On Tuesday afternoon, we published an article headlined “Animated Video Game Porn Could Be A Lot Sexier And Less Gross.” It’s a piece we immediately regretted and that I wanted to talk to you, the readers, about.
I can spare you a click. It was about popular animated porn videos involving well-known gaming and geek franchises: Harry Potter, Pokémon and Zelda. It initially included explicit screencaps from the videos as well as the writer’s description of what she saw as she watched them with a friend.
What we published was upsetting to many readers and to me. It was also an uncharacteristically bad call by the people involved, who have expressed to me their regret over the story and the pain it’s caused readers. Once I saw the article—after it was live, unfortunately—we began removing images from the post and preparing a statement that was ultimately put atop the article. It reads:
Editor’s Note - 5:25pm: This story, part of our regular coverage of the intersection of sex and games, originally included screenshots from several porn parodies with a note that they were Not Safe For Work. We’ve since removed those images. While the intent of this article was to provide a snapshot of the kind of gaming and geek porn that’s out there now, it’s clear in retrospect that, in terms of the images and the analysis you expect from us, we made a mistake. Readers are understandably uncomfortable about these kinds of depictions of characters who are often depicted as or thought of as teenagers. I am, too and apologize. We can do better, and we will. - Stephen Totilo, Editor-in-Chief
I’ve continued to think a lot about the piece this week, as I’ve reviewed how we got here and why our editorial processes failed this time.
We pride ourselves on being willing to cover topics in and around gaming culture, including sex and porn, that others may find taboo. Occasionally, we’ll publish pretty breezy articles about a new sex game or about a fandom’s excitement about “shipping” a pair of popular grown-up characters. Other times, we’ll dive deeper. We’ll investigate or closely analyze an interesting, if not always positive, aspect of sex games and their developers, content creators and communities around them.
For this story, I wish we’d taken that more rigorous approach. From the comments under the article, it’s clear that’s what many of you said you expected. For example, what does it mean that these parody videos about these particular franchises, many of which feature teenage characters and whose source material is geared towards young audiences, are so popular on websites like PornHub, some with more than 700,000 views? How do the creators and industry around them operate? Is there a moral debate around them, as there often is in fanfiction and fanart communities for any franchise that features younger characters? And so on. We needed more of that level of scrutiny and nuance far more than we needed any explicit screenshots. Those images of fictional characters from Harry Potter and the other series having sex were not just shocking but repulsive to readers. The text of the article begged for a different framing than what people clicking on it got. That’s ultimately on us as editors to have ensured. We did not. Our editorial team is resolved that this will not happen again.
Uncomfortable as it may be, we strive to own our mistakes at Kotaku. While we do not remove articles, we update them, as we have with Tuesday’s piece, in the interest of transparency. I hope this apology will also convey the sense that we get it. We screwed this one up in obvious ways that we hope you will be able to forgive. There’s no erasing anything from the internet, but there’s also no sense trying to hide from it. We won’t.
I apologize to all of you. We badly failed to meet our own standards. For all of this, I’m sorry.