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Updated Editor’s Note 11/7/2017 – In an effort to further commit to our editorial vision of quality content about nothing but games or the industry, we are leaving this note here to let you know that this article does not meet the standards of that vision as it exists today. This article may be poorly written, or it may be well-written but with charged political content, which we have stepped away from. It’s not the ideas we have a problem with, as we do not discourage any viewpoint, we are just moving away from this sort of content. This article no longer represents TechRaptor’s editorial vision today and into the future. You can read more about why we are doing this here.

 

Writer’s note: I have chosen not to link directly to any articles here in order to reduce the harassment of those involved. I researched this article myself and through information sourced to me, by asking my twitter followers and readers of /r/KiA. I would like to thank everyone who helped me, all opinions are as ever my own.

Over the past few months, people have been discussing corruption in video games media loudly on consumer based websites such as YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter. Silence in the mainstream media is because it is the source of the controversy.  No-one has been at the centre of this controversy more than Kotaku, a video-gaming and geek culture website owned by Gawker media, for its questionable practices

Totilo argues that Kotaku’s main objective is to entertain, and this, in his eyes, is more important than any disclosure issues the website might stephen totilo kotakuhave. There is some validity to this. While Kotaku is well known for its sometimes off topic click-bait articles such as, “Underpants for phones offer much needed protection and giggles”, “Sims 4 nudity mods have become really detailed” and “I don’t want my OK cupid dates to know I like video games”, and the content of these is often limited and low quality, but I personally believe the internet is big enough for this kind of content, and the entertaining nature of it can fill a hole for people who simply wish to waste time.

Kotaku also gets some things right which many media outlets still fail to grasp. Kotaku tries to distance itself from pre-release reviews, which is only a good thing, as we saw with Sim City the difference between playing it at a review event and in the real world is very different. Kotaku has also done away with review scores, as Totilo points out, distilling the experience of something as subjective as a game to a number can be extremely problematic.

I would also like to give Kotaku the benefit of the doubt in terms of disclosures. Nathan Grayson wrote an article about a failed Game Jam, citing 2 good friends as his sources. One friend wished to fund her own Game Jam. Grayson also plugged his other friend’s title “Soundself” 6 times in 3 months. He did this without disclosure of his relationships with these people.  Another Kotaku writer, Patricia Hernandez, also wrote a gushing article about the same female developer without disclosing their friendship. Hernandez also promoted ex-lover and indie developer’s work, where she made abnormal amounts of calls to action to buy the game without disclosure of their relationship, and wrote a huge 6 articles on a former housemate’s work, again without disclosure.

These are obviously ethical breaches. But as Totilo points out that lines between professional relationships and friendships can sometimes get murky. While it is clear from the way Hernandez wrote the articles, where she tries to distance herself from the developers claiming she gained information purely through emails and hearsay, she knew that her behaviour was unethical, I believe that with Kotaku’s extremely low standard for journalism, and the fact that they publish articles every 30 minutes, she thought that no-one would care. Grayson and Hernandez, made human errors based on the tragic state of gaming media as a whole, and not irreparable ethical breaches.

There are far more worrisome ethical problems going on at Kotaku. Here are several cases of articles which Kotaku has published, and the shocking real life consequences for those involved, simply for clickbait and page views.

A  team of student Dutch developers created a game about a raccoon in space. It was called Starcoon. Unaware of the connotation of the name in America, Kotaku put opatricia hernandeZ kotakuut a hit piece forcing the team to change their name at a great cost. Kotaku then further used their successful harassment of these developers to attack the Washington Redskins.

Kate Cox released a hit piece on David Jaffe, creator of Twisted Metal, who in a 2 hour press conference, made a joke, that if you let a lady friend win at co-op she would “suck your dick.” While the joke was clearly in poor taste, the actions of Cox lead Jaffe to be harassed and dehumanised despite apologising for his actions. It should be remembered that Mattie Brice who made a similar bad taste joke about killing all men, was defended by many, and refused to apologise.

