Edgy marketing decisions have a way of blowing up in companies’ faces, but rarely do they so immediately and spectacularly detonate like this: THQ Nordic, publisher of games like Darksiders III, decided to host an AMA on 8chan, an image board notorious for everything from Gamergate ties to stalking and harassment to child porn. Bafflingly, THQ Nordic thought it would go just fine. Predictably, it did not.
The company announced its plan earlier today in a tweet, saying that “the opportunity was here and we took it,” and that “we got approached in a very friendly and polite manner and were assured, said person (shoutout to Mark) will take care of the nasty stuff.”
This prompted a titanic wave of backlash from THQ fans.
“Unrelated but I went out to the park today and there was free dirt all over the place so I just started stuffing it into my mouth,” one tweeted. “The opportunity was there and I took it.”
“Up next, THQ Nordic hosting an interview on Stormfront after polite invitation,” said another.
Games critic Noah Gervais pointed out that these sorts of decisions have ripple effects. “Your taking this opportunity (and legitimizing the concerns of the 8chan crowd) is a stink it’ll take years to wash off, if it ever does,” he said.
Mark, whoever he is, did not take care of the nasty stuff. The ensuing AMA contained pornographic imagery, Hitler references and memes, copious questions about loli, racial slurs, and so much more. There were also more standard questions about THQ Nordic’s future plans, which PR and marketing director Philipp Brock replied to. In one case, a user said, “Please don’t censor any games nor appeal to the SocJus crowd, you guys are doing fine as is,” to which Brock replied, “Thanks! We’ll try to stay that way.”
The content of 8chan users’ questions and posts is not at all surprising, given the board’s history—something a PR person like Brock should’ve been aware of. In 2013, 8chan creator Fredrick Brennan decided that 4chan—then regarded to be one of the internet’s most lawless lands—had become too controlling and founded a “free-speech-friendly” alternative. 8chan frequently takes that stance to its utmost extreme, to the point that it was blacklisted from Google search in 2015 for containing “suspected child abuse content.” When 4chan gave Gamergate the boot, many users relocated to 8chan, which still serves as a hub for Gamergate-related discussion.
Two hours after the AMA began, THQ Nordic issued an apology on Twitter.
“I personally agreed to this AMA without doing my proper due diligence to understand the history and the controversy of the site. I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form,” wrote Brock, adding that he is “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.”
Brock further clarified his stance in a statement sent to Kotaku: “I do not condone child pornography, white supremacy, or racism in any shape or form... This was not about being edgy, this blew up and I very much regret to have done it in the first place.”