When Riley Macleod told me he was quitting the first thing he said was, “I’m sorry.” The second was, “Please roast me.”
So I came out of roast retirement to make Riley’s final wish come true. He started at Kotaku as managing editor back in 2016 and has worn just about every hat you could at the site since, sometimes in an official capacity, but more often not. If Kotaku were the Snowpiercer and you lifted up its rusted paneling to peer inside its greasy machinery, Riley would be the child, teeth gritted and arms outstretched literally holding the gears together, staring back at you.
I did my best to get people to say mean things about him but most of them couldn’t help themselves.
If there’s one thing you can say about Riley, it’s that he cares. Sometimes a little too much? You ever meet someone so fucking nice that you want to shake them and demand that they become more selfish? That’s Riley, and for his own sake, I’m kinda glad he’s leaving. It might be the only way to ensure that Riley gets some rest and logs the fuck off. Riley, if you’re reading this, please take advantage of the fact weed is now legal in NYC.
When I heard that Riley demanded a roast for his sudden and devastating departure I was confused because it was the first time I’ve ever seen him so sure about anything. I was doubly confused because Riley is joyless. The idea that he wanted a roast, something that’s ostensibly fun, is wildly at odds with the dour, no-fun-allowed Riley I have come to love this past year.
Riley, for the longest time I was convinced you hated me, or at least hated my style of writing because of how you would mercilessly edit my pieces, removing anything that might inspire the smallest twinge of a smile in a reader. I realize now that it was for my own good. I am not as funny as I think I am and it takes a person who is never funny ever to remind me of that. Truly from you I have learned that above all, brevity is the soul of wit.
You were my favorite editor because you taught me to think more deeply about how I say what I say. You’re not fun to work with in that regard, you do not let me have fun, but that’s okay because I needed to learn from you. And I have. And I hate you to death because I still have a lot to learn, but you won’t be around to teach me.
Fuck you, Riley. I’ll miss you.
I recently got to work with Riley again when I was freelancing earlier this year, running the blog while the Kotaku folks were on holiday. Despite it being a break, Riley was still around to answer questions I had about the system, bounce headlines off of, or to read my inane ramblings about a weird League of Legends skin.
And when I think of Riley, that’s who I think of: the funny, helpful heartbeat of a website. Someone whose work might not always have been as clear to those on the outside, but every time I had a chance to peek behind the curtains, you could see all the ways in which Riley kept everyone moving towards their own goals.
Thanks, Riley. And by the way, as I checked my DMs for roasting material, I found you declaring that you would take curling lessons—say the word and we can start our path to the Olympics whenever.
Riley and I had first aligned temporally, at our orientation. Throughout these years, and particularly lately, I’d increasingly seek his guidance to cut through the foggy sensation that I was slipping away from reality, that this—or that, or this, or THAT—wasn’t really happening, was it? (It was. It always was.) A fun friend, a trusted comrade, fiercely devoted to his team and union, to a fault—which I could harp on since this is a roast, technically, but I can only think of a certain resting concern face with a you-are-fucking-kidding-me half smile and frequent hand gestures resembling fists swirling in a video chat box.
What’s there to roast, really? What a standup human being, pushing my little mind boundaries on video games, religion, ethics, life. I am looking forward to seeing Riley in civilian life over some of those humiliatingly large glasses of whatever that they give people who don’t drink alcohol at bars.
I’d been a fan of Riley’s long before I got hired at Jezebel, back when we were Univision. At least, I think that’s who owned us at the time. It’s so rare for trans people to have staff jobs in digital media, let alone editor positions, so it wasn’t a surprise when my fellow trans menace soon became one of my closest confidantes in our union. Throughout the last year, we’ve organized and agitated together and sent maybe a few too many depressing screeds back and forth about the State of Things.
I know this is supposed to be a roast, but I don’t have it in me right now. I’m too bummed out that there will be an empty seat on our committees where Riley used to be. (There’s too many empty seats these days.) Now that Riley’s leaving, there is one thing he always told me I’d like to share: Choose your own happiness. More than ever, I think it’s the best advice I’ve got. I’m going to fucking miss you, Riley!!!!
