After almost five and a half years, today’s my last day at Kotaku. A good number of you are now probably scrolling to the bottom of this post to remember what I do here, since my articles aren’t a daily feature of the site. My job, mostly, was to hide out in the background and help. It was a pretty great job.
To be fair, I wrote a lot of articles. People still email me about getting the worst ending in The Witcher 3, and even when I don’t reply, I feel for you. (My newfound free time plans include replaying the entirety of The Witcher to get a better ending.) I’m sorry I cannot help you fix your beeping PS4 (I also have not fixed mine, and now I just give it a wide berth so as not to alert it to my presence).
I got to write a couple times about trans guy stuff, a rarity both in video games and games journalism that I hope to see change. I wrote about religion more than I expected to. I got to write about drinking and bars in games, and then I got to write about getting sober. I wrote about so much Fortnite, and got up at 4am more than once to cover its latest updates, a thing I will probably still do even when it’s not my job anymore because I’m permanently broken now. I got to interview the developer of a survival game I love, go to the Fortnite World Cup, and review some of the biggest game releases to an audience larger than I ever dreamed when I was freelancing. It’s weird to look back through my author page and realise that it now comprises what is likely the entirety of what I’ll write here. At the end of today, the powers that be will lock me out of a site that feels so much like mine but isn’t, really, and that’ll be it.
But my main job wasn’t writing. I started here in February 2016 as managing editor. If you don’t know what that is, the best and also worst description of it was given to me once by Gawker’s executive managing editor Lacey Donohue, one day when I was slumped on the big stairs in the old office looking stressed out and terrified, as I often was in those early days. Lacey told me, “A managing editor’s job is to solve everybody’s problems, then think of all the problems they’re going to have tomorrow and solve those too.”
This is a terrible job description and maybe even worse life advice, but I always took it to heart, which is possibly why I’m leaving this job with far less hair than when I started. Sometimes solving problems meant assigning stories, or editing stories, or writing stories myself. Other times it meant keeping all our calendars up to date, or finding out why this thing in Kinja is broken, or getting clarification on an email we just got so I’ll know how to explain it when no one understands it. It meant meeting everyone across our network of sites who might know the answer to a question a writer might one day have. It meant keeping track of all the passwords and who owns which consoles and how to expense something and when that art request will be ready and how to explain to the art department that we’d like the art to be more purple but not too purple, you know? It meant keeping a running list of who always files late and who always files early, so that if someone misses their deadline I already know what’s ready to be swapped in. It meant looking at a site full of stories at the end of the day and thinking, “Well, that worked out,” then getting up the next day and solving all the same problems all over again.
Solving writers’ problems also means solving peoples’ problems, which cannot be solved with spreadsheets and Trello boards. This company has never been an easy place to work, and games journalism has never been an easy field to work in. More than all the organising, which I loved, and all the editing, which I also loved, I loved getting to know this team every day beyond who they are on the page. I hope I always did my best to try to make their days better, especially in the last year and a half, when the world around us could feel so urgent and impossible.
I tried to make space for everyone’s selves outside of work and games, to be a good support to them, to celebrate their joys and be compassionate to their struggles. I probably took this responsibility way too seriously sometimes. I like to hope caring a whole lot helped, though. It’s part of what drove me to become our site’s union representative, spending hundreds of hours in meetings (which I also love), fighting for a contract that would protect my people from a new owner’s whims, that would make their lives better, both at work and outside of it.
There are problems I regret I couldn’t solve. No matter how hard I fought, no matter how much I cared, I couldn’t make the people who own this company understand what makes the sites they bought so special, something you understand because you’re reading this site right now. I couldn’t make them believe that the people who work here are who I know them to be: people who know how to do their jobs and earnestly want to do them well, people who want everyone here to succeed. After all the drama and upheaval and bullshit these sites have been through, they’re still my favourite parts of this terrible internet, and I’m heartbroken that I won’t be here to keep fighting for them. I tried so hard. I wish I could have done more.