Patricia Hernandez wrote a hit piece on Max Temkin, creator of Cards against Humanity, after he was cleared of a rape accusation. The article smeared him for his unconfrontational reaction to the accusations and caused him further harassment at an already troubling time. Temkin went on to remove the rape jokes from Cards against Humanity, a game known for its dark humour.

Kotaku further smeared and blacklisted David Prassel of Spiral Games after he fired members of the company for theft. The sources used  were the disgruntled employees without checking their facts. As such, Prassel’s name was mud in the industry and few wanted to work with him.

Another article was released about journalist Josh Mattingly, when his private facebook messages with a female developer were released. In the messages Mattingly drunken asked the developer if he could kiss her on the vagina. While Mattingly had already apologised to his friend, the press blew the story up and Mattingly lost his job.

Jason Schreier launched an attack against George Kamitami, artist of Dragon’s Crown, dedicating a whole article which stated his drawings were done by a 14 year old boy. The argument spiraled and many denounced Dragon’s Crown for its provocative art style. The game received low critical success.

Most damningly Kotaku attacked Brad Wardell after an ex-employee attempted to sue him for sexual harassment. The article contained glaring errors, demonising Wardell, such as saying that he then attempted to sue her. Wardell could not comment for legal reasons, and a year later when the case was dropped and the former employee made to apologise, Kotaku followed up the case in an article suggesting, that this doesn’t mean he didn’t sexually harass her. Wardell has received several death threats over the case, and has found it hard to find clients who will work with him without associating him with the dropped charge.

Kotaku however, does not only attack individuals but groups. It’s known for infantilising Japan and its culture and therefore trinathan grayson kotakuvialising real problems .Their representation of Japan does little to properly express Japanese culture, instead maintaining the crazy Japan stereotype, and further dehumanises its population.

Kate Cox attacked gamers who were disappointed by Mass Effect 3’s ending, despite their fair criticisms. This was mirrored in Luke Plunkett’s death of an identity article, opposing the identity of gamers and “thoughtful, considerate human beings.” It seemed strange to me that a video gaming website would try to be alienating its audience, but one has to realise that the audience is not the consumer here, advertisers are, the audience is merely the product. Controversial articles after all produce clicks.

As a woman, what leaves the sourest note in my mouth is Kotaku’s coverage of women in the industry. You never hear of Kim Swift or Robin Hunicke and there is silence on the grounds of how to elevate more women into the industry. Instead there is scaremongering. When clicks are produced by controversy it’s much better to write about the tiny number of women running from their homes, who feel unwelcomed and who are harassed, than it is to write of the vast majority who feel loved and welcomed in the industry. When the narrative is formed this way, women see video gaming development as a battle ground which they daren’t enter, it creates fear and hate. If you want more women in the industry, stop writing these articles, or at the very least put them in context.

The time when a website is ruining people’s lives, careers, and chasing women out of the gaming industry, is the time when action should be taken. Kotaku does not have to be your gaming media. Kotaku is dead.


Georgina Young

Contributor

British girl, currently in Japan. Surviving on a diet of retro games. Worshiping the god that is the Sega Megadrive. I like Nintendo.



  • Thanks for the article. Refreshing that the truth is not being suppressed everywhere.

  • kirakila

    “Kotaku does not have to be your gaming media. Kotaku is dead.”
    Good riddance. Gawker as a whole could burn to the ground, for all I care. World would be a much better place without them.

  • Mermadesings

    If it’s possible, I’d like to see an article about Kotaku’s Japanese coverage. It’s horrible and insulting and I think a formal article would be a great service to the gaming community.

  • Wonderkarp

    I have a bad habit of visiting Kotaku for their daily deals. I cant help it! I wish somebody would publish the same deals elsewhere. atleast I have their ads blocked and its 2 clicks.

