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“Don’t make me grow up before my time” – The Timelessness of Little Women

„I just feel like, women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. And I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!”, Saoirse Ronan says with tears in her eyes, “But I’m so lonely.” Now I’m also crying. In case you’re wondering where this quote is from – it’s Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. The film hit US cinemas on Christmas Day last year, was nominated for seven Oscars and finally came to Germany in late January. Since then I’ve actually watched it twice at the movies, that’s how good it is.

Originally, Little Women is a children’s book by Louisa May Alcott that first came out in 1868 and received a second volume a year later. The book is considered a classic and has been filmed and re-filmed several times. Even though it came out forever ago, I managed to get half the people I know hooked on it. Here’s why you should do the same.

“Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.”

Little Women tells the tale of the lower middle-class March family: the father is away fighting in the American Civil War, and mother Marmee takes care of their four daughters by herself. The Little Women couldn’t be any more different in personality and life goals. The second volume Good Wives portrays them as young women who are trying to accomplish said goals.

There is Jo, an aspiring writer who does not want to get married. Yet, she has to come to realize that everyone around her seems to be changing: her family and friends all grow up, think of marriage and children and she keeps clinging to the past.

Her youngest sister Amy was probably the least liked sister to most readers prior to the 2019 movie. She’s an artist-to-be, at times annoying and vain and has her mind set on marrying rich. The movie actually manages to turn her into a fan-favourite.

The oldest sister Meg is more of a romantic – she gets married at a very young age and faces the kind of problems you would expect: child keeping and making jam. The usual.

Last, we have Beth. She is a very shy character and is the kind soul of the family. Luckily for her, she is always supported by her sisters and they would all happily throw a punch for her.

The movie very beautifully combines the stories from their childhood and alternates them with the ones from their adulthood. The flashbacks are tinted in warm, rosy colours, whereas the present ones are rather blueish and cold. This alternation manages to bring together innocence and growth, as well as optimism and reality.

“Girls have to go into the world and make up their own minds about things.”

Little Women in itself is a timeless story, especially regarding its themes and topics. For one, you have a differentiated portrayal of feminism, which is even more amazing considering that the book was written in the 1860s. It will positively break your heart (to quote my brother at the movies, crying: “You should have told me it was going to be so sad! You can’t let me watch this without warning me first!”).

Another theme is the whole growing up business. You know … the one you’re probably also trying really hard to figure out. There’s this movie scene where Amy says “I’m a failure” and Laurie replies “That’s quite a statement to make at twenty.” The story reflects really well the struggles of becoming An AdultTM and figuring out who you are, while also dealing with a constant shortage of money, time and sleep (please tell me it’s not just me).

The film manages to literally convey all of this in two hours. Yet, if you are still doubtful about whether you really need to watch the movie, let me mention the cast – a movie that has Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothée Chalamet and Meryl Streep should be worth watching regardless of its content. And I stand by that.

author: Lea Metzner

Enchilada during the Corona Crisis – An Interview with an employee

Coronavirus has hit us all very hard. It started with a couple of cases in China and, suddenly, the whole world was on lockdown. Among other things, restaurants had to close their doors overnight. I wanted to know what has changed for the staff of restaurants and bars, so, I went downtown to talk to an employee of the Enchilada. Her name is Lisa and she has been working as a waitress there for one and a half years now. Due to the loosening of regulations for social distancing, we were able to have a face-to-face interview in the restaurant.

For those of you who don´t know the Enchilada, here’s a quick briefing: The Enchilada is a Mexican restaurant and bar in Augsburg’s city centre. It’s a member of the Enchilada Franchise Group, just like the Ratskeller, Dean & Davids, Aposto, and many more.

What did a usual day of work look like before Corona? How many people were here? How many employees? 

