In support of @Savjz and @ZerinaX I share my blacklisting story.
I am no longer going to allow myself to be scared, bullied, intimidated by Blizzard and their Community Manager anymore. I have to share my story. As someone with serious anxiety and depression issues this has been hanging over my head for much too long and I’m sick of it being something that holds me back, and creates even more anxiety every day that I stream. I am being inspired by Savzj and his wife Christina who came out today to talk about how Savjz has been blacklisted because she was once vocally critical of the layoffs Blizzard has made and is now punishing Savjz for this. He is one of the largest content creators out there and is being punished for the actions of his partner, actions mind you that shouldn’t even be deemed as punishable in the first place, she merely spoke her mind about a horrendous layoff situation and as Blizzard likes to say, “Every voice matters”. So why are we punishing them for using their voice?
How does this relate to me? Well I’m a Hearthstone streamer, not one nearly as large as Savzj, not even close. I average around 200 viewers and have built up a Youtube audience of around 3600 subs. I’m known to be very critical of Blizzards design choices in Hearthstone, and am known as a “salty” content creator. Sometimes I’d take things a bit far for entertainment purposes where I’d poke fun at the dev team, but at the end of the day will always point out my love for Hearthstone, how I want the game to always improve, and to voice my opinion on how it can be better. My channel has been built around this, has flourished and continues to grow.
I always felt like an outsider with Blizzard until last Summer when I was being harassed by a troll online and after reporting it to Blizzard to deaf ears, I made a desperate tweet asking for help. This is when Chris Attalus (the community manager Christina was referring to) reached out to me and helped me with this situation. He was nice about everything, helped resolve it, and even agreed to go on a call with me to talk about things. What became very clear in the call was the only reason they took interest in me was I was friends with Kripparrian, the largest Hearthstone streamer, and basically wanted to get to know me. Kripp had to be brought up at least a dozen times, and Chris spent the entirety of the call attempting to coach me to be more like Kripp, be more like Regis, be more like Kibler in regards to my criticism of the game and how I stream. He made it clear to me, if I continue to be openly critical, especially towards the development team, I would not be included in future events of any sort. I said I would continue to speak out on how I feel the game should be improved but would keep it constructive. I changed my approach on stream to an extent going forward, I was critical of the usual things, card design etc but kept dev names out of my mouth. I was left out of the summer expansion hype regardless.
Then I made this tweet which went viral https://twitter.com/zeddyhs/status/1157635369036374017. I did something which was extremely hard for me, I went public with my mental health issues, how I suffered from severe anxiety and depression and how Kripp’s stream and Hearthstone effectively saved my life. All of a sudden Chris decided to take note of me again, sure helped put to have Kripps name involved I’m sure.This lead to another call with Chris early in the fall where he again critiqued my criticism, saying I was “improving” but they still needed to see more out of me. Basically if I was good they would involve me in the Winter Expansion release (which ended up being Descent of Dragons) in particular with the adventure content that was coming with it. I was kind of taken aback that they were still unhappy with me as I had kept my criticism what I felt to be rather reasonable, merely to what I felt was bad card design and rarely about the team. Regardless I pushed on saying I’d continue to improve as its been my dream to work with Blizzard since I played Diablo 2 in my best friends basement after school years and years ago.
Months go by, the next expansion is hyped, and I’m left out again. I reach out to find out why, “you’re flaming our development team” is the reason I’m basically given yet again. What baffles me on this is I made such a conscious effort to keep it constructive. And then I’m hit with a potentially life changing incident, I contract Bells Palsy. Bells Palsy is a condition that paralyzes your face and can lead to permanent damage. I was unable to use the left side of my face for nearly a month, and was almost impossible to speak properly and as a result I could not really stream. This was just during the initial release of the Battlegrounds Beta and of course I was not invited to take part. I reached out to Chris on twitter, expressing my interest in Battlegrounds. His response, here’s a link to the shop where you can buy it https://twitter.com/Chris_Attalus/status/1191565470786179072. This tweet might look innocent enough but let me remind you that almost every single content creator, larger and a ton smaller were given free access to this event, and even with him knowing about my Bells Palsy, the fact that my career as a streamer was in jeopardy, and that I flat out couldn't even afford to pay it (I had to borrow money from my parents just to cover rent during this time) he still just linked me to the shop.
I was and am still very upset about this incident and I wasn’t the only one. I had two prominent Hearthstone streamers, both who have over 100k Youtube subs and have been involved in countless Blizzard events, reach out to me immediately after seeing this and provided me with codes to Battlegrounds that they had received from Blizzard. They were obviously taken aback by Chris’ tweet and the fact that they had the heart and courage to do that to help me in need when Blizzard, who gives these codes away like candy, would not blew my mind. I still tried to remain positive, you can even see in my response to him, https://twitter.com/ZeddyHS/status/1191566115878518784, that I bit my tongue about his response and tried to keep it positive. All I wanted was to work with Blizzard I was going to keep trying to make it happen.
Then shortly after the release of the new expansion the game kind of broke. Galakrond Shaman was out of control and I made a reddit post about the balancing testing problem with the team here https://www.reddit.com/r/hearthstone/comments/e9piy1/the_balance_testing_problem_and_why_team_5_needs/. This thread blew up, received over 4000 upvotes, and was pretty much universally praised for being constructive and addressing key issues with the game state. My arguments were all made based on fact, I didn’t wish anyone to lose their job or say anything like that, I just simply stated how things were not working out and how they could be improved. With the current state of Demon Hunter in the game you can still see how my arguments are as true and valid as they were then. I messaged Chris about the thread asking if he’d read it and told him I don’t mean any ill will to the team and he blew up at me. He told me that I was being extremely negative, that I was creating a pitchfork type attitude towards the team, and that these are real people that I’m trying to ruin their jobs. This is when I had enough, I finally stood up for myself. I said how I want the game to be better, I expressed how I thought they could improve, I kept it completely constructive outside of one jab at Iksar (which was a one line joke), and that the thread was over 90% upvoted and was filled with messages like “What I like about this post is that it's not accusing the devs of being lazy or incompetent or not caring - it's clearly identifying a problem and providing a coherent and thoughtful argument backed by strong, rational evidence.
I don't necessarily agree with your solutions but I think this is a great contribution to the discourse.
Thank you for writing it."
After this I was not messaged back by Chris nor involved in any events to this day. I messaged him several times over the past few months, basically opening my heart up to him and received nothing but silence until last month where he gave me the same rhetoric about being critical, hateful of the team, and he didn’t appreciate me saying how he had been bullying me in some of my comments. Ultimately that's what this is though, they bully you. If you don’t tow their line, you don’t act how they want, they will not involve you in anything. They will outcast you. It doesn’t matter how many viewers you have, how many subs you have on YouTube, if you’re openly critical they will not include you in anything. You’ve seen what they’ve done to Savjz who is such a large and amazing content creator, imagine how they treat us smaller guys.
Blizzard says “Every voice matters”, but in Chris’ case that is just a lie. Savzj is being blacklisted for his wife using her voice. I’m being blacklisted for using my voice, and believe me I’m not alone. There are several content creators out there right now who are in the same boat and are too afraid to ever speak their mind in fear of being excluded from future events due to Chris’ reputation for favoritism and censoring those who are critical. I hope my message gives others courage to come out and speak and tell their story. We might not be getting bundles to giveaway or free Hearthstone merch to tweet out ever but at least maybe we can open the door for free speech and criticism to actually be spoken on our platforms at some point without the fear of being punished for just stating an opinion.