Even though Riley has no sense of smell, he enjoys cooking, which fascinates me to no end! He also knows a great deal about all sorts of things like magic and the Dewey Decimal System. I have never met anyone who checks all three of those boxes. I don’t think I ever will.
You know, my middle son started idolizing Riley after hearing the guy woke up at 4 a.m. to do Fortnite stuff. “Why can’t I wake up at 4 a.m. to do Fortnite stuff?” my son would ask. “Because you are not Riley,” was my reply. (I did offer to let my son wake up at 4 a.m. to wash the dishes. He declined. Incidentally, I just told him that today was Riley’s last day, and he said,
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.” He then said, “Tell him I said, ‘Goodbye.’” So, yes, goodbye!)
I really like Riley and am very, very sad he’s leaving. I will forever be grateful to his grace and leadership during some truly tough times. He’s a great editor and a great person—a wise and kind soul. They don’t make them much better than him.
But, he’s leaving, so Eat Shit, Riley! You will be missed, and thank you for everything.
Oh fuck, I missed the roast deadline because I’m camping in the woods. If it’s not too late please just write on my behalf that Riley is the only person in the world who has successfully proven that “too nice” can be a flaw and that I can only hope in his post-Kotaku life that he actually spends some time doing something for himself instead of other people, for a CHANGE.
When I got a DM asking me to contribute to Riley’s “roast,” I knew this was an impossible task. By my math, Riley was one of probably two folks who ever worked at Gawker/Gizmodo Media/Heartbeat of Next Capital Partners LLC and could be classified as a “good” person. (I think the other one worked at Lifehacker or something? I can’t remember.)
Riley was my first good friend from Kotaku, a valued comrade during tense union negotiations, a journalist who commanded my endless respect, and someone whose kindness and decency elevated everyone around him. He’s genuinely one of the best people you’ll ever meet. And one of the most fascinating, too! His CV includes seminary school, being a prison chaplain, living on a boat in the Gowanus Canal, and being managing editor of the best gaming site on the Internet. The dude has lived a life.
So while I’m sad I won’t be seeing Riley’s words on the digital pages of Kotaku anymore—he has a way of writing about games that makes them feel so real, something I always envied—I know whatever’s next for him will be amazing. Whatever that is, they’ll be damn lucky to have him.
All I can do is wish him good luck and tell him I miss riding to work beside him on the F train in total silence because neither of us wanted to unpack the horrors we experienced that day. Go get ‘em, bud!
Ah shit!!! FUCK! Tell Riley I love him and he is so wonderful and if there is ANYBODY in this world who I need to both captain a ship and then scuttle it under very mysterious circumstances, it’s Riley MacLeod.
There are two things that seriously grind Riley’s gears: when writers bleep out curse words with asterisks and when they tell their outgoing colleagues to “eat shit”—a longstanding tradition in this foul-mouthed company of ours. Now Riley’s the outgoing colleague. Regardless of his reasoning, it’s resulted in me getting saddled with the most challenging assignment of my career: roasting Riley.
Seriously, the dude is impermeable to roasting. He’s like a slice of honeydew, except less green and, I think, less slimy. He’s like a glass of water, or a strawberry popsicle, or a set of batteries. He’s like something else you wouldn’t ever in a million years think of roasting. He’s reading these half-assed similes and itching to cut them but respects the process too much to butt in.
That’s the thing about Riley. If you haven’t already read it a dozen times in this post, he very well might be—without exaggeration here—the most kind-hearted person in journalism.
When I interviewed for this gig, I pictured a daily grind that would be fast-paced and fun—really fun—but otherwise bereft of human connection. Too busy, I imagined. Too much stuff to do. From day one, Riley proved otherwise. He’d take the time to chat with me about non-work stuff. (Those damn V3s!) He’d go out of his way to introduce me to staffers at our sister sites whom I’ve long held reverence for. (They, uh, also don’t work here anymore.) He’d feed me cake. (It ruled. Sorry for eating it all.) He took me to a Fortnite rave. (No comment.)
