“I was pretty upset about what went down with Deadspin in late 2019 and what it suggested about how talent was valued at our company, but I also felt a responsibility to Kotaku, to keep it as strong as possible and still deliver on its potential as a platform to deliver news and opinion about games and gaming culture to a diverse readership,” Totilo wrote in a direct message to The Post. “I didn’t want to leave when Kotaku was weak, and, now, seeing the latest iteration of the team kick into gear these last few months, I felt I could leave with confidence that Kotaku could still thrive. The people at Kotaku and our sister sites are amazing.”
A G/O Media spokesperson responded in a statement emailed to The Post: “We’re excited about the future of Kotaku and continuing our great gaming coverage at the site, and thank Stephen for his contributions during his time as editor-in-chief."
Totilo, based in New York City, has been the site’s top editor since 2012 and has worked for the site since 2009. Kotaku launched in 2004, “birthed in rebellion,” as he wrote in a piece explaining his departure.
“I honestly believe he changed the shape of video game journalism for the better,” wrote Jason Schreier, a former Kotaku reporter who now writes about games for Bloomberg, in a direct message to The Post. “He transformed Kotaku from a place full of monotonous white male voices into a boundary-pushing website that allowed all sorts of people to flourish. He gave opportunities to people who didn’t often get them before. In 2014, he mandated that Kotaku’s coverage should focus on games of the present rather than games of the future, and that has proven prescient. Nowadays, we’ve taken for granted that gaming sites will continue to cover games long after they’ve come out, but that was all Stephen.”
In his announcement, Totilo explained that he’d be taking a month-long break, after which he would return to games journalism. He did not disclose his destination.
“It felt like a good time for a change,” Totilo told The Post. “Kotaku’s had a lot of turnover. Some great people left, and while we’ve been rebuilding with some great new people, it definitely felt like a chance for me to also do something new. ... I’m proud to have been the longest-running sitelead at Gawker Media, but 12 years is a long time. Getting a chance to do something new that’s still true to what I care about was too good to pass up.”
“He’s going to do PR for Bethesda,” joked Schreier, referring to the publisher’s blacklisting of Kotaku, supposedly in response to the site’s coverage of the then-unannounced “Fallout 4.”
Perhaps most notably, Totilo steered Kotaku as it became the epicenter of “GamerGate,” a controversy initially framed as concern over journalism practices that culminated in a prolonged campaign against progressive conversations within the gaming industry. Under Totilo, Kotaku published stories that analyzed video games through critical lenses that touched upon sociopolitical issues. While many sites over the years had attempted to do this, Kotaku became the most influential and highly-trafficked.
GamerGate, which exploded in 2014, is often thought of as a precursor to several online movements, not least of all the campaign to elect Donald Trump in 2016.
This story is breaking and will be updated soon.