Let me tell you the best thing about being editor-in-chief of Kotaku.
There’s a writer or a producer on the team. They have an idea. It’s something real, something they need to tell people, something worth knowing. They write it. They post it. And the readers show up. Maybe I’ve helped make that space for them, but, really, it’s them. They did it. And I’m cheering them on.
And that’s it.
You can probably tell where this is going, right?
Since May 2009, first as deputy editor of Kotaku and since 2012 as editor-in-chief, I’ve tried, more than anything else that I’ve done here, to make those successes happen. During moments good and bad, amid the escalating chaos that the different versions of our company perpetually brought, I put my energy into keeping Kotaku going and keeping Kotaku true. As I did that, I kept in mind that what made Kotaku wonderful in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2019, you name it, has been its staff: its writers, editors, and producers, every one of them past and present, putting their journalism, their critique, and the rest of their ideas on the page. And my main job was to just make sure they could, and to support them as they did.
I’m leaving Kotaku. Today’s my last day, as I gear up for a glorious month of vacation. Maybe I can go for some long runs, teach my kids to ride bikes, actually finish Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (does it ever end?). Then I’ll start my new thing, still journalism about video games and more of a return to a time when I was writing and reporting my own stuff. I’ve missed a lot in recent years. No, I’m not saying where yet. Follow my Twitter, folks.
Kotaku, like all of Gawker Media’s sites, was birthed in rebellion. Deadspin was designed to skewer ESPN, Jezebel to counter retrograde women’s magazines, Gawker to thrash everyone and Kotaku to challenge the establishment of Gamespot and IGN (or to eventually take charge at one of them — keep kicking arse, Tina!).
The point of all our sites was to get closer to the truth. At Kotaku the truth involved games and game culture. We were to deliver the ideal, as articulated by Gawker founder Nick Denton, of the real story. He expected us to show the public the reality that reporters of the establishment press didn’t put in the paper but told each other after hours at the bar — or get as close as we could to that. I liked that directive from Nick, definitely more than the one where he suggested we run pictures every day of people making faces playing games (uh, thanks for the suggestion, boss!). That journalistic value wasn’t unique to Gawker Media, but the fervor to pursue it will forever motivate me. I hope it continues to drive the staff of Kotaku, current and former, to always dig deeper, always shun artifice, always work harder to bring the reader in on what you know, always find ways to be more real.
Over the years, I had a lot of hopes for Kotaku, for our reporting to get to necessary details that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day, for our criticism to improve our appreciation and thinking about a still barely-understood medium.
Chief among my goals was to challenge people’s expectations about what a big gaming site would write about and who would write it. I was inspired by small sites and brave voices, especially those from the groundbreaking website The Border House, which recognised the need to cover politics and people, and to reach and address a diverse readership, at a time when the big outlets were not doing so. Year after year, I was motivated by bold staffers who covered taboo topics because they mattered. I wanted a Kotaku that felt daring and inclusive, one that would make a more diverse set of readers feel welcomed and seen by the site. I hope we made some progress there. There’s still so much more work to be done.
This has been a dream job, though, sure, occasionally a nightmare. It’s been worth it. I am grateful that Kotaku exists, that there has been a site where readers will show up whether the EiC is interviewing the head of Nintendo or some random “boring” commenter. So thank you to the readers for that. Really, thank you to the millions of people who read this site every month. And thank you to everyone who talked to me for a story and who put up with my five more one last questions.
Thank you to Brian Crecente, Nick Denton, and all the leaders of Gawker Media and its permutations who believed in me and my team and/or just stayed out of the damn way. (And, speaking of power brokers, thank you to The New York Times for running Kotaku reviews in its pages for a couple of years. That was pretty cool, too.)
Thank you to everyone I worked with — every reporter, critic, blogger, producer, artist, social media editor, finance worker, sales person, office manager, events coordinator and anyone else who was part of Kotaku or provided support. Some of you are still at this company, some have moved on. I am rooting for all of you to thrive. I also want to salute the staffs at our sister sites, who embody that animating rebellious spirit.
I want to thank our current staff — Alexandra, Ari, Ash, Brian, Ethan, Ian, Lisa Marie, Luke, Mike, Nathan, Zack, Tim and our frequent partner John — for their unbelievable fortitude in this most recent and hardest of years. What you’ve all done on the site during what we’ve had to live and work through together is astounding. You’re as great a Kotaku team as there’s ever been.
I also want to give a special nod to Riley MacLeod, longtime managing editor and, more recently, editor-at-large. He is a terrific team wrangler, top critic, and trusted friend. He has worked so hard to hold this site together through so many storms and has been my indispensable, de facto deputy for this past, challenging year.
It’s been an honour to serve this team and our site’s readers. To the staff of Kotaku, just one last request: please don’t relegate my comments to the grays.