There’s also that little thing where he thanklessly ran our website for four months. Eight days a week, 25 hours a day, Riley bore the brunt of [REDACTED SO I’M NOT THE NEXT OUTGOING COLLEAGUE]. Anyone thrust into that situation would’ve felt a neverending cascade of irritation and anger, and I’ve no doubt Riley experienced a fair share. He rightfully deserves—and hopefully will receive—a mountain of praise and recognition for simply doing the job and for doing it well. But I’d like to point out something else: Not once did he direct any of that exasperation our way. Put in the same situation, could anyone else say they’d do the same?
I’ve always known that Kotaku has a brain and a whole lot of heart. Riley showed me it had a soul, too.
Anyway, hey Riley, how about instead of leaving you consider maybe eating s*** instead?
One thing that I want everyone to know about Riley, apart from his maddening habit of always lowballing his talent and claiming that his editing is horrible (it is not) and that he doesn’t know what he’s doing (he does), is that he loves to cook and is very, very good at it.
Not that I have any firsthand knowledge, mind you; he promised to send me some dinner rolls he had baked a year ago, and he never did. I’m still waiting, Riley.
Riley left as he came, failing to put periods at the end of captions.
Riley is the kindest person I’ve ever worked with, at Kotaku or anywhere. He’s genuinely a joy, a beacon of humanity, and pure good will. Unless this roast post is one of those posts where we are being intentionally mean, in which case, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, bud!
The first time I “saw” Riley in the Kotaku Slack channel he was being nice to someone, and I thought to myself, who the fuck does this guy think he is being nice? In Slack? Is this a bit?
Sadly, the niceness wasn’t a bit. Riley was genuinely nice. He never stopped being nice. He was consistently nice. And not fake nice or obnoxious nice—I could have dealt with that. He was disgustingly, sincerely nice in a way that shone a dirty mirror to everyone else’s hard-earned, default not-niceness.
I think, by this point, everyone is well aware that Riley is a beautiful, bald angel and everyone should mourn his passing. He is a person that probably shouldn’t exist or belong in this world, certainly not online.
Riley’s only redeeming quality is that he likes rock climbing and sometimes tweets at me about rock climbing. He also likes my tweets about rock climbing. Please keep doing that Riley. I need this.
Riley is one of the kindest and most empathetic people one could ever work with. Which is why it is astounding he was such a bad dad in Witcher 3. How can you have so much care and concern for your coworkers and then lead your fictional child to her DOOM, RILEY. I think its because Riley is secretly an absolute perfectionist who loves a challenge. This man spent a whole year getting the just absolutely gnarliest garbage from his local food coop and then would attempt to make dishes that usually require a degree from cooking school and ten years tutelage under a french chef in a remote restaurant in Spain.
Riley would try to make these things with zero training, often they would require you to do a smell test to know if they were fine. Which is great, except Riley has no sense of smell. He would really tackle just the most time-consuming and meticulous of dishes and then kick in the extra hard mode. Like, I don’t think he ever played Dark Souls because he would just live that game in the kitchen. Even his sandwiches use ingredients that require a botanist’s knowledge to decipher the ingredients within. So of course a guy who put himself through such a culinary ringer would do the same to his digital progeny. The kindness and empathy he just reserves for the rest of us.
I’m sure everyone else has said this as well, but how on earth am I supposed to come up with a roast of the gentlest, most un-roastable person I’ve ever worked with? Leaving, and therefore forcing me to roast him, might be the one rude thing Riley has ever done.
I knew Riley mostly through our work on the union bargaining committee, and I can’t really imagine getting through contract negotiations (and uhhh everything else that happened) without his level headed, peace-making presence. And who else would periodically drop into Slack with stories about the time he spent living on a (maybe haunted??) boat? Or become one of my favorite people to talk to about cooking, in spite of (famously) not having a sense of smell?? Seriously, who!!!
I didn’t work at Kotaku, but I saw how much Riley did to keep the site at its best through literal years of turmoil and how much he meant to all the writers there. That’s a rare talent, and I can’t imagine Kotaku or G/O without him.
I’ve utterly failed at roasting Riley, as I knew I would, so I’ll just say that wherever he goes next couldn’t be luckier to have him. And Riley, from the bottom of my heart: eat shit!!!
Riley! A poet and a revolutionary! I’ll always remember “the little intern” who was not an intern at all from the contract negotiations. I still laugh about that every now and then. Good luck!
