The director of hit team shooter Overwatch Jeff Kaplan (pictured) has said that Hearthstone pro Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung's ban from esports events for his stance on Hong Kong was "too harsh."
Speaking with The Washington Post, the developer agreed with some of the Hearthstone team that the decision to ban the pro-gaming player for a year initially was too strict a punishment and happened "way too quickly."
“I’m obviously a huge supporter of free speech; it’s something that’s very important to me," he said.
“It got to me personally. I think the punishment was too harsh and I was greatly relieved when they gave his money back. I think that was extremely important."
He continued, saying that during the Overwatch League esports tournament the team takes a while to decide what needs to be done to punish those breaking the rules.
"We had to deal with a few of them in season one in particular, and that process usually takes about four or five days to make the decision," Kaplan said.
"There was always a group of us involved in deciding what the punishment should be, and we would heavily devil’s-advocate every part of the decision. So I was actually shocked that such a harsh penalty was levied.”
Blizzard's decision to ban Blitzchung drew criticism from not only the company's community but also employees at the firm and even US politicians. Boss J Allen Brack said that the decision had nothing to do with the firm's ties to China, reducing the one-year ban to just six months.
Speaking at Blizzcon, Brack said that he is a big believer in free expression.