Having witnessed GamerGate as it unfolded, the hatred that was directed at marginalized communities deeply hurt and confused me. After all, aren’t video games supposed to be about fun? Shouldn’t we strive to be a community that gets along? It’s disheartening to see online spaces that exist solely to spread hate and hostility. As a spectator, many watch from the sidelines, hesitant to participate or speak out, fearful that they may become the next target simply because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. And what about friends? Will they also be subjected to harassment and abuse?
As news breaks and reveals unsettling information, more people find their faith in humanity diminishes even further. It is easy to doubt any company that claims to offer happiness and positivity, as news outlets expose their true intentions. These companies were never truly on the side of their customers and only wanted their money.
Reports from Polygon and Wired have revealed that the Good Smile Company, a manufacturer of anime and gaming figurines, has been funding 4chan for years. Shockingly, Good Smile owns thirty percent of the messaging board after the owner put it up for sale. What is even more concerning is that this same company produces figurines for beloved franchises such as Sonic, Zelda, and Animal Crossing, which promote themes such as kindness, teamwork, and community. In contrast, 4chan does not foster these values, with its users and content having been linked to various traumatic events, including a 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo. As a result of the shooting, Good Smile was forced to disclose its investment in 4chan. Allegations of discrimination and tax evasion have also come to light in a lawsuit filed by two former employees. It is worth noting that Disney (a Good Smile partner) has reportedly taken action against the company, sharing that it will not renew its deal with them.
My first reaction on hearing this news was, "Why?!" It's that same disbelief and hurt I felt when GamerGate started.
What is 4Chan?
Chris Poole created 4chan as a message board when he was only fifteen years old, taking inspiration from 2chan messenger boards. In 2014, he sold the company to 2chan's founding company, 2channel, and admitted that it would be difficult to create a separate identity from the one he had created as a teenager. Poole also expressed a lack of interest in starting another startup.
Why should we be concerned about a toy company’s investment in 4chan? From my perspective, 4chan is not a safe space for marginalized individuals. Users on the platform have been known to post racist memes, carry out “raids” on other websites, and post content that espoused viewpoints consistent with the ugliest parts of what came to be known as GamerGate. The events of GamerGate clearly showed that it was not safe for marginalized individuals in the gaming community, especially given the lack of restrictions on social media platforms regarding harassment and threats. As a result, it is very concerning that a toy company like Good Smile would choose to invest in 4chan, given the platform’s association with such harmful activities.
From a financial standpoint, 4chan earned little profit according to a 2010 Business Insider article. In fact, Poole admitted in the article that it barely breaks even, and “no one takes home a paycheck.” Subsequent articles and interviews seem to indicate that profitability continued to be a challenge until the time Poole sold the platform. So it is a cause for wonder why the purchase was made; there is no reason to invest in this website as there may be no dividends on that investment.
From an emotional standpoint, it’s hard to understand why a company would want to own a piece of 4chan. Is this for bragging rights? It’s even harder to understand after the revelation that Disney is reportedly cutting ties with Good Smile. It’s anticipated other companies that have a relationship with Good Smile will also part ways considering Good Smile's forced disclosure of its ownership of 4chan in relation to a mass shooting. It’s plainly clear that investing in a platform that promotes hate and has historically been tied to violent acts and language is not worth the risk for any reputable company.
In short, there is no reason for this purchasing decision. Good Smile has yet to explain why they made the investment of revenue from expensive figurines, of beloved gaming and anime figures, into such a distasteful venture. They took the trust of consumers for this indulgence.
Money Funding Cruelty
It always boggles me that people have time to be this cruel, and what’s even more boggling is that a company would invest in this venture. I’m not 4chan’s target audience, so I fully admit that I do not understand the appeal. Sure, I love cat memes and cute videos, but not alongside sheer violence and hate.
If you are going to invest in 4chan, why not invest in it to progress in the opposite direction? Why not encourage healthy moderation of these spaces, and maybe proactively handle incel issues? Perhaps one could do a reversal of the GamerGate tide and convince people we need communities that do not harass based on hearsay.
Good Smile did none of that, but they did make a profit off Animal Crossings figurines and continue to do so with said figurines and others. From what I know of Animal Crossing, cooperation and kindness within a community allow you to have the best possible experience. I'm curious to see if Nintendo will rethink its relationship with the company.
Consumers may turn away from Good Smile, understanding that supporting Good Smile is supporting 4chan. I know I won’t buy any of their figurines. One can hope the emotional realization will follow the financial loss.
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