THQ Nordic's 'Apology' Over 8chan Incident Isn't Worthy of Forgiveness

This isn't the bare minimum. The bare minimum involves disclosing steps on how you plan to regain trust.

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Mar 4 2019, 10:14pm

Image courtesy of THQ Nordic

It’s been nearly a week since THQ Nordic, a publisher with the resources to know better, engaged with a public Q&A on 8chan, an online board best known for credible allegations of hosting child pornography. Hours later, the company issued a frantic apology, but in the days since, THQ Nordic has been quiet. The company has not, according to multiple sources who asked to remaining anonymous out of fear of reprisal, addressed the matter internally.

Today, however, the co-founder and chief executive of THQ Nordic’s parent company, Lars Wingefors, issued a brief statement “regarding the recent AMA event.” It’s worth reading the statement, which was broadly addressed to “group employees, partners and consumers," but largely reads like a letter to shareholders:

This letter is to offer my sincerest apologies and regret for THQ Nordic GmbH Vienna’s interaction with the controversial website 8chan last Tuesday, February 26. I condemn all unethical content this website stands for. Even if no one within the THQ Nordic Group would ever endorse such content, I realize simply appearing there gave an implicit impression that we did.

As Co-Founder and Group CEO of THQ Nordic AB, I take full responsibility for all of THQ Nordic GmbH‘s actions and communications. I have spent the past several days conducting an internal investigation into this matter. I assure you that every member of the organization has learned from this past week’s events. I take this matter very seriously and we will take appropriate action to make sure we have the right policies and systems in place to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

As a Swedish based, fast growing group, we firmly support equality and diversity. We are also working actively to combat discrimination, harassment, and misconduct. We are already in the process of developing new work processes, based on the United Nations’ SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and using the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards, and we will accelerate this work going forward.

8chan is not a “controversial” website, a legal-friendly centrist term implying there’s active debate over what 8chan is or isn’t, an ongoing question as to whether a place with pedophile-friendly forums is legit. “Controversy” grants 8chan merit it doesn’t deserve.

Remember, it’s not just that THQ Nordic participated in a Q&A on 8chan—it’s what they said during that Q&A that, in some way, matters more. Nothing here attempts to atone for that.

THQ Nordic is trying to skate away with a few hundreds words that give the illusion of progress and acknowledgement of last week’s “events” without actively engaging with the specifics. What did this “internal investigation” suggest? What’s going to change next time? What do the United Nations SDGs and Global Reporting Initiative's standards—the former a “blueprint” towards an equitable society with an emphasis on respecting the planet, the latter a way for businesses and government to better assessing their impact on the wider world, including climate change—have to do with THQ Nordic’s 8chan misstep? It’s throwing out terms like “diversity” as a shield from criticism. Instead, explain how you plan to regain trust.

This statement isn’t the bare minimum. The bare minimum is already in the past, when THQ Nordic got a pitch from some Internet rando named “Mark” about a Q&A on 8chan, a place that’s been banned by Google search results but whose toxic history is easily findable, and decided “nah.” That’s not the timeline we’re living in. THQ Nordic already made their choice.

Over the weekend, I made a snide tweet about how THQ Nordic should have to live with this mark “forever.” The foreseeable forever is a time at which I will personally determine it’s no longer relevant to point out the company held hands with a place better known for fostering active fascism than video game commentary. That time is not now, less than a week after THQ Nordic stepped in it to a degree that’d be laughable if it wasn’t so obviously harmful.

The developers working under and owned by THQ Nordic didn’t make this choice, though.

"It feels horrible to be associated with this company in any capacity," said one developer currently working for a studio under THQ Nordic to me last week. (They wished to remain anonymous for fear that speaking out would put their job in danger.)

It’s possible to continue holding THQ Nordic to account for what happened, to not let the inevitable progress of the news cycle—Why is Anthem bricking PS4s?!—and a shiny “apology” provide a convenient way to turn the page. It’s also possible to take the games THQ Nordic publishes on their own terms, as works of art created by teams who were not part of the broken decision making resulting in THQ Nordic executives posting on 8chan.

What happened last week wasn’t just an ordinary mistake. It can, and should, take time before THQ Nordic is allowed to move on. Part of whether that happens is we don’t forget.

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