Censorship is hardly a foreign concept in the gaming community, often becoming a topic of interest for publishers and consumers alike. In the lead-up to Hearthstone‘s upcoming Saviour of Uldum expansion, Blizzard Entertainment is the latest party to be felled by the jaws of censorship, following a new patch release for the game.
The update, which went live two days ago, introduced some alterations to existing card decks, including the addition of cards to the Classic set, and the removal of them from the Standard mode. The designs aren’t spared of changes, too – eight old cards have had their art modified, much to the chagrin and dismay of many fans.
From the looks of it, the changes seem to have made the designs less revealing or violent. One of the most popular spells in the game, Eviscerate, for instance, is cleared of any blood, and now sports a squeaky-clean aesthetic. Meanwhile, the Succubus card has swapped out a whip-wielding female demon for a generic four-legged, wide-jawed creature under a new name, Felstalker.
The introduction of these changes have seen fans taking to Reddit to voice out their displeasure and mock the Blizzard team for their controversial decision. With their lack of an official explanation, some common speculations have already spawned within the community. While some guessed that the company is looking to reduce the potential negativity birthed from the portrayal of scantily-clad women, others believed that the change is a result of abiding by China’s stringent censorship laws.
A Blizzard spokesperson has since responded to Kotaku’s call for further clarification, stating,
The recent changes were applied to make those cards more visually cohesive and consistent with the art style of Hearthstone today. When Hearthstone first launched, we brought in a lot of artwork from the physical World of Warcraft trading card game. In the years since, Hearthstone has developed a look, feel, and personality of its own that distinguishes it from that of Warcraft—though we still love being a part of that universe. We’ll always be looking for ways to deliver on the game’s unique style, charm, and personality.– A Blizzard spokesperson, on the team’s decision to change the design of existing Hearthstone cards.
For a digital card title that’s been designed for a younger audience in mind, the art tweak doesn’t exactly come across as surprising. After all, corporate re-branding is a strategy often deployed by companies, and there’s no reason why Blizzard can’t head down the same path as well – especially with a supposed family-friendly game like Hearthstone. If anything, the disillusionment should be directed at some of the more bland designs instead.
Si Jia is a casual geek at heart – or as casual as someone with Sephiroth’s theme on her Spotify playlist can get. A fan of movies, games, and Japanese culture, Si Jia’s greatest weakness is the Steam Summer Sale. Or any Steam sale, really.