  • Patrick Howard

    I love you for this article you even brought me a huge part of new info you really really did well thank you for one of the best articles i read in the last 2 month and belief me i read a lot of articles

  • George on the Go

    As a Japanese resident I can certainly look into it.

  • Ørjan Kristoffersen

    Very nice to have this summation of Kotaku’s many wrongdoings.

    Great work, as always, Georgie.

  • Andrew ‘Wolfie’ Woolford

    ” Kotaku does not have to be your gaming media. Kotaku is dead.”

    Dammit Georgie! I nearly woke people up, laughing!

  • Fearghul

    I agree with you that Grayson and Hernandez made human mistakes and that these are not some massive unforgivable transgression. The real key to ethical behaviour is how you handle it when you do make a mistake. Admitting it, correcting it and explaining why it happened and how you intend to avoid it in the future are the hallmarks of someone seeking to do the right thing. We all make mistakes, the key thing is to acknowledge them and learn.

    The other issues are definitely of greater concern as they go to an editorial stance rather than just individual lapses. The click-bait approach of trying to spin salacious narratives reeks of the behaviour of the likes of Hearst and Pulitzer. One sought to correct the mistakes that they made, the other embraced them fully…I suspect most recognize which one sought a better standard. I wonder which it is that Denton et al seeks to be when history looks back?

  • NathanEH

    While I disagree with Hernandez and Grayson’s lack of disclosure not being that big of a deal, I certainly agree that these are small offenses next to the examples you’ve given here.

    Even forgetting about all of these issues, Kotaku is just a horrible website that stopped caring about video game a long, long time ago. Everyday their reporting sounded more and more like Tumblr ‘reblogs’. Articles like “How to buy Bravely Default without looking like you’re buying Bravely Default” just because the cover features a woman with bare legs drove me up the wall and it was the final nail in their coffin for me. That was before #GamerGate even.

    When I learned that Kotaku and Gawker were involved in the Valkenburg controversy I certainly wasn’t surprised and I’m very happy to see their web traffic has plummeted and their sponsors backing out left and right. I never read Polygon, Gamasutra, or the other ‘gamers are dead’ sites, but I’m more than happy to see them join Kotaku in a well deserved grave. It’s time to retake gaming in the online arena and make it about games once more. Indeed, “Kotaku does not have to be your gaming media”. Kotaku is dead.

  • Remnant Psyche

    Nobody at Kotaku is creating great, substantial articles. (And I hope none of the writers are laboring under the delusion that they are, as that would be quite sad.) I think they’re probably just happy to be getting lots of page views.

    Then again, we’ve seen how easy it is for them to trick the media at large into accepting their narratives. Maybe they really do think they’re creating “important” stuff for which they’ll be remembered. I’ve long rolled my eyes over gaming journalists’ transparent attempts to “elevate” the enthusiast press. Applying political correctness to games is the laziest way to do that (or give the impression you’re doing it).

  • Sebastian Mikulec

    I hate to use rash terms and suggest something so extreme, but the entirety of Gawker needs to be burnt to the ground, figuratively speaking, of course. That media company, as a whole, is just way too corrupt and toxic to be saved. They are so far down the rabbit hole of their own manufactured alternate reality that there’s simply no getting back out.

    The greatest irony is that Gawker is a company that claims to have feminist leanings, yet they are doing a whole lot of damage to women and true feminism alike. Their scaremongering and aggressive attacks on anyone who’s views they don’t fully share, often without regard to fact checking or truth and not the least bit of care of the damage they cause to people’s lives, is dragging the name of feminism through the mud. It’s no wonder that feminism has become one of the most derided terms in the English language, which is a shame for the real feminists out there who are legitimately trying to help women get the same opportunities as men, the same compensation as men for equal work and/or skill level, and want women to get by on their merits.

