On Aug. 29th, Kotaku published an article titled "We Might Be Witnessing the Death of an Identity", along side a slew of similar articles from similar websites in the same theme: "Gamers are over", "A Guide to Ending Gamers" and so on. These articles release from Aug 28th to Sep 1st took many by surprise. Erik Cain of Forbes wrote "...it is odd when you see nearly a dozen articles within a 24 hour period pop up declaring the annihilation of an identity. It reeks of the worst sort of identity politics." (source) David Auerbach of Slate ironically opens his response to the controversy with "Slate readers are over, declining—a dead demographic." (source)
The question of the day was: "Why? Why would games journalists declare gamers are dead?" Many gamers took to various forums to discuss, but were censored in places like 4chan and reddit's r/gaming, and the comments sections of every publisher that ran these articles were heavily moderated, removing any dissenting opinions.
This combination of censorship and soap boxing, speaking through megaphones without listening in return, is what caused #GamerGate to explode. It might have taken some by surprise, but this had been building for years. Arguably the worst offender was and continues to be Kotaku.
On Oct. 26th 2012, Kotaku published Andrew McMillen's article "What Went Wrong With Silicon Knight's X Men Destiny?" (archive), which made many claims about Denis Dyack, calling him an incompetent tyrant and implying that he scammed publishers. However, those claims did not have any evidence or any sources other than anonymous former employees. That did not stop the article from being published by Kotaku, even after the story had been turned down by others. The resulting controversy is still being discussed, especially as more information is made available.
A few replies to this articles that are actually worth reading and watching are:
Your Opinion is Wrong: Denis Dyack by Andrew Whipple III (archive)
Response to Kotaku Article (video, 33:52) by Denis Dyack
Denis Dyack Interview Part 1 – Yellow Journalism and What Really Happened with X-Men Destiny by Brandon Orselli (archive)(page 2)
On May 13th, 2013, Kotaku published Stephen Totilo's article "Grand Theft Auto Taught Me To Drive." (archive) Over a year later, Dec. 4th 2014, it was updated to show that it had been a hoax. The update reads in part:
" This story appears to have been based on a hoax that was intended to trick us into publishing a false article... I didn't vet this person's story with the rigor I do with anonymous sources for more weighty stories. I messed up."
. While this less "weighty" story harmed no one, it showed clearly how easy it is to get a hoax past the editor-in-chief of Kotaku.
According to Scrump Monkey from Super Nerd Land "It all comes down to one thing: access." Journalists have access that bloggers don't. When journalists don't use their access to vet their articles, they should not be taken seriously.
The article that references this story among others is actually worth reading:
The Death of Games Journalism Part 1: Journalism 101 by Scrump Monkey (archive)(page 2)
A video in which Stephen Totilo talks to Total Biscuit is actually worth watching:
Ethics in Games Media: Stephen Totilo of Kotaku comes to the table to discuss (1:42:31) by TotalBiscuit
the harassment and doxxing of both sides of the debate, the bias of the GamerGate Wikipedia article, and a fair analysis of the hashtag. At all times, her words are chosen carefully, to not make sweeping claims, but to present what evidence there is.
Young's Nov. 12 2014 article "The Problems with Kotaku Lie Much Deeper than Corruption" (archive) is actually worth reading. It begins by giving Kotaku much more benefit of doubt as now seems possible. However, the rest of the article is, quite frankly, a damning series of references to Kotaku articles which show "the shocking real life consequences for those involved, simply for clickbait and page views."
In closing, I'd like to point out that the base image for the header to this article is Kotaku's original mascot. These two adaptations are a reference to "sea-lioning", which critics of games media are often accused of, and the many "sock puppet" accusations of those who tweeted out under #NotYourShield being fake accounts, specifically Tim Schafer's joke (which could actually be funny with a bit of work). The recolor on the right is a reference to deepfreeze.it, a games journalism resource that records ethical breaches of journalists and lists alternative sources (which will feature in future parts of this series).
Kotaku used to be a consumer advocate, and appealed to the market in a fun and sexy way. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a beautiful thing to do. Now, however, places like Kotaku are publishing articles vilifying games, gamers and game creators based on a totalitarian ideology that is extremely sex-negative. One final video on this subject in the context of the comics industry that is actually worth watching is Spider-Woman's Big Ass is a Big Deal (6:42) by Maddox. In it, he notes the various inconsistencies and hypocrisies of this type of thinking.
Kotaku has abandoned beauty and now attacks it. Kotaku has abandoned journalistic objectivity and ethical standards and will now print anything for the clicks. Kotaku has abandoned consumer advocacy and now attacks games, gamers and game creators. They are not alone in this, of course, and more of these attacks by similar sites will feature in Actually Worth Reading pt. 3.