Goodbye From Josh And Gita

Today, Joshua Rivera and Gita Jackson are both leaving Kotaku. They sat down to talk about what they love about this place, as well as the state of games journalism and its diversity, worker solidarity and herbs.

Joshua Rivera: There’s not a lot of opportunities for this. There’s a good reason for that. We’re not supposed to become the story—but also saying some of this stuff out loud, it’s helpful.

Gita Jackson: I think a lot of the minority teenagers, college students, will be happy to have read this. It’s impossible to not be aware of the absence of Brown people in this space. I am friends with a lot of the games journalists in New York City that are people of colour. You know, like when we see one up here, we try to meet them because there are not very many of us. So it’s like, it’s impossible to not be aware. I mean, I get messages from young black women who tell me that seeing me do it makes them feel more confident about getting into video games. Part of me wants to be like, wow, thank you, that’s so flattering. And the other part of me wants to be like, THIS IS HELL, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS JOB?

Josh: This industry—part of this, is just also capitalism, right? But it’s unkind to things that it perceives as aberrations or different, you know what I mean? Everybody talks about how diversification is good and they’ll give you all these incentives, like maths reasons why it’s good. But culturally, no one really wants that. They just want to hang out with people like them.

Gita: I don’t think that video games are any more or less racist than society at large. We see it very clearly because it’s such a small community and very, very tight knit. And I think that video game marketing divisions have encouraged the kind of quote unquote passion that leads to people becoming overly invested in a commercial product to the point they feel like they need to defend multimillion dollar corporations. And that is the thing that I think is more toxic than just the bald-faced prejudice, is this really intense, unyielding, deeply conservative economic viewpoint on video games and the people who make them. It’s purely a dollars game. And it’s all about corporations. And treating those corporations as people. And that is the thing that holds video games back and holds the people that love video games back more than anything.

Josh: I think you were talking about how, it’s not that games are more or less racist than the rest of society. It’s just that games are set up in such a way that video game fans are conditioned to believe nothing is wrong. Right? Where most people can look at the world and be like, you know, Oh—

Gita: “Some things are wrong.”

Josh: Some things are wrong! You know, like “the NFL should care more about concussions.”

Gita: Let me be real for one second. I never thought that Kotaku would ever want to hire me ever. I’m an extremely opinionated person and many of my opinions run counter to the establishment. It was only like this year that people started taking the unionisation conversation seriously. But yeah, I mean, my opinions on just how culture should work very different from the majority of people who really are interested in video games.

Josh: I also had this weird, um, perception of Kotaku ’cause like you said, just media in general, trends toward behaving conservatively because it allows you some sort of stability in an unstable industry.

I was at my previous job interviewing a personal hero of mine, and he had just turned 50, and he was telling me like, ‘It’s like, I just realised you don’t have to fight everyone, you know?’ I’m still in my late twenties, so I’m still learning that lesson, but it’s hard and that’s why there was that reticence towards taking a job like this one. When you are a freelancer, you can have this illusion about yourself, about how you are above the bullshit or fighting it by not participating in a system even though you kind of are by taking money, you know? And then when you get a job—you get this faulty assumption that like, I’m ok with everything that this institution does. You know? So it’s interesting to hear that you struggled in that same way.

It meant a lot to me that you had been here so long, you know, which might not seem so long in the grand scheme of things, but in media, it’s a lifetime. There’s something more fundamentally humanist, I think, about your writing that stuck with me. It made me feel like there was space that I could do what I wanted to do here.

Gita: What I liked so much about your writing and you is that you also care a lot about humans and it’s very clear in your writing. And your understanding of the systems of power is incredibly strong. The way that you see through bullshit is something that I really, really admire. You don’t waste the words waffling, you don’t give people the benefit of the doubt when you see bullshit; you call it bullshit. And I just think that’s something that the industry needs a lot, a lot more of. And so I was so happy once I got to know you and understood what your goals were. Here I had someone that was also just willing to just—I mean sometimes in this industry, it feels like an “emperor has no clothes” moment. Like every single day you’re just the kid that’s saying there’s no fucking clothes.

