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3 Nov, 2019 20:29

Oh, my! Huge gaming site may be asked to write about games without political bias, in favor of better journalism

Oh, my! Huge gaming site may be asked to write about games without political bias, in favor of better journalism

Should a niche site write about its field of expertise, or unload the political biases of its writers? Kotaku, one of the most popular gaming news websites, has been doing the latter, but changing that may be good for journalism. 

Recently, the editorial director of Kotaku’s parent company, G/O Media, issued a memo to the staff of Deadspin, its massively-popular sister sports blog, outlining that writers need to “stick to sports” since the company has “plenty of other sites that write about politics, pop culture, the arts, and the rest, and they’re the appropriate place for such work.”

Think of Kotaku and Deadspin as the CNN of gaming and sports, respectively. Both blogs take pride in reporting news subjectively, and the memo led to Deadspin writers leaving en masse.

It was around this same time that Kotaku’s staff began tweeting out ominous premonitions. Its news editor and most-recognized face, Jason Schreier, expressed that he “doesn’t know what’s going to happen next,” thanking Kotaku’s long-time readers. Editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo called to his ability to “steer Kotaku through rough waters” in the past.

This immediately resulted in social media jumping to the conclusion that Kotaku was G/O Media’s next site on the chopping block, due to a long history of leftist slant infecting its reporting on video games. Many even celebrated a forthcoming “death of Kotaku.”

Meanwhile, Kotaku staff writer Heather Alexandra lamented the fate of Deadspin “comrades” and pledged to continue work unfaltering.

So far, no Kotaku staff members have come forward to address what exactly is going on behind the scenes. It’s only speculation that its writers have been told to write more about games and less about politics, but it’d make sense.

The site built itself up from 2004 as an authority in gaming news and related opinions, but it was around 2012 when political tinge began to shine through. Kotaku has bombarded readers with takes on how memes dehumanize SJWs, YouTube’s role in the anti-social justice movement, how popular chat platform Discord has taken on white supremacy, and more, straying away from the site’s original goal: to cover video games.

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That’s not to imply that there’s no audience interested in reading stories on such topics. These pieces are often well-written, but why are they published at Kotaku? Are they not heavily alienating and dividing their target audience?

If what was happening at Deadspin is any indication, the business model of hate bait and write-what-you-want journalism has been met with significant backlash.

Kotaku’s full-time writers are paid one of the most competitive salaries in the industry, and its offices are located in arguably one of the best places in the world, New York City. For these writers to act horrified at the idea of writing on-topic is nothing short of bizarre.

When someone questions why it’s necessary to hyper-politicize the coverage of video games, the knee-jerk reaction from the Kotaku crowd is often to shout them down and insist that games are inherently political. It’s true—some of the best games in history incorporate deeply political themes and stories, such as Final Fantasy VII.

Acknowledging such is not a signed permission slip from gamers to be force-fed the liberal beliefs of games journalists.

However, reality may finally be setting in. Following G/O Media’s memo, perhaps Kotaku’s writers now see that it isn’t a personal blog. The company doesn’t have to pay a cushy salary to political activists masquerading as games journalists, and it has a right to direct its properties however it sees fit. That’s how being an employer in the free market works.

Why is any of this controversial? It shouldn’t be, and if all of Kotaku’s writers follow Deadspin’s lead and quit tomorrow, games journalism would remain alive and (arguably) well. As a matter of fact, it may even improve—those $50,000-salary jobs would probably go to writers who are eager to bring us their best work, without political spin.

By Craig Snyder, writer and journalist specializing in politics, tech, and gaming

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.