But there’s so much good to look forward to in Kotaku’s future. Patricia Hernandez, a true legend, has come back to be EIC, and in the brief time she’s been here she’s found successes and I know will find more. She knows what really makes this site what it is, and I’m confident that if anyone can lead Kotaku into a next iteration that you’ll be excited to go to every day, it’s her.
The staff I’m leaving behind are smart and dedicated and passionate and care so much about giving you great stories to read. They’ve been through hell this past year and a half, like everyone has, but they showed up every day and supported each other and took their jobs seriously, even when that meant being very serious about shitposting. I’m certain they’ll continue to thrive, writing awesome stories I’ll be jealous I don’t get to edit. I’m so excited to see what they do next. I will do my best not to DM them with pedantic suggestions.
The folks at our sister sites will keep doing the incredible things they do every day, being honest and smart and diligent and maddeningly funny. One of my favourite jobs as managing editor was handling “splices,” sharing stories from one site to another, because it meant I got to take time out of my day to read all their great work. I plan to keep reading them daily, and I hope you do too.
And the GMG Union will keep doing the vital work it does, inspiring industry-wide change while protecting the people who work here and the journalism they do. Getting to be a member of the union was the greatest joy of my time here, even when it led to me crying in probably every part of the office at one time or another. The union taught me what solidarity is, what commitment is, what’s possible if we care about each other and work together. If you’ve ever thought about joining or starting a union, there’s never been a better time.
As much as I saw myself as the guy who helped everyone, so many people here, past and present, helped me. I will thoroughly fail to thank them all and don’t want to bore you with a list of names, but here is that. The current staff: Patricia, Alexandra, Lis Marie, John, Brian, Luke, Mike, Nathan, Ethan, Ari, Ian, Ash, and Zack. My past boss Stephen, for teaching me how to do this and for letting me figure out how to do it for myself. Everyone who used to work at Kotaku and who I will not list because I won’t be able to edit this post if I leave one of you out and then I’ll feel guilty forever, with special apologies for those times you would send me a note that you were going to file late and I would make a frustrated noise and then try to pretend it wasn’t about you when it totally was. Our overseas Kotaku colleagues: Alex, Serrels, and Keza. The social editors who braved the internet for us: Seung, Tim, and Jeb. The other EICs and people who may as well be EICs, for being such wonderful supports over the last four months: Julianne, Rory, Genetta, Jordan, and Angelica. All my past and present buddies across our sister sites: all of Jalopnik for being my first friends, but especially Patrick, Mike, Raph, Erik, Erin, Adam, and Erica; Rich, Joan, and Harron; Jill, Brian, Yessenia, Rose, Marina, Katharine, Joanna, Bryan, and Alex; Alan, Melissa, Alice, Joel, Claire, Virginia, Nick, and Patrick; Barry, Dvora, and Samer for that time when I was new and he invited me to a party and I thought it was the kindest thing in the whole world; Kevin, Erik, Marnie, and Laura; Dicko, Marchman, Joyce, John, Susie, and Lacey, who when I bought her microwave from her left me the sweetest note that I still read when I’m feeling down.
Nick Denton for that one time we got stuck on a subway platform together and he saw me panicking and said “I’m going to go over here now” and walked away so I didn’t have to think of what to say, which was impossibly decent of him. Recipe Slack for being the only good Slack channel. The world’s best art department, but especially Sam for turning sitting across from each other into both a friendship and a constant Photoshop tutorial. All the non-edit people who’ve kept this place working: Victor, Jim Boos, Chris, Shehroz, Will, Carolina, Kavi, Maritza, Claire, and Ernie. Everyone who ever has been or ever will be on the bargaining committee. WGAE folks Laurie, Terri, Megan, Jeff, and Arcy, for teaching me how to be brave. I’m forgetting a million of you, but I’m honoured I made so many friends here that I can’t remember them all on deadline.
Working at Kotaku, and working at this company in all its many versions, made me a better writer, a better editor, a better leader, a better teammate, and a better person. All I had to do to get all that was be around to help out.
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