It’s not as profound a compliment as calling your writing humane, which I don’t —thank you. Thank you. But it is, I think it’s just like, I’m like jealous sometimes when you just say the thing I want to say, but I’m kind of afraid to say it takes a lot of courage because people are fucking nasty and mean in this industry and it’s so small that if you piss people off, they will remember. But you don’t have fear about that and you’re always right. Even though you don’t think Horizon Zero Dawn is a good game.

Josh: One of the things I’ve learned from you, cause I have not been involved in any union or organisation or anything like that, is the notion of pushing to advocate for yourself, but also being cognisant of the needs of others. So like there’s this cathartic desire to fucking take on these motherfuckers, you know, let’s take the fight to them, but also we have our colleagues to think about, you know.

Gita: I love every single person who works for Kotaku. And when I say love, I mean love. Like I have been sobbing about the idea of not working with them for basically an entire month. And when I mean sobbing, I mean big fat, wet tears, snot coming out of my nose. Just absolute abject misery. So I love to talk to you because of what you just said, about looking at a time of strife and people deciding that you’re just going to be the best you can possibly be. I feel like that’s a deeply Kotaku instinct, always going out with two big middle fingers. And that’s like the tightest thing in the world.

Josh: I feel robbed of the opportunity to love this place as much as you do.

Gita: Can we just say specifically that Jim Spanfeller has made it impossible for us to work here?

Josh: Yeah, absolutely.

Gita: His outward and obvious hostility towards the writers here, his treatment of the Deadspin writers, his firing of Barry, the way that he talks about Deadspin and the way that he won’t take responsibility for its closure even though it comes from his really awful management decisions, have just made my faith in the ability of him being able to keep this company solvent, just completely obliterated. And it’s all him. It’s all his choices.

Josh: There’s no way I feel supported as a writer. I know Stephen Totilo, bless up, will go to the ends of the earth for us.

Gita: Hell yeah. He would fight an army. He cares so much about his writers.

Josh: It’s a shame that we don’t have owners that care for a fraction as much. You know, they don’t, they don’t shout out our work. They don’t care for our work.

Gita: I’m not even sure that Jim Spanfeller is aware that he has a video game website.

Josh: I mean, he might know now.

Gita: [laughs.] Yeah. Sup dude. Suck it.


Comments

    Sad to see them go. Both are great writers and I hope they find a new outlet that lets them fully use their talents.

    this uh... not the best way to say goodbye I think. I don't really have strong feelings but, you aren't leaving the best impressions I don't think. Insulting your boss and moving into topics of diversity off the bat just aren't the sorts of things that'll go over well interviewing elsewhere. put down Kotaku as experience and they check your most recent work to see this, is probably not gonna be helpful.

    either way, best of luck to future work. I may not particularly care for you or your writing much but, I'm never going to hope you fail.

      You'd be surprised. This is very much in the old style of attitude that the Gawker and Gawker sites always adhered to - stripping away the niceties of comportment that often allowed abuses of power, corruption and conversations to avoid talking about the real issues. All the Deadspin folk went out exactly the same way, and it hasn't hurt their future career prospects - the American media market is very, very partisan compared to what we have back home, and the strength of that attitude and voice is a very sellable proposition.

        fair enough. then again not really sure if working in 'mainstream' media is all that glowing of a thing to put on a CV so it probably wouldn't matter much.

          Experience is experience - people working across media appreciate those who come from companies big and small. The bigger companies are also likely to have things like bigger in-house dev, bigger in-house SEO, broader analytics teams etc., so when they move to a smaller outfit or a startup or what have you, they'll often carry with a broad range of insights that's really useful.

    Guess there’ll be less communist rhetoric being shoe-horned into articles now.

      Heaven forbid you might be 'forced' to engage with some opinions you disagree with.

        “Yay communism” isn’t an opinion nor was there ever anything of substance to engage with.

          Apologies, your first post left me with the impression that you had actually read the articles you were offended by. My bad.

      Do these guys need t-shirts that say 'I don't know what the words socialist and communist mean' or something?

      The best bit is when they say 'OH ANYONE YOU DISAGREE WITH IS A NAZI'.

    Sorry to see you both go. :(
    The site will be poorer for your absence.