That depends on the day. On business days, there were only up to three waiters, one or two bartenders, and three people in the kitchen. The weekends were a whole different situation: we have seven different areas in the restaurant itself and ideally, there is a waiter for every area. On top of that, there were five or six bartenders. Even in the kitchen, we added an extra dishwasher. So, is a lot happening here on weekends.

Ok, thank you for that insight. Let´s talk about the present. A lot has changed, obviously. Which precautionary measures did you take, especially in the beginning?

Everything happened so fast. I was working on Saturday and by Tuesday we had to shut down completely. None of us could attend to work for four weeks. Our boss managed all the orders via Boxbote together with just one cook. After a while, he decided to join Lieferando, and customers could book their meals over the phone and fetch them later. From that moment forward we had one additional waiter in here – two on the weekends – and three people in the kitchen. We’ve also changed our business hours: normally, they would be from 6 pm until 1 am, but now we work in two shifts. One from 11 am until 2 pm and another one from 5 pm until 10 pm.

How was the mood among the employees, especially when you weren´t going to work? Did you know how it would all turn out?

Right at the beginning when we couldn´t do anything – not even leave the house – we met on Zoom. As nobody knew how the whole situation would develop, we were a bit worried. I can´t speak for my colleagues but I was really concerned after a while, especially after the situation got a little bit out of hand and the media reports went crazy. But now I work on a regular basis – although it´s not as frequent as it used to be – and I am grateful for that. Because we met on Zoom, nobody was really intimidated by the whole situation.

So, your boss didn´t have to fire anyone? They´re all still here?

Yes, he didn´t have to. We made it through fully staffed.

That´s very good. Well, Lisa, I heard that the Enchilada gives away vouchers for customers who fetch their food all by themselves. Is that correct?

Exactly.

Are there any other offers?

We’ve created some packages for Lieferando. Those are whole menus the costumers can order. On Boxbote we put up three different cocktail packages. On top of that, we started a prize game and put a ticket in every bag. Right at the beginning, we had some complimentary gifts, but they were gone pretty fast.

Regarding the cocktails: I can´t quite figure out how it works. Aren´t cocktails supposed to be iced? Doesn´t that ice melt until it reaches the customer?

That works well. Lieferando’s and Boxbote’s radius for delivery isn´t that big. Especially for longer distances, Lieferando goes by car. And we only finish creating the cocktails when the food is ready, and the delivery man is in the restaurant.

There were no complaints about melted Margaritas?

Not that I would know of. As I said, we finish them last and from there on everything should happen very fast.

Ok, we´re about to come towards the end of this interview. Slowly but steadily restaurants get to open again. What precautions are going to be made? Will there be a bouncer? Do you know anything about that?

I know a little bit. For a long time, our boss just wanted to wait because there were new restrictions every second day. But now we know more. We had a bouncer on the weekends even before Corona. On top of that, we have to check IDs because – from what it looks like – only two households are allowed to meet. But as the number of people at one table is limited to four, we need to check if they´re really just from two different households. As I said, there will be a bouncer on weekends. If there are people sitting at the tables outside, they don´t need to wear masks. But as soon as they get up, go to the toilet or even just go inside the restaurant, they have to put them on. Plus, there always has to be enough distance between costumers at different tables. All employees must slip on their masks just like in any other business right now.

Does the mask bother you?

It’s not the end of the world, but it is exhausting. The employees in the kitchen have a hard time understanding the point of it all. And I think even our costumers will have trouble picking up what we said. But, like I said, it isn’t tragic. As long as I can work, I am happy.

Ok. So, now to my last question: What did you learn for the future? Do you may keep any of your innovations for the long term?

We will definitely stay on Lieferando for a while. Plus, we will have different business hours. We used to open at 6 pm. Now we will be accessible for you at 11 am so people who work in the area can have their lunch break here. Until 8 pm we will grant access to the outdoor area. Afterward, we will stay in the restaurant for two more hours to take care of the orders from Lieferando and Boxbote.

Lovely. We’ve now reached the end of our interview. Thank you very much, Lisa. I wish you all the best.

