Some wild stuff happened on February 27, 2019 in the world of THQ Nordic, and it had nothing to do with the company snapping up another dead or dormant IP. Instead, the company set off on a PR move that ended up being one of the biggest video game PR gaffes in recent memory, if not in the entire history of the medium. See, the publisher, in the midst of gaining some real positive notoriety, decided to hold an AMA. Makes sense, as people in the gaming community have had a lot of questions for the rising publisher. Unfortunately, THQ Nordic’s head of PR opted to hold the AMA in one of the worst possible locations on the internet, one that’s baffling they even considered it. It blew up of course, and now the narrative has become a question of whether or not those involved made this unbelievable move on purpose.
Here’s how it all went down. One day, out of the blue, the official THQ Nordic Twitter account announced it would be holding an AMA (Ask Me Anything) at 8Chan. 8Chan is a sort of unofficial offshoot of 4Chan, a website that is known for being a bastion of bastards in the internet world. That’s mostly due to its reputation for edgy humor and pornography, in addition to its more specialized communities. 8Chan was made for the people who felt unwelcome at 4Chan. Let that sink in for a minute. Yes, there’s some heinous stuff going on at 8Chan, and the site was even blacklisted from Google for material that was found to endanger children. We all know what that means.
So THQ Nordic, totally acknowledging how weird such a move is in a follow-up tweet, answered a few questions amid a raucous cacophony of internet trolls screaming about Hitler and lolis. And SJWs as well, natch. In the meantime, the entire rest of the community was exploding. People were screaming at the THQ Nordic twitter account, journalists were trying to figure out what the hell was happening, and it was generally chaos. Within an hour, THQ Nordic’s head of PR had dispersed a brief statement claiming relative ignorance over what 8Chan is, and sort of apologizing for the move. A more full statement was released later, further attempting to absolve THQ Nordic of further consequences and responsibility.
Now, statements like these from corporations generally aren’t good enough to leave everyone on the receiving end of them satisfied. Many people didn’t think it was enough, and a running theory is that THQ Nordic’s PR folks knew exactly what they were doing by engaging in this particular AMA opportunity. After all, (shoutout to Mark), the question and answer sessions was apparently an invitation from within 8Chan in the first place. This pseudo-conspiracy theory suggests that everyone involved knew exactly what 8Chan was, and figured the controversial site would help spur some outrage-fueled engagement with the THQ Nordic brand. Visibility through manufactured controversy, essentially.
Of course, there’s no way to know if that’s true or not. It’s conjecture, speculation, theorizing, so on and so forth. But there is evidence to suggest that at least, whoever was running the Twitter account at the time knew this was a strange, if not controversial itself, choice. The language used in the tweets, some “likes” the account made, and the actual participation in the AMA on the site suggested a “nudge, wink” sort of vibe about this being held on 8Chan. So seeing those theories that this was a deliberate move-slash-gamble gone wrong crop up as they have isn’t super surprising.
On the other hand, that’s almost too stupid to be true. To know what 8Chan is should directly correlate to knowing what associating with 8Chan means. Any PR employee, especially a high-ranking one, should know the value of doing due diligence when it comes to participating in any community. That especially holds true for online communities. This is a trap that isn’t hidden under dirt and cleverly-placed foliage. It’s a series of blinking lights and signs that say, “GIANT TRAP HOLE” in big, red letters. From my perspective it’s impossible to fathom accidentally jumping into 8Chan without knowing what it’s infamous for, and not expecting such a backlash it requires groveling and multiple statements to even start trying to make it right seems even more preposterous.
Obviously, we can’t suggest what the truth is either way. The only people who know for sure what the mentality going in to THQ Nordic’s 8Chan AMA was are the people who were directly involved. Maybe this decision truly was made after the opportunity came in, figuring the site couldn’t be any worse than regular 4Chan or a place like Reddit. Or maybe it was some weird cloak and dagger stuff, a move fishing for a reaction regardless of what kind of reaction it would be. Humans are complicated, and video games and the internet make things even messier. It’s important to hold THQ Nordic accountable for this mistake even going forward, but it’s also important to keep a level head when it comes to talking about the motivations.