Chinese-owned Riot Games wants broadcasters to avoid sensitive topics

Yolanda Curtis
October 12, 2019

On Friday, Riot Games said that League of Legends broadcasters should "refrain" from discussing "sensitive topics" on the air, following a controversial move from Blizzard to ban a Hearthstone player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protesters over the weekend.

In the statement, Needham reminds fans that "as a general rule, we want to keep the broadcasts focused on the game, the sport, and the players".

But less than a day before the beginning of the group stages for the 2019 League of Legends World Championships, Riot Games and its Global Head of Esports John Needham released a statement that acknowledged the controversy and explained how it would be addressed during the Worlds stream.

Needham writes that sensitive issues and topics like the Hong Kong protests "require deep understanding and a willingness to listen, and can not be fairly represented in the forum our broadcast provides". It's trying to stay neutral by reminding streamers and esports pros to avoid discussions of Hong Kong or any other geo-political or cultural incidents. But the Riot Games executive says his company is also acting out of the need to preserve public safety. As a result, gamers have been mocking Needham's statement, claiming it was paid for by Tencent. "There's been some confusion internally about this as well and we're working to correct it".

"Our decision also reflects that we have Riot employees and fans in regions where there has been (or there is risk of) political and/or social unrest, including places like Hong Kong". Therefore, the LoL developer is hoping that no statements or actions, voluntary or not, will contribute to the escalation of sensitive situations.

Needham's announcement comes soon after the controversy surrounding Blizzard when it suspended Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for a year for declaring his support for the Hong Kong protests. "We wouldn't ban or punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking on these topics", an Epic Games spokesperson told The Verge.

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