Thank you.

I talked to Lisa off record for a while after the interview and she told me that she really looks forward to meeting some costumers again at the restaurant and interact with them. The outdoor area of the restaurant is very inviting and – although it is in the city centre – very quiet. So, you should definitely check it out. 

The interview took place at the end of May, so some of the information may be outdated by the time you’re reading this article.

author: Celine Bohner

I want to get clean… How Forest Bathing clears your Mind


Due to Corona, we aren’t able to visit our lovely university and complain about the whole bunch of work the professors gave us. Instead, this work awaits us at our desk at home now; practically every aspect of our studies is carried out there. It feels like tasks and information are overrunning us and time is, naturally, limited. That’s why it’s important to let off some steam and find calmness amidst all this chaos. Netflix doesn’t have to be the best solution, though. Ever thought about forests? Yeah sure, those wide, green spaces are nice for a short walk. But what about plunging into the forest and really focusing? So, why don’t we plunge into the benefits of Forest Bathing and how it helps us maintain our mental health.

What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing is not at all new. It originated in Japan and is called Shinrin-Yoku. Basically, it means to experience the forest with all your senses and create a connection between you and the natural world around you. Smell the flowers, listen to the softly flowing water or just relax while watching the sunlight sprinkle through the leaves. If you want to hug a tree, feel free to do it! Sounds hippie-like? Maybe it is. But the results are amazing.


Get the facts
Various studies have proven the positive impacts of Forest Bathing. First of all, it slows you down. It reduces the stress which has gathered over the days and lets you focus in the here and now. I don’t think I have to tell you how stressful life can be and how stress negatively affects your health and well-being. It can even cause depression. Forest Bathing helps you stay mentally healthy. What’s more, your immune system benefits from it. A study by the Department of Hygiene and Public Health of the Nippon Medical School in Japan proves that a forest bathing trip can increase the activity of the NK-Cells (Natural Killer Cells), which are for example responsible for exterminating cancer cells. Without digging to deep into biology: your immune system gets a nice boost. Of course, one condition does exist: no mobile phone! Any technical device will only distract and, after all, the main goal is to focus and shortly distance oneself from the daily, rushing world. Additionally, the intention of the forest bather must be genuine. If they only think it’s humbug anyway, no gain can be achieved.

The point is: Our world isn’t becoming slower. Quite the contrary, with all the tasks awaiting us, it’s becoming faster, more exciting and more complicated. It doesn’t matter if you’re just strolling through a park or wander off the beaten path through the wood: Concentrating on your fantastic, natural environment for a while takes you through this rather unsure time a lot easier. So – why not pay the Siebentischwald a visit and try it out?

author: Sara Vidanovic

A look behind the curtain – The student union at the University of Augsburg

Student unions are as old as universities themselves. Even during a worldwide pandemic they are not keeping quiet. I had the honor to talk to Karolin Daiber, a member of the student union “Fachschaft Lehramt”, about planning parties, raising your voice and what’s so special about 6pm on a Friday night.

1. Why did you decide to become a part of the student union?

Even back in school I always liked to be part of a school group to help other students and to plan some events – just being part of a group where you have a team spirit. When I started to go to college, I wanted to do something similar, so I decided to become a part of the student union and I’ve really liked it so far.

2. What are your main tasks?

That’s actually quite difficult to answer because we actually don’t have main tasks for everyone. It’s more like, if you’re interested in joining some activities or want to help plan some events you can just join these smaller groups. That’s actually something I really like because you can do a lot of different things.

3. What are your favorite small group activities?

I really enjoy planning our regular semester opening party called “Lehramtsparty”, and also the orientation days for the freshmen because you have to work in a team and your plan has to be really good in order for it to work. You put a lot of effort in but you get a lot of fun back and also a lot of happy students.

