With the 2019 League of Legends World Championship set to begin real soon, Riot Games made it a point to warn players about discussing “sensitive issues” on the air.
Players weren’t the only ones included in statement of John Needham, Global Head of League of Legends Esports. Because casters were also asked to “refrain” from talking about sensitive topics. John Needham emphasized the importance of keeping personal views on sensitive issues separate, talking about the importance of being responsible because of how big League of Legends has become around the world.
Riot Games’ statement could not have come at a much better time. Not too long ago, Blizzard faced heavy backlash following their reaction to former Hearthstone Grandmaster Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai after he called to “liberate Hong Kong” from China.
Blizzard’s reaction has quickly evolved into what can only be described as a PR nightmare. Blizzard is already facing numerous threats, with many players and casters alike voicing their opinions and supporting a boycott of all of Blizzard’s games.
Riot Games’ statement will surely ruffle some feathers. This is especially because they are owned by the Chinese conglomerate, Tencent. However, Needham does have a point. The issues in Hong Kong are incredibly complex. Despite the “extensive” coverage that the issue has received in the West, the views of Western players may not align with those from the East.
Without the warning, League of Legends’ massive fanbase in China might suffer heavily.
Riot Games’ statement is prudent, to say the least. It would still make sense even if a Chinese company did not own studio.
On the other hand, Riot Games’ statement is different from that of Epic Games. Tim Sweeney, Epic Games’ CEO, recently announced that they will not punish Fortnite players from voicing their opinions on sensitive topics, in particular, political speech. But then again, it doesn’t take a PR expert to know which of the two stances are easier to maintain.
So far, Riot Games have remained mum about the possible penalties a player might face for violating their warning.
Although it will certainly be interesting if a player were to try and voice their opinion on the said “sensitive topics” despite the warning, don’t bet on it happening.