Before the media company now known as G/O Media had weird letters in its name and was actually named for the sites it owned, Riley was there, sitting in the end seat in the Kotaku pod, always with a compassionate smile and a screen full of Google Doc markups, like every good editor who’s internally screaming but externally cheerful.
But really, Riley might know more about me than a lot of people, given how many times I bothered him to chat because I wanted to hang out with the cool Kotaku kids. (Guys, this was when Lifehacker had literally two people in the office, and I was one of them. I wanted to talk to SOMEONE.) He was the only person other than me who stayed late to work overtime for corporate masters who didn’t give a shit about us, and when I’d ask him about games I should play, he’d ask me about tips to improve his life. He’s an amazing person, an even better friend, and I’m totally not saying all of this because he, more than anyone else, knows exactly when I would arrive to work and when I would leave, and is probably very aware of how out of shape I was when I came up those god damned stairs every day.
Sorry, I literally don’t log onto Twitter anymore, and I didn’t see any of these messages. I randomly caught an email notification that went into my spam. Anyway, I wish Riley all the best!
Look, most people refer to themselves as people who can wear multiple hats, but Riley takes the cake with shelves FULL of hats that he wore like a damn champion. I can’t tell you how many times Riley would patiently and kindly deal with my idiotic questions flung or the ways he’s worked his brilliant editing magic to ask me a thousand questions about a game mechanic that I even began to wonder if I’d just imagined in some kind of delirious haze. Riley has done an obscene amount of invisible and thankless work that I’d like to publicly thank him for over the years. But also for stepping out and grabbing coffees with me to decompress whenever we had a chance.
Y’all really have no idea. The way Riley had to wrangle all of us goofy outdoor cats constantly is something that has truly earned him a lifetime of vacation at this point. I hope to randomly run into Riley one day snoozing on a tropical beach somewhere or at a rest stop along the Autobahn and have him 100% not remember me. I just pray that all of that Euro Truck Simulator experience was actually useful for all of our sakes.
The thing about Riley is that he has done a lot of difficult work over the years with not much recognition. He’d probably tell you that’s a good thing, but I’d say that it’s no exaggeration to say that during some of Kotaku’s trickiest moments, he’s been a glue that’s held so much together. He’s a strong union rep, when he’s part of the line up, and a challenging editor.
That last part is important. If you’re at the site for long enough you’ll inevitably get challenged by Riley. “What does that mean though?” And you better have an answer. Even if you do, you better be persuasive about why you need *that* sentence or *those* words. I’ve “argued” the most with Riley than any other editor I’ve worked with but not in any real sense. I mean it in the sense where we’ve both wanted what we thought was best for a piece and talked it over for thirty minutes to get the best two sentences. Exhausting? Maybe. Does it lead to better work? Absolutely.
A lot of this is owed to Riley’s truly staggering number of lived experiences. He’s lived on some type of river boat for a time, was (if I recall correctly) a prison chaplain, and more. Riley has experienced a lot and that experience allows him to be a good leader and empathetic editor that brings context and care to the table. Not everyone pulls that off; Riley makes it look easy.
So I guess that’s the biggest thing to say. Riley’s one of the most fundamentally good people I’ve known. I can’t give a higher compliment to someone in this line of work than that.
Honestly would love for him to fuck off into the sunset and continue having the interesting life he was having before he stopped to help run a video game website. Enjoy thinking about God in the woods.
Congratulations to Riley for finally breaking free from the curse that kept him working at Kotaku. I’m so happy to hear he’s joining the staff of No Duh! Aficionado Magazine as their official pedantry consultant. It’s a role he was born for.
Joining the staff of Kotaku and immediately seeing someone like Riley, a diminutive religious nerd that used to live on a boat, as a managing editor expanded my idea of who can hold positions of power in the world of journalism. Unfortunately, at the time I declined to factor in that despite being the kind of guy who is technically wanted by the United States government for reasons that he has never fully explained to me, Riley’s method of breaking the glass ceiling for queer people in journalism was by being a white guy and being freakishly nice to everyone, all the time, even when they don’t deserve it at all. Who does that!