4. Are you rather a pragmatic or an idealistic person when it comes to solving problems?

I’m definitely a pragmatic person, unlike some other people. That’s another thing I really like about the student union, though: you get to know so many different and interesting people. All of them have their own way of thinking and solving problems. You have to learn to be patient. I think that’s always a good thing to learn for life.

5. What is an event that will most likely always remain in your memory?

Definitely the semester opening party we host. It’s such a great experience. It’s so cool to come back from your semester holidays, back from working and doing all kinds of things to then see all of your friends again. You can all party together and everyone is excited. On the other hand, I will definitely remember the orientation days for the freshmen, that we offer before the winter semester. We go to a little house in a village close to Augsburg and try to help them get into all the college stuff you have to know, like how to create your timetable and where to go for specific questions. And to get to know each other, of course. We stay there for five days and have two different groups and afterwards, we are basically wrecked… But it’s always so much fun and the freshmen are always very grateful that they get some help, too. It’s really worth it.

6. Would you consider the student union that you are part of political?

I would definitely say so. I think we are political because we are role models, kind of. When we post something on social media, a lot of people will see it so we always check beforehand if it fits our political views or not. And sometimes we have a big discussion because we have different opinions. Also, when students come to us with their problems and we try to help them there’s always some interaction with our president and professors. We always have to think about how we’ll approach them, and we have to consider who to talk to first. In that sense, we’re definitely political.

7. Has the group ever voted for a decision that you couldn’t really support?

I don’t think that has happened so far, because I’m pretty sure it would have bothered me otherwise. It’s really an important question to keep in mind. You should always stand up if you feel like something’s not right. I think as long as there is the possibility to talk and discuss things in the group, it’s fine. It’s always good for yourself to get different views from other people to learn something and think again about your own opinion.

8. Last but not least, tell us a funny inside story on what goes on behind the scenes of our university.

I really had to think about this for a while. I feel like what’s maybe interesting is the following: We have our weekly meetings on Friday afternoon and often, we order some pizza or pasta afterwards and we always have to wait until 6pm because that’s when the happy hour starts in the Unikum. The meetings are always a lot of work because you have all kinds of things to do and it can be chaotic with that many people. After that you feel really good, though, because you have the weekend ahead of you and you’re waiting for pizza with some really cool people. I’m pretty sure we support the Unikum quite a bit with our money.

author: Tabea Becker

Greta, where art thou? The ongoing importance of climate action

When watching the news these days, it seems to be all about the newly spreading Covid-19 virus. While approximately a year ago, it was all about Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future, now the daily input we get just revolves around the newly taken measures or the increasing numbers of newly infected people. Even though the ongoing lockdown has had some positive side effects on our nature – like the improvement of global air quality due to the reduction of travel on the ground, just as in the air – protecting the climate remains very important and should not be neglected.

What happened to Greta

In view of the present situation, climate protection and Greta Thunberg seem to be rather overshadowed by the health crisis. And as if that weren’t enough, Fridays for Future demonstrations won’t be possible any time soon, considering the restraining orders in many countries. That means no more young people skipping school all over the world to strike against the lack of climate protection measures. But while our day-to-day lives have been involuntarily slowed down a bit, the world hasn’t stopped turning, and catastrophes still occur all around our environment. There are still fish, turtles, birds and other creatures that die every day in consequence of sea and air pollution. Australia is still struggling with the high (financial and environmental) cost of combating forest fires. Biodiversity is in danger because of species extinction and so forth. The list of natural catastrophes seems endless. Greenpeace Executive Director Jennifer Morgan states that climate change is still taking place. One crisis does not stop another.