    All the best to Josh and Gita, hopefully, they find a place where they can write the type of content they want to.
    That being said, I've noticed recently the reduction in clickbait, barely games related coverage on Kotaku and I'm enjoying the site much more as a result. I also feel like it has had a positive effect on the community here.
    So if this is a result of a 'stick to games' style directive from management, I feel like it has had positive outcomes for readers (or this reader anyway!).

      Who'd have thunk that blanding everything down to inoffensive, mainstream and uncontroversial topics might result in lower levels of engagement from readers?

        When the majority of the resulting 'engagement' boils down to people frothing to hammer each other with their unwavering political/ideological beliefs, I'll take the inoffensive, mainstream and uncontroversial thanks.

          Honestly just happy I seen any articles about Sims porn mods lately.

          I think perhaps you might find literally dozens of computer game websites that offer exactly what you are looking for. Why are you here exactly, and what's forcing you to pan down to the comments section anyhow?

            And there’s even more websites that cover the political issues you’re after. I’m here for good gaming content, why is it you’re here?

              I'm here for some critical analysis of games, opinions and ideas that make me think a little bit differently about things, a bit of passion and enthusiasm, entertaining and unusual takes. I don't like my world subdivided into neat little silos that never cross over or threaten my comfortable ignorance and where I never have to engage with opinions or ideas other than my own.

              For the moment Kotaku offers me a lot of what I'm looking for in game's commentary, but apparently doesn't offer you what you want, hence me questioning why exactly you are still here. Seriously, why change a website that many people clearly feel is working perfectly well when there are so many alternatives offering precisely the kind of 'objective' reviews and press releases masquerading as news that you appear to be after?

          Yep, "everything is fine", at least for you, so if all the people for whom things are not fine were so kind not to be so noisy and interrupt your peace and enjoyment, that would be great. They totally can go cry out about their issues out of earshot; surely that's not precisely one of the things that keep things bad for them!

            I have no control over you or this website so you can cry out about your issues wherever you want.

              Indeed. Similarly, you could choose to simply ignore all that content which does not bring joy to you (it'd take you like 1 degree of rotation of your mouse's wheel to go past each of those annoying articles in the main page article selection) rather than celebrating when it's no longer there. What is annoying to you may be important for other people.

      There hasn't been any such direction to change what Kotaku has been doing, from what I know, and of course, what gets published from the Aussie side has always been purely off our own bat with no input from the US. Separate teams, separate management, etc.

        Thanks for the info. I was just making inferences to Kotaku US based on Gita and Josh’s comments as well as other news I’d read. Always preferred the Aussie content though, tbh.

          Thanks, that's always appreciated :) (And from what we can see, Aussie content always does best, no matter what it is, so maybe we should have lots more of it *loud throat clearing*)

            Looking for more? I thought you were working 18 hours a day already.

            The Aussie writer's style suits Aussies more (shocking I know). If I could offer constructive criticism though I would suggest Luke shy away from the artwork posts and go back to what he does best; writing about strategy/civ games.

              He does them both! Art posts don't mean he does less strategy. Working through strategy games takes ages, and it's not like dropping one art post means he'd finish a strategy game sooner.

    I liked the gita articles :(

    On a not so unrelated note, we need fucking unions in videogames and games media

    What the fuck is going on over in Kotaku US? They lost Cecelia only a few months ago, now two more are jumping ship?
    Is there writing on the wall there or what?

      Think it’s just a lot of shake ups thanks to... well, everything related to the higher management (deadspin etc). There’s been plenty of promotions as well! A lot of restructuring, some new hires. No doubt still plenty of good stuff to come.

    I just wish I was mega rich so I could buy the gawker media group and just let them run with what they have. Every vertical has its appeal and knows what it’s doing! How do these nuts at the top not see that all they need to do is literally nothing and they get money from it?!

    So sad to see members of the staff going, loved both Gita’s and Josh’s work. Have no doubt they will continue to put out great stuff where ever they go.

    Gosh that was a kickass goodbye. Very rare to see real reasons and names published like this. Respect!

    Sorry to see you go, Gita, if only because I loved disagreeing with you and deriding your articles. Hopefully you can find an echo chamber worthy of your writing talent. From the tone of this article, it sounds like that's what you're looking for.

      He says from his own echo chamber...

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