I take some things for granted. The sun will rise, gravity will continue holding me to the surface of the Earth, and corporations do not approve of child porn. So Darksiders 3 publisher THQ Nordic stunned me this morning when it made everyone question its stance on the exploitation of minors.
[The following story contains references to the sexual exploitation of children. –Ed.]
THQ Nordic held a question-and-answer session on notoriously toxic image board 8Chan today. And a lot of people took issue with that for good reasons.
Like 4Chan, 8Chan is known for memes and as a place for young, male reactionaries to get mad about women and minorities. The site came to prominence when 4Chan began cracking down on child pornography. Child predators shifted to 8Chan because it “allows delicious cake,” which is a disgusting euphemism for pedophilia.
The site gained further popularity among angry young men in 2014 when 4Chan banned posts about the hate group GamerGate that was targeting women working in the video game industry. In 2015, Google delisted 8Chan from its search results due to reports of “child abuse content.” The site is also home to a larger number of white supremacists who formerly posted on 4Chan’s /pol/ subforum.
And yet, in 2019, THQ Nordic did a full AMA with that group.
THQ originally justified its decision. It said someone named “Mark” would take care of the nasty stuff. And it followed that up with a “shoutout to Mark,” which is an incredible phrase.
I reached out to THQ Nordic for a statement. It did not respond, but it did post an apology to Twitter.
So 8Chan is known for child pornography, white supremacy, and racism. These are generally things that companies try to separate themselves from. And now, after a backlash on social media, THQ Nordic is doing the same thing.
In a post on Twitter, THQ Nordic PR and marketing boss Philipp Brock shared the following statement:
“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. I’m 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.”
I want to believe he wouldn’t have done this had he known better. But it’s fair to expect a company to know, at an institutional level, about 8Chan’s reputation.
Brock is a relatively young person — I don’t know his exact age, but he started going to university in 2003. But maybe he’s not concerned about who and what GamerGate was targeting. It’s possible he wasn’t aware of 8Chan’s role in GamerGate. Or the role it continues to play in the ongoing harassment of women and minority people in gaming ever since
But that’s not an excuse anymore. It’s getting old having to say this over and over, but diversity could have prevented this. Brock may have a diverse team working for him, but he took full responsibility for making this decision. That suggests he did not bounce this idea off of anyone else around him that could have known better.
So another executive is apologizing for not knowing about a common threat to nearly every other group of people on the internet.
And that’s only if you believe the apology, which I’m having a hard time doing.
Why the apology doesn’t mean anything
Even if you didn’t know about 8Chan, loading up its website should raise some immediate red flags. You will see threads titled “#GamerGate” and one where people are calling for a database of “SJW game developers.” And there’s one about how “Netflix is subverting white children AGAIN.”
It is easy to know what kind of website this is by looking at it for 30 seconds. But still, it’s possible that Brock didn’t know and didn’t peruse the site. Maybe he just clicked on a link to the AMA and that’s all he ever saw. Even in that incredibly generous scenario, however, Brock was happy to play along and fit in with the general tone of 8Chan’s jokes.
In one exchange, Brock seems all too happy to engage with a poster talking about “lolis,” which is short-hand for “lolitas” or sexualized underage girls. The poster asked where the “lolis” are.
“You go them already we’d say,” Brock wrote in response.
In another post, Brock thanked a poster who congratulated the publisher for resisting the influence of “social justice.” The executive also confirmed the company’s plans to stay that way.
Philipp Brock sounds like an 8Chan poster
Maybe he’s just playing the role of an overly agreeable company spokesperson. But no one answers every question in an AMA on sites like Reddit. Why wouldn’t he just ignore these questions that have nothing to do with THQ’s games?
Well, maybe it’s because he seems to feel at home on 8Chan. When someone asked him about THQ Nordic’s Destroy All Humans property, Brock made a joke about being its pimp.
“We work it like an alien prostitute,” Brock wrote.
What does this even mean? You can buy Destroy All Humans on the Xbox Game Marketplace for $20. Is that like taking money from a sex worker to THQ Nordic? The original question wasn’t even crude. The anonymous questioner just wanted to know what is going on with the series. And somehow that led Brock to a joke about working it like a prostitute.
I don’t believe Brock.
He says in his apology that he didn’t do his due diligence and that this isn’t about being edgy. But if he just Mr. Magoo’d his way onto this website, why do his answers echo its misogynistic edgelords?
I don’t know. He didn’t apologize for that.