New Stimulus Programme

Early successes concerning the decrease of CO2 emissions are of course highly gratifying, however the downward trend won’t be of a lasting nature. Finally, economic slumps never replace climate protection strategies. Instead, these two factors – protecting the climate and protecting prosperity – should be connected. In the end, the measures we take to overcome this financial crisis will decide about the future of our planet and show to what extent we’ve learned something from Covid-19. Experts from the environmental organisation Agora are currently working on a thesis paper that includes a climate and economic stimulus programme. This programme should boost the economy and simultaneously reduce emissions on a sustained basis: the reduction of electricity prices and financial support for the purchase of climate-neutral systems in the steel industry. The investment in climate-friendly technologies would be a chance, but success is not yet guaranteed. Even though environmental pollution is still going on, this crisis might be a chance to open the everyone’s eyes. We need to realize how positive everything could turn out, if we just were be a bit more careful. Maybe the returning dolphins, the crystal clear water in Venice’s harbours, the refreshing air or the deep blue sky will make us once more aware how beautiful our nature is and why it is so important to protect it.

author: Laura Henkes

Questions to the Augsburg Magazine eMAG

  1. What exactly is the course called and how does it fit into the study program? What English skills are being covered? And how do you learn the required writing skills?

The course has a rather unspectacular name: it goes by Integrated Language Skills (LPO 2012) / Integrated Language Skills 2 (LPO 2008) (eMag). eMAG is part of a module that consists of three courses, the other two being Effective Writing and Übersetzung Englisch-Deutsch (1). eMAG fits in here as an opportunity for students to put the skills they have learned in those other courses to practical use in an authentic, english-speaking environment. The eMAG course itself is there to improve students’ writing skills outside of the usual term paper style. We try to convey a more informal writing style in general.

  • eMAG has a very project-based way of practising writing skills. Would you say this is more promising for participants than a traditional class?

I’m going to go with the diplomatic route here and say that a good mix between a theoretical approach and a practical one is very useful. You can’t learn a language simply by reading about it. You have to use it to actual get better at it. And a part of that certainly is writing, too, in all its forms. But at the same time, it’s also necessary to have a good foundation to start working on a project like eMAG. You need to have some basic understanding of how to structure your writing, that there are differences between writing in German and English – and that does include formal differences. And that is something we wouldn’t be able to do in just one term with one session a week. In a nutshell, I’d say that eMAG is a great opportunity if you have the necessary foundations.

  • For us, organisational tasks took up a lot of time and it wasn’t quite clear who was responsible for what. Also, what presented a bit of a struggle was that our course is supposed to teach writing skills before all else but the magazine focus didn’t allow much time for that. How do you handle organizational tasks within a writing course?

It’s good to see that similar projects are struggling with similar problems. There is no way around it and I was lucky enough to join the course at a time when a lot of these issues had already been dealt with and solved. There already was a good routine that people before me had set up. The trick is to give the course a real project structure with different layers of who would be responsible for what – teams for layouting and media and advertisement to just name a few. Within these groups, the regular members, who take the course for credit points, will mostly focus on writing and only take on smaller tasks to help create the final magazine. The experienced staff, on the other hand, get clear assignments on what needs to be done. In the end, the editor-in-chief has the fun task of managing and overseeing all those groups and bringing everything together.

  • Who is eligible to join the class, i.e. students of what semester or year of the study program? How many are you in total and what is the ratio between students who do the course voluntarily and those who do it for credit points? Do both of these groups participate in the same way?

There is no real condition set for joining the class, especially if you’re studying English: if you need the credit points, who are we to tell you you can’t come? We do prefer for the people to have completed the writing part of the module beforehand, or at least to be taking that class in the same term, but we can’t enforce that. Naturally, though, most people are doing it this way because following the module structure makes the most sense. In turn, that means that most new members are in or around their 3rd semester. In terms of how many people join, there’s some fluctuation: there are usually more participants during winter terms, but it’s roughly 20-25 people in general. Only few of these aren’t English students – although I wouldn’t say there’s a difference in participation. On top of that, there is my team which consists of seven people at the moment. These tend to be people who have participated before and can’t get any more credit points. They are just there for a good time.