  • Mark Samenfink
  • Dehydration

    I’ve been translating an article on Matome blog yellow journalism and seeing a lot of parallels to Kotaku’s modus operandi. Not particularly familiar with games journalism in Japan, but how big of a problem are sites like this in the JP videogame sphere?

  • cptk

    Does the content of “I don’t want my OK cupid dates to know I like video games” explain it’s because it would mean (s)he is a nerdy socio-path who hates and harasses women?

  • Doc Hammer

    Top notch article as always George. I feel like we don’t discuss enough the hypocrisy of Kotaku when it comes to how they handle Japan. It’s half cultural appropriation, half dehumanization, and all very racist. For a site that was founded on American interest in Japanese culture, they sure have no interest in discussing it fairly. It’s just easier to point and laugh, right Mr. Totilo?

  • JackDandy

    This one’s a keeper.

  • Silhouette

    You’re doing god’s work, Georgina.

  • realgamer07

    The last line tho, wow, slow claps for you georgina!!!!!!!

  • ScewMadd

    This is a great article. Really sums up Kotaku’s glaring flaws. Bookmarking it as a way to show neutrals the problems with the website.

    I never knew about this website before GG. One of my stop-offs for games writing now. Keep up the good work.

  • Denis Dyack

    Great article! Kotaku also did a hit piece on myself and negatively effected many around me and myself. I am glad Kotaku is getting called out for what they have been doing over the past years.

  • Arty McBert

    Gawker as a whole needs to burn to ashes, as do Vox.

  • Mitchell Pollock

    Thankyou for a little more balanced reporting. I’m sure this will get you and the site a great many fans. As long as you don’t mind the place filled with the corpses of ‘dead’ gamers. lol

  • Sylveria Shini

    One correction, Dragon’s Crown, outside of Kotaku, was highly regarded critically and was one of Atlus’s most successful games that year. The “bad press” which the vast majority of the game buying public saw as a sex-negative hipster throwing a hissyfit for attention so the Starbucks girl would blow him, gave the game a great boost. Last I knew it had sold over 800k copies internationally between the two platforms. For that kind of game, that’s a huge success.

    The one great thing to come out of Kotaku and the SJW hissyfits as a whole is companies are seeing how little that demographic matters. “Normal” people see through it, but are silent when it comes to opposing it. I wish more people would stand up against that kind of obvious agenda pushing, but as long as they’re at least ignoring the narrative, things are moving for the positive.

  • Sylveria Shini

    Siliconera tends to have those fairly frequently as well and other than the head writer being a whore for Capcom, they’re fairly balanced.

  • Jake Martinez

    George – this is totally the type of criticism that needs to be out there in the press of these types of tactics. I don’t know if you’re aware yet, but it’s looking like you can add plagiarizing to that list as well. It appears Nathan Grayson may have translated a french article and reposted it as his own… KiA investigating…

  • Ryan Barrett

    Kotaku’s been “dead” to me long before GamerGate. I’m glad they’re getting all the shit they deserve at this point, but I just wish other people like myself would’ve realized it a lot sooner before they became this ridiculously overrated “go-to” for gaming news. I guess it just takes a mature, critical, and skeptical mind to see through all the bullshit.

  • Ricardo Lima

    Excelent article Georgie.

  • Niwjere

    *warms hands by rising fire*

  • Max

    I thought people would realize Gawker is not feminist do to the stalking and leaked nude photos.

  • Niwjere

    The rules don’t apply to the people who make them, remember? Gawker is feminist because they say so, and not because their actions prove it.

    /SJW logic

  • Ncrdrg

    That was a great article Georgina. Good to see you did your research on it, I even learned some new stuff. Thanks for that!

  • BuckNasty84
  • wcg

    The problem with mainstream (non-gaming) media is that video games are alien to them so they rely on established gaming outlets for their interpretation of the gaming “news.” This is why we saw the completely one-sided view of GamerGate. Unfortunately, the big gaming media sites are amateurish in the way they handle their journalistic responsibility and can do more harm than good (the Brad Wardell situation is a good example.)

