced that they will not participate in upcoming events if Park is a contestant.
a manager of Shanghai Dragons posted a lengthy statement on Weibo, doubling down on the One China policy. This government doctrine does not recognize Taiwan or Hong Kong as independent from China. The Dragons' manager goes on to say that politics have no place in the game.
The irony is that boycotting something is a seemingly lost political act here. PewDiePie was banned from China after sympathizing with the Hong Kong protests in 2019, so the issue has long been a sore point for the Chinese government.
If the boycott takes place, or if the Activision Blizzard intervenes to defuse the situation, remains to be seen. Due to the popularity of Overwatch in China, an issue like this could strain the relationship between Activision Blizzard and China as the publishing giant tries to make inroads into the country.
Call of Duty Mobile is a hit in China and potentially losing revenue against streamers who make political points that go against China's narrative, making the whole situation a tinderbox.
Overwatch me is available for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One.