  • In our course, we tried to assign different roles to different people. However, we didn’t define clearly enough what each role’s job was, leading to the point where some people did much more work than others. What roles do you have within your team? And what tasks does each role involve? Is the work distributed in a rather even way, or are there also differences between the work load of different people?

I think this little chart from our guidelines does a better job at visualizing this than I could in words:
The new members are being split into either working on layouts or promoting the magazine, apart from working on their articles. Both teams are supervised by team leaders who know how everything is supposed to be structured and help out wherever necessary. If even they don’t know the solution, it’s usually my part to figure something out. Problem solver would probably be one of the better descriptions for what I do. There is a lot of organizing things behind the scenes, too, of course: finding printers, organizing everything to be in line with our university and making decisions on how to go forward or cutting inappropriate articles, though we do try to avoid that at all costs. Nonetheless, it happens every once in a while.

We struggled a lot to find a good balance between the workload of the layout team compared to the media team. Layouting is just such a time-consuming but necessary part of it all that it makes it difficult to cut down on it, yet the media team usually doesn’t face quite as many tasks throughout the term. Last term we struck a good balance by giving each member of the Media team the task to write one additional article which would be published on our website while the layout team didn’t get that assignment. This lead to the workload being evened out for the most part.

Apart from that, there’s Writing Support, a team that consists of three experienced eMAGgers. Their job is to correct early drafts and give feedback, before the final draft goes to the course coordinator.

  • What does your lecturer do exactly? What is their role in the production of each magazine? And how do they grade each person’s work?

The entire course is supposed to be run by students. But as we wouldn’t be allowed to give people credit, Mr. Jehle is the one who’s in charge officially. Until last term, it was Mr. James, who founded eMAG. The lecturer’s job is to organise exams and talk to the higher-ups of our university in case there are issues we couldn’t solve by ourselves. They also correct final article drafts so we do get some professional feedback.


As for grading, that’s a mystery, even to me. I think it’s really just magic… Ideally, though, we would love to be able to grade the work during the course and skip the exam entirely, but as we are part of the entire three-part module structure, we have to offer an exam which is also created by our course coordinator. Since the class takes up more time than a regular course, though, we try not to put additional work on participants for exam preparation. The aim is to create an exam that can be answered relatively easily by any regular class member.

  • We heard that your editors are meeting every week with the lecturer – what is being discussed in those weekly meetings?

Another rather boring answer: it’s just to catch up on things that are going on. Making sure nothing’s being overlooked or forgotten about. Mr. James’ experience in this matter was invaluable. He didn’t encounter most problems for the first time, so he knew how to handle things if something went awry. And there tends to be at least one thing each term that does.

  • How do you organize the advertisement for your magazine?

At this point, we have a few contract partners that have been advertising in eMAG for a long time, which makes the process a lot easier: they know exactly what needs to be done once we come around and ask if they’re still interested. The process consists of two steps: first off, we need to get the contracts signed by our partners who then in turn will send us their ad. This ad is then being handled like a regular magazine page and copied into inDesign. After that, we need to deal with the entire bureaucratic process of handing in the contracts to our university. The people in charge then check if they are all legally printable and if any mistakes have been made. If everything is found to be in order, they write the bill.

  • Our first magazine didn’t have a general topic, and everyone just wrote about whatever they were interested in. However, we think it will be better if our magazine has that kind of topic for each semester’s edition from now on. How do you decide on a topic for each term?

That’s one of the funnier parts of class! During one of the last sessions each term we dedicate one hour to brainstorming ideas on what could be interesting as a topic. It must be a topic that hasn’t been covered yet, of course. Once we have a list of potential topics, everyone gets to vote on what will be the Main Topic for the following issue. We usually go with that decision, but I remember a few terms ago when more than 90% of people voted on a topic that we ended up not taking. My deputy and I decided on the topic Misfits instead, although that topic only had two votes, coming from the both of us. Guess that’s one of the few perks of being editor-in-chief.