  • wcg

    Proof that controversy sells. They care more about web traffic than any social justice issue. We’re all being played.

  • John

    Can’t believe that I’ve never heard of this site until now. I never even knew about this whole gamergate thing because i only read gaming news from kotaku & polygon. Although polygon did pissed me off because they banned me for speaking against that sarkeesian broad. And the fucked up thing is they actually made me mad about this whole gamergate thing, because i was like why the fuck are these gamers just preaching about hating women and harassing women for no reason, they can’t be that stupid. I thought that these stupid ass gamers just making us looks bad and they’re just making those feminist looks like the victim and they themselves as the villain. And boy I’ve never been so wrong in all my life.

    Well, this site will go in my bookmarks bar and no more kotaku and polygon for me. Any other honest gaming website out there that you guys could recommend? Thanks in advance.

  • George on the Go

    Japan is still very magazine based, Famitsu (the japanese IGN) is the only website I know of and go to.

  • KLLRFRST

    Bingo. Kotaku, Gawker, and their brethren are just havens for clickbait and shoddy “journalism”. Gawker runs an article decrying the leaks of Jennifer Lawrence’s nudes, yet months earlier, they bragged about leaking Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, and bragged even more when they refused to remove the tape when Hogan threatened to sue them. And that’s just one example their hypocrisy. They only care about “social justice” when it can benefit them.

  • Grey

    Hopefully TechRaptor won’t mind mild shilling of the competition on their comments, but Niche Gamer is great: http://www.nichegamer.net/

    Highland Arrow is good too: https://www.highlandarrow.com/

    I would have recommended RevueLabs at one point, but it’s sort of in a deadzone right now.

    Also, glad to see you took the time to look deeper into GamerGate. Wish more people would.

  • David

    So what are we suppose to do about it Georgina? Anybody? Emails aren’t working. These people won’t change. This is a result of people growing up on the internet. You don’t have to empathize with people on the internet and this is the result of these people growing up in this environment and getting jobs in the media. They just mock and antagonize anyone who criticizes them.

    You’ll see more of this behavior coming from people in the media where they don’t care about the people they hurt as long as they can get more clicks and money. No one can come out against them because they are all corrupt and cover each other.

    Meanwhile, these people are destroying people’s lives and no one can get their story out because no one will listen.

    So what are we suppose to do to stop it?

  • Reptile

    Only two times in my life I accessed Kotaku, the first one was the local brazilian Kotaku, I found it to be shit, then I tried the international one to see if it was better, it was pure shit too, then I never came back.

  • Reptile

    I would say, forget about them, when someone asks you about Kotaku, say “Ko-what?”. And if they try to show you, say that you are already visiting really good sites like Techraptor and then show them Techraptor, if they insist in kotaku, “see” it in front of them and then say “Yeah cool those guys, but I still preffer Techraptor”.
    Those people want attention, so what would be the worst than being forgotten?

  • David

    They’ll just continue having the bigger voice and manipulating their readers with BS in their articles. Mocking and criticizing anyone that doesn’t live in their hugbox. There are probably more gamers against gamergate at this point just from the sheer fact that they coordinated between each other and used their influence to lie and manipulate hundreds of thousands of their readers.

    How do people stand up to that kind of propaganda? Changing people’s minds after they hear a story for the first time is incredibly difficult.

  • Oh, to be at that level of traffic. One day…one day.

  • Jake Martinez

    Denis, please do an AMA at http://www.reddit.com/r/KotakuInAction

    I researched your story as part of an body of work I’m doing on yellow journalism in the gaming press and I think it might be interesting to interact with some fans who are passionate about this problem.

  • ZekeKeZ

    You need to realize the real possibility of the friends they cover actually requesting or suggesting that they be covered because they know they will get exposure and thus more money. That for me is the real issue. I can consider a journalist’s friends using them in that matter but in this instance I feel both parties know what they are doing. “Hey you write for Kotaku. Write an article about me that will boost my sales/site traffic/twitter followers/likes/subscriptions.” To which the response is “Sure” All of that is directly tied to both getting more money.

