I’m not the first person at Kotaku to call this wretched hive of GIFs and wordsmithery a family. And I won’t be the last. Here’s the thing about families: sometimes they nurture you so well that you have to take yourself away from them to achieve more in the world. Kotaku’s been my family for almost five years, and I’ve grown during that time, gaining more confidence in my knowledge, judgment and writing than I had when I started. I’m going somewhere else—namely, sister site io9 as of Monday—but Kotaku will always be with me.

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I need to be real: before I started at Kotaku, I scoffed at a lot of the stuff I’d see on the site. The insane number of posts on any given day, blurbs about racy and salacious material, bizarre in-jokes like Imperial Hot or the bestowing of the Dude Huge nickname to Cliff Bleszinski... could I really fit in here, I asked myself back in October 2011?

But for all the copy I’d smirk at, I could never deny that Kotaku had balls, more balls than any other place I’d ever written for. They verified and reported on major leaks, shady business practices and the terrible behavior by individuals who’d otherwise cowed people into silence. One time when I was a freelancer for a now-shuttered lad mag, I wrote a joke in a review of a sports game about pro athletes behaving badly. It was clearly not based on actual events, but the game’s publisher browbeat my editors into changing the copy. The outlet bent to the pressure and excised the offending line. Nothing like that has happened to me at this website. What’s more, Kotaku matured while I was here, and I matured along with it.

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Video games have matured, too, over the last five years. There’s more entertainment, beauty and truth inside the medium than I could have ever imagined when I started at Kotaku. I’ve had the pleasure of writing about some of my favorite games ever here, like Mass Effect 3, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Papo & Yo, and Super Time Force. When a game like Rise of the Tomb Raider strikes a personal chord with me, I was able to shine a light on the uniqueness of that response. Being at Kotaku has given me a front seat for learning all about the daring, crazy mutations that have happened to video games throughout history. This medium is one of the most exciting forms of creativity going and it still can go even further into new, surprising horizons.

Lots of cliches exist when it comes to writing about video games. But when I first came at Kotaku, I was met with an expansiveness of approach and attitude that was new to me, despite already having had a well-traveled career as a pop culture critic. What I soon came to learn after being at Kotaku for a while is that, by virtue of the different tastes and proclivities of people I’d work with, I got a deeper read on more of gaming culture than I ever had access to before. I’m not into virtual idol games, but working with Mike Fahey every day helped me figure out the genre’s appeal. Watching Owen Good list quarterback feature changes from five years of Madden from memory made me appreciate the dedication to a franchise I lost interest in years ago. I might be exaggerating from memory, but only a little. I could go on and on about Tina Amini’s killer FPS skills, Luke Plunkett’s knack for image selection and brevity, Patricia Hernandez’s uncanny story sense, Kirk Hamilton’s infectious enthusiasm, Yannick LeJacq’s skill at finding personality in seemingly obtuse angles, the countless readers and commenters who shared stories, helped me learn, made me laugh, got me to fix my shit ... and... and... It’s too much. I can’t name all of my co-workers—Brian, Gergo, Andras, Nathan, Keza, Mark; dangit, who else..—but I’m pretty sure you guys know the affection I have towards y’all. All of it is too much to say goodbye to.

I have to give special thanks to Brian Crecente for being an impressive steward and to Joel Johnson, who took a chance on a dude who was clearly not initially ready for the fast-paced modus operandi of Kotaku. And to Stephen Totilo, who managed to challenge, push and sharpen me while somehow still being a friend I could confide in, along with so much more than I can ever say. From the outside looking in, it’s almost impossible to tell how much heart and debate and care goes into making Kotaku exist everyday. So let me be the one to say it: the people who I’ve worked with here care about video games a whole damn lot.

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I’ve been able to interview science-fiction novelists I’ve idolized, write about comics however I wanted, and ruminate publicly about what it feels like being a black person at this particular moment in time. I imagine I’ll be doing more of the same in the months to come at io9, too. However, it was at Kotaku that I was able to scrub off the self-doubt that occasionally plagues me. I’ll still grapple with it, of course. But now I’ll be able to look back at hundreds (thousands? I’m too worked up to actually count) of posts and see the evidence: I can do this damn thing. And I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can. Thank you, Kotaku.