The last two months have seen some interesting precedents been set in the video game industry as the boundaries between players and developers are being redrawn. The recent bans of pro-players like Blitzchung (Hearthstone) and Faze Jarvis (Fortnite) have raised interesting points of consideration for the global gaming community.
Providing some background to the issue; Jarvis of team Faze a well-known player of Fortnite was banned when he streamed to his audience the use of illegal aim-bots and the advantage he received of the same.
Blitzchung on the other hand was banned by the developers of Hearthstone for his pro-Hong Kong opinions which seemed to have offended Chinese sentiments and, in the process, tarnish the image of a game and franchise that enjoys incredible popularity there.
The decision to ban both players needs to be carefully examined; banning Jarvis for life seems to have gained a lot of supporters. However, if we are to understand video-games as sites of contestation where developers and players constantly try to control how a game is played then the use of Jarvis’ aim-bot hack is not very different from finding an exploit in the game.
Fortnite could use his experience to make the game more secure and immune to such hacks in the future as opposed to fearing the impact his popularisation of the exploit will have on other players. Software companies have time and again rewarded hackers for finding vulnerabilities and the use of a hack in games is no different.
Amongst the gamer community as well unearthing glitches, exploits and secrets have only offered the discoverer more credibility. Thus, the popular justification of Jarvis’ ban because he makes money off the game seems both reductive and to certain degree spiteful.
The banning of Bitzchung is considerably more baffling as he has been punished for voicing his political views. At a time when the core tenets of democracy and free-speech have never been under more siege, it is heart-breaking to watch gigantic organizations like Google and Amazon bend the knee to the might of China’s potential markets.
However, it is important to note that Blitzchung is a private citizen who is entitled to his opinion and he has been significantly let down. While he makes money from events organized by Blizzard and playing their games, he does so by winning those events and is not their employee.
A distinction that is somehow forgotten; thus, it is not Blitzchung’s concern to worry about the game’s market.
As the nature of relationships between game developers and players begin to be explored further, it is important for developers to realize that the relationship is symbiotic, and they need players just as much if not more.