  1. How do you manage a deadline as early in the semester as one month after it started? And what do you do afterwards?

For everything to go as smoothly as possible, the team and I sit down during the term break to plan everything out with a very strict schedule. Experience, of course, already plays into this, so we kind of know how well some deadlines will work out or how much time you really need to give people with certain assignments to get reasonable results. Then, one week before the term actually starts, I write an e-mail to the course and give the participants all the details, so everyone is already well-prepared and know what’s coming. That method has been working out for us pretty well.

  1. Do some of your Lehramt students plan on using the skills and ideas from your magazine project later on, in the school classroom?

As I’m not going to become a teacher, I can only make assumptions here, but I think working in a team project like eMAG definitely makes organizing a bit easier later on, when you want to get anything done with a horde of 30 pupils. I look at it realistically, though, and say that it’s most likely not going to be a magazine in and of itself. What is useful, I would imagine, is the skills you learn without even noticing for the most part: Working in a team, problem solving, time management. Skills that are becoming more and more important in our society. So maybe that is our little contribution to the development of our students in the course. I, at least, hope so and, most importantly, that it’s a fun time for everyone in what’s otherwise often a very monotonous university day.

Activision Blizzard® –

The lovechild of communism and capitalism?

Yes, it’s been a while and yes, I said I wanted to work on more reviews over the summer break. As per usual my plans came to a hold due to some family stuff. And just as I came back and started working on one of said reviews, I stumbled upon this gem of a disaster…

Part of the following topic would usually be something I don’t report on or write about: the ‘Revolution of our Times’ in Hong Kong – a movement started by students in protest to the supposedly non-democratic elections held in Hong Kong even though the people were promised fair elections. There is a reason as to why I would avoid a topic as this because I am usually not too interested in politics which has more to do with my disgust towards lobbyism more so than anything else. But this movement has crept into a topic I very much enjoy covering, which is gaming. So how does all of this connect? 

Back when I decided to write about gaming – long before my time at eMAG – I figured it would be mostly limited to a few reviews here and there about some indie games. But the more you get invested in a topic, the deeper you dig and not long before the whole cesspool of drama within the industry and scene would unfold – topics for articles for another time when I’m bored. But I have never quite lost my interest in the gaming scene, as you can probably tell from one of my last articles. I mentioned that one of my favourite companies there is Activision Blizzard. Years ago, when it was still only known as ‘Blizzard’, their major contributions to the gaming world consisted of the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo series. The company was known to have high standards in regards to development; trying out new things but always keeping the consumer their first priority. A goal that was highly regarded by the community and has always been at the heart of the company so much so that outside the Blizzard headquarters you can see a statue and three plaques that read:

Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; Every Voice Matters.

Back in 2012, with the release of ‘Diablo 3’ the company probably hit the biggest controversy with the introduction of what they called the “Auction House“. A virtual place in-game where you could spend money to buy gear off of other players to help your own character – with a cut of the money going directly into the company’s pockets. In theory sounds like a really cool idea, right? It all depends on the implementation and that’s when Activision Blizzard first poked the bee hive that is their own community and comments on their greediness arose. The whole idea of directly buying power in-game with your hard earned cash seemed ridiculous because why would you even want to spend money to basically avoid playing the game as the whole point of Diablo was to find gear for your character. And that’s where the dilemma of being consumer or community-friendly and being a corporation at the same time first started to peek for Activision Blizzard. The chances of getting any sort of loot where so abysmal that if you wanted to complete the game many people felt like they were forced to buy gear.

A few years later a new hit struck the market: Hearthstone. And the trend continued. With Hearthstone being what it is, a digital card game, a lot of players voiced their unhappiness after a while as to why it was necessary to have so many unnecessarily bad cards in their – just inflating the pool of potential cards to draw from with each booster pack and in turn making it less likely to get the cards you want and need to play competitively. I’m not going into detail here about the monetisation system behind the games and how the booster packs are basically just loot boxes because that will be an entire article in and of itself. It shall serve simply as a showcase of how the consumers have directly been affected by the changes over the last 2 decades even by one of the companies known to be the most consumer friendly.

