The headline is true, despite how incredulous it sounds. THQ Nordic, a publisher largely known the past few years as the company who announces the acquisition of the rights to a new video game every few days, hosted a Q&A today on 8chan, the same 8chan that’s been involved in incidents regarding child pornography, swatting, GamerGate, and more. It has since apologized for the decision, citing ignorance over 8chan, but it remains indefensible.
Earlier today, THQ Nordic issued a tweet that is somehow still up, as of this writing. Update: It's now down.
8chan is an online image board (a message board with a large focus on sharing images, such as memes), and a a spin-off of the online image board 4chan. 4chan itself is already notorious for being a haven for racist, sexist, and otherwise inflammatory rhetoric, but 8chan was created out of a belief 4chan itself was too limiting. 8chan became notorious early on for being a gathering place for the hate group GamerGate, was found to be hosting child pornography at various points, and was eventually blacklisted from coming up Google searches because it contained “suspected child abuse content.”
In other words, it’s an absolute hellscape, even by Internet standards, and...this is where THQ Nordic chose to hold a Q&A? There was really no other choice but to legitimize a breeding ground for the Internet’s worst?
The move was so brazen and strange that it was reasonable to assume it was the result of someone hacking THQ Nordic’s social media account, but then the Q&A actually started, in which two members of THQ Nordic’s staff—PR and marketing director Philipp Brock and business and product development director Reinhard Pollice—started answering questions.
Even then, there was reason to think it was still bullshit because of some of the answers.
When someone asked THQ Nordic to not appeal to the “SocJus crowd,” Brock said “thanks! We’ll try to stay that way.” When another person asked “where the big tiddie lolis at?” and pasted an image of a man groping two young looking girls, Brock appeared to respond with “you got them already we’d say.” This sounded like the kind of online chatter you would see from a hacker who was looking for attention, not an executive for a major gaming publisher.
The ##Reporter tag seems to indicate an official response, but there are a number of responses with a similar name, this time lacking the ##Reporter tag. The anonymous nature of 8chan, which is part of the point of the platform, makes it impossible to truly tell who is saying what—yet another huge red flag.
Even stranger was a follow-up tweet from THQ Nordic where it thanked some random guy named “Mark” for setting the whole thing up and who would “take care of the nasty stuff.”
And yet, it’s true. It all happened. Both of those people typed those words onto 8chan—again, a place banned by Google because of “suspected child abuse content.”
When I called Pollice over Skype, a startled and clearly shaken voice picked up.
“I guess it’s about the AMA, right?” he told me. “Ah, so, you know. I wasn’t really involved with this. My PR colleague—I don’t know if you have his contact information—Philipp, was involved in that and is currently handling it.”
Pollice quickly got off the call, and moments after sending Brock a message, he responded.
“I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site,” he said in a statement. “I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form. I am terribly sorry for the short-sightedness of my (!) decision, and promise to be far more vigorous in my assessment of these activities in the future. This was not about being edgy, this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place.”
THQ Nordic has no excuse here. 8chan’s origins and purpose are not mysterious or hard to find. That the company has quickly backpedaled and apologized for their apparent lack of due diligence does precious little to excuse what happened here. What’s especially damning is what each of them said on 8chan. They were more than happy to play ball with the crowd.
It also doesn't explain the most recent like on THQ Nordic's Twitter account, which someone who wasn't hacked definitely clicked on in support of what was happening after THQ Nordic started getting blowback from people over the decision:
And consider this: THQ Nordic, a company representing countless hundreds (thousands?) of developers who are currently working on games, just brazenly associated themselves with an online website best known for its past (and repeated) association with child pornography. If we take Brock at his word, that this act was one of ignorance and not malice, the damage is all the same. All those developers—and their games—dragged through the same mud.
Update: In the aftermath of this story, it was not shocking to hear from understandably angry developers.
"It feels horrible to be associated with this company in any capacity," said one developer currently working for a studio under THQ Nordic, who requested anonymity to protect their job.
"I definitely worry about the affect it'll have on our audience," they continued. "The mainstream game audience is arguably already leaning right, and this (implicit or explicit) approval of this awful group is only going to drive sales in their direction and away from the kind of progressive people that I would love to reach. The comment on 'continuing to avoid making games for SocJus audiences' fills me with the most dread."
If you work at THQ Nordic and want to reach out, please do.
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