  • PancakeWizard

    “Wardell has received several death threats”

    And his family.

  • Fenrir007

    Only decent articles I remember from Kotaku are the report on the violent games trial in California and an interview with Molyneux I sort of liked. That’s fucking it.

  • Fenrir007

    Continue doing what you do, we already had a lasting effect on the industry. The rise of alternate gaming websites is an example – I’m sure places like Techraptor and Nichegamer saw a huge increase in traffic. It also made people more critical when reading gaming articles, and prone to do some digging on their own to verify information and potential agendas. FTC is addressing this as well next year. Youtubers are going to keep substituting the old media (and we may have given them small help). Brad got his long overdue apology. We had a lot of victories. A win condition doesn’t have to be exclusively a scorched earth scenario – having alternatives is already a good enough scenario for many. I, for one, am extremely happy to have switched my entire gaming feed with better publications. That alone is worth a lot.

  • Fenrir007

    At least you wear protection. Don’t wanna catch Kotaku’s cooties, after all!

  • Fenrir007

    With great clicks comes great irresponsibility.

  • dsadsada

    Makes me wonder who’s even visiting them.

  • Denis Dyack

    I will look this over – thank you for pointing it out. The problem with AMA chat is so much can be lost in the chaos.

    edit: would love to piece you are doing yellow journalism. Please ping me when you are finished.

  • Nick

    Only one small gripe: Captions on pictures indicating who they are of would be appreciated as there are many different names flowing through the article and I don’t really have context on what they are necessarily there for.

  • Guest

    Please don’t declare yourself as someone who has the right and privilege to tell us all what “true” Feminism actually is. Your kind just keep getting accused of committing the “No True Scotsman”-fallacy, but you just don’t take the hint, and won’t bloody stop.

  • Greg Nieto

    Beautifully written, well-stated. I just wish that these ass holes would at least face SOME consequences for their shitty behavior. I don’t expect it, really, but it would be nice.

  • Jomoko

    I love this article as I love baby animals.

  • Jack Feuchtinger

    I loved it when they tried to address these issues too. It was just like, “why you mad, breh? Its no big deal because (insert random line of hypocritical bull plop here).”

    What’s worsening the situation is that there is no channel to rationally discuss the issue with them. Speaking up about it? Great. You’re silenced and your comments burried in their new filtering system.

  • dieger

    I personally like them i don’t take anything by them seriously, But i like the culture posts, shop contests they do and the weekly deals they post, beyond that i don’t care pretty much

  • Spartacus

    This is why we need to kill the Gawker. They and all their affiliates are horrible excuses for journalism that endanger people’s lives.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    I just love that fact that we have TechRapter as an alternative source.
    Fuck Kotaku, see if I care when they burn to the ground with Gawker.

  • DrTechnoBabel

    I think that’s part of the reason why I can’t really get mad whenever someone in media that is not related to gaming at all gives a horribly one-sided view on #GamerGate. It’s not like they’re going to dig through comments sections and reddit boards for hours in order to get any idea that GamerGate goes beyond what the gaming sites are saying, especially when they have so much other stuff to cover on a daily basis.

  • Johnny Future

    “While the joke was clearly in poor taste, the actions of Cox lead Jaffe
    to be harassed and dehumanised despite apologising for his actions”

    “While Mattingly had already apologised to his friend, the press blew the story up and Mattingly lost his job”

    There’s nothing that says we HAVE to accept an apology. Apologies aren’t mystical spells that magically undo mistakes. Just because someone makes a public apology, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t wrong, or that they’ve actually learned anything.

    I’m not familiar with either one of these stories, so I can’t really comment on them directly, but as a general rule, I’m pretty skeptical of public figures who apologise in the face of bad press.