There have been more subtle changes as well over the years, though. Some of these changes more obvious than others to the players, the consumers and the critics. The most important little detail here is most likely that a Chinese gaming company called Tencent bought up 5% of Blizzard’s stock in 2007. Combine that with the ever growing business potential that is growing in China and you see why a largescale company would have a vested interest in keeping their Asian shareholders happy. And that is exactly what Activision Blizzard tried last week when during an interview with the professional gamer ‘Blitzchung’ who won in a tournament – ‘The Grandmasters Asia-Pacific’ of aforementioned Hearthstone. The games as well as the interview were streamed live over the internet. Blitzchung went on in his interview to ask if he could say some lines of his own. The interviewers very reluctantly agreed and Blitzchung went on to speak out for the Hong Kong movement:

Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our Times.

Something that I would assume strikes most of the Western audience as something totally relatable. And I get that there are cultural differences which is why the casters and interviewers probably saw it coming and were not too happy to be associated with said statement. The response by Activision Blizzard followed within minutes. The livestream went down and later on it was announced that the official winner Blitzchung would be stripped of his well-earned title, the prize money and the right to now on compete in the tournaments to come. The casters were struck with a similar fate in that their contracts were terminated immediately followed by a very clear statement to the public (taken from rockpapershotgun.com)

Hearthstone’s official Weibo wrote that they “express our strong indignation [or resentment] and condemnation of the events” and “will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honour].”

While the Western audiences got the bare minimum excuse of a legal statement within the rules of conduct for the tournament in which Blizzard hinted at a paragraph that explains they kept the right to remove any player that damages the company’s image (taken from blizzard.com)

“Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.

There is no doubt what image could potentially have been damaged here. The image in the eyes of the Communist Party of China. I guess it is important to know here that the Communist Party is known to censor content they might dislike on a whim. Don’t believe me? They banned Winnie the Pooh because of comparisons made to their president Xi. Banning an entire video is the least of their problems. There is an entire procedure for gaming companies that they have to undergo before their product will be listed for the Chinese market as far as I know. So a company as Blizzard that tries to make as much cash as humanly possible with Asian shareholders on their board has no other interest here than trying to please the Chinese market that is just such a lucrative opportunity for any company nowadays.

So I definitely have to give Activision Blizzard credit where credit is due. They certainly still uphold their value of „Thinking globally“ albeit maybe oriented a bit too far to the east currently. But they seemed to have censored their own ideas of Leading Responsibly or making Every Voice Matter anymore.

This article should really only serve as a quick introduction to what is happening here with the American corporations and the Chinese censorship that is creeping into all sorts of media. If I somehow managed to get you interested in what’s going on here, have a look at some of the professionals’ works like
– Jim Sterling’s Jimquisition on this topic on YouTube

– RockPaperShotgun
– IGN

for more news on the gaming related side of things and basically all big news outlets for the Hong Kong protests directly or Amnesty International. The organisation focusing solely on Human Rights worldwide.

Addendum: After I had been done writing this piece and had everything set up to post it, there had been more news on the whole topic which I thought would be worthwhile including. In particular, the US congress agreed on writing a letter to the CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, in which it stated:
“We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard’s decision to make player Ng Way Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government’s growing appetite for pressuring American businesses to help stifle free speech.”
Seeing how the US congress or any government have never really showed any concern for what happened in the gaming industry (with a slight movement in the right direction towards loot boxes, to be fair) it came quite surprising to see quite a few members of the congress speak out and sign this letter; namely: Ron Wyden, Marco Rubio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher, and Tom Malinowski.

Text by Tobias Lorenz
Picture by Kevin Muto from Pixabay