As a person who filed copy on time, Riley and I worked together as writer and editor frequently. I love him as an editor—everything you publish will have frustratingly perfect grammar, each fact is carefully checked and rechecked. Riley could massage a Google Doc with a pre-caffeinated brain dump into something worthy of being broken up by taboola ads every other paragraph break. He is such a good editor that I have actually forgiven him for making me write the word “ship,” as in the fandom term for “relationship,” stylized with an apostrophe at the beginning. I know it’s grammatically correct, Riley, but no one says ‘ship, it looks stupid.
Of all the experiences I’ve had with Riley, from watching him wait at his laptop until 9 at night for Nathan to file, from him absolutely clocking it every time Nathan came to work the next morning hungover, one article stands out. It’s an unassuming one—just a preview of a new Sims pack, the one where they added magic. For some reason, during the editing process of this 500 word blog, Riley got stuck on one idea from the pack that I mentioned in passing. In this pack, Sims can have magic duels with other magic users. It’s not a very deep system. Essentially, you click on another Sim, select the option to duel them, and then the game runs through some checks while it plays an animation and a winner is decided based on internal parameters.
To this day I do not know why, but Riley was so excited by this concept that this article went through a truly unreasonable amount of drafts. In each new draft, Riley added more detail to this one sentence aside that simply did not exist in the game. He’d add a line about how you duel learning the spells you learned, which is not a feature of this game. He’d add a line about it being a skill based magic battle, which was not true, and then in the next draft he’d add it back. We sat next to each other at that time, so eventually I just turned to him and tried to explain, futilely, that the system he wanted to be complicated was actually quite simple.
“So how do you know who wins?” Riley asked me.
“You click on another Sim,” I explained, exasperated, for the umpteenth time, “And then an animation plays. After the animation plays, you’ll see a pop-up who tells you who wins. I don’t know how the game determines that, it’s based on parameters the player doesn’t see.”
“So, you’re using the spells you learn, then,” Riley said, so sure of his completely wrong interpretation of what I said.
“No,” I replied. “You kind of just click on another Sim and then wait for the animation to play out.”
“Okay,” Riley said, his voice full of determination. “So you click on a Sim, and then you use your spells on them.”
“No, you really just select the option to duel and then wait.”
“Do you do anything?”
“No, you don’t.”
“You just click on another Sim and wait?”
It felt cruel to disappoint Riley at this point, but I had to tell him the truth, as is the duty of my profession.
“Yes, Riley,” I told him. “You just click on the Sim and wait.”
All that remains of this back and forth in the actual article is a single sentence: “You can duel other students.”
Riley is an incredible editor and a stronger leader than he gives himself credit for. You’ll always be my cool punk dad, and I’ll always remember that for a little while, Kotaku was run by a trans man. Onwards and upwards, my friend, let’s not drink together soon.
I am unfortunately too In A Forest to write anything.
Riley is an incredibly easy person to talk to, which is why he knows more about my medical problems than anyone else at Kotaku. Like, really hideous and gross things about diverting surgeries, stage four pressure wounds, and general body horror. I’ve spent the past several years filling his brain with my ailments, in the hopes that he somehow takes them with him when he leaves. Fingers crossed!
Before I was hired at Kotaku, I thought I was the most neurotic person on the planet. Riley beats me by a country mile.
I hope that was roast-y enough because I honestly have nothing but nice things to say about Riley. When we lost our previous editor-in-chief earlier this year, it was Riley who held Kotaku together through sheer force of will. He is one of the most compassionate, empathetic, understanding people I’ve ever met, and it sucks that I’ve never actually had the chance to meet him outside of Slack chat. And while I never cease to be amazed by what he manages to second-guess, Riley added a necessary layer of thoughtfulness to everything Kotaku produced during his time here.
Thank you, Riley. I will dearly miss living vicariously through your delicious-looking baking projects. Please write a book about your life at some point.
It is extremely difficult to find anything mean to say about Riley. He is, and I say this with no exaggeration or hyperbole, the nicest person I’ve ever met in this industry. Admittedly that’s not so hard what with everyone else being so utterly, unbearably awful, but even so, he particularly stands out.
Being edited by Riley is a process of ridiculous kindness, as he combs through my copy, trying to remove anything I write that could be remotely misconstrued as cruel, and I have to go back through after adding it all back in. Except, it’s never really all of it, and my words end up being better, stronger and far more pleasant to read. Damn him.
I’ve only been hanging around the edges of Kotaku for less than a year, but in a time of editorial changes, he’s been my one constant, the person I go to when I’m worried I’ve messed something up, a proper rock. He’s properly splendid, and I’m going to miss him too much.
This is my first Kotaku roast, and I already know I’m going to fuck it up so here it goes...uh...eat shit? Am I doing this right? Whatever. Riley is such a phenomenal editor and person. I’m always amazed at how many lives he’s already lived. I wish we got to work together longer, but I’m most upset that we live very close by and never got to see each other. This pandemic has robbed us all of deeper connections and opportunities to share even mundane moments together. And I know that getting to come into work with Riley every day would have been such a joy because doing so even over Slack and Zoom has already been so wonderful. Few people, let alone editors, have as much compassion as Riley does, and it makes us all better.
But I’m also thrilled for Riley doing whatever the fuck Riley wants. Leave the games journalism world behind while you still can! And know that we will continue looking to you as an example.
Also, hang out with me now that you’re free. I mean it.
I’m sure plenty of people have already written about how un-roastable Riley is. It’s true. As a person, he is the epitome of kind, thoughtful, and empathetic. He’s a jerk for making it this hard to write mean things about him. But if we can’t roast Riley as a person, we can at least flambé Riley in the kitchen.
I joined recipe Slack during the pandemic, and it is full of annoyingly good cooks who will make you feel self-conscious about your own kitchen blunders. Riley, however, comes to this Slack week after week with tales of unmitigated disaster. Botched beet gnocchi, clumpy pesto, watery cold brew—these are just a few of the more recent ones. The best part was when Riley would ask us whether a certain food in his fridge had gone bad because of his lack of smell. Watching one person fail so much in the kitchen but still come back every week with such joy? Let’s be honest—a lot of recipe Slack is pretty much The Riley Show.
I’ve never told him, but he’s inspired me to be more adventurous in the kitchen and to not care so much when I fuck up. (As a perfectionist, this is next to impossible.) Recipe Slack will soldier on without him, but it absolutely won’t be the same.
The most annoying thing about Riley is that it’s impossible to say anything mean about him, but I am going to try because I am furious with him for abandoning me, even though I do not work with him directly and I never have. Riley and I met on the bargaining committee, where we bonded over pain and have shared recipe successes and failures in recipe slack, where we bonded over cold noodles and salmon croquettes. I realize I still haven’t said anything mean, but I just can’t think of anything, which—again—is VERY annoying. The only silver lining about him leaving is that he might finally move to Portland (which our overlords would never allow, for some reason), but if he does not do that, he will be officially dead to me.
I’ve never met someone who drives themselves up a wall more often than Riley. Any minor or insignificant thing can lead to a long, internal debate as he weighs each pro and con. He balances the morality of it all and what it all means. For the most part, he kept all this chaos tucked inside his noggin. But eventually, without fail, Riley would explode and spout off questions and concerns about whatever topic was being discussed. That might sound frustrating, but I never found this annoying. In fact, I often learned something new or gained a fresh perspective on something whenever Riley let us peek into his brain.
Okay, maybe it was annoying when I was trying to get something done quickly. He’s leaving so I can say that now. But even when it was a tad annoying, it was still incredibly important. Riley helped steer the site in the right direction more times than I can remember. Kotaku is a better website because of him.
He also is filled with some of the most interesting and amusing stories I’ve ever heard. Most of them I can’t repeat for fear of legal ramifications, but trust me, if you ever get a chance to hang out with Riley, you will have a great time. Just don’t ask him to name any celebrity. He’s fucking terrible at that.
Go watch some Marvel movies, you heathen.
I’ll miss Riley openly discussing various fears, existential questions, and random shower thoughts in our most public slack rooms. Here are a few of my recent favorites.
“Riley MacLeod: has stomp...changed at all, or is it still the same show?”
“Riley MacLeod: sorry this might be a peak riley post, combining religion and boats, my two primary interests”
But Riley is so much more than fear, boats, and religion. Our recipe Slack will never be the same now that we will be missing out on the daily updates from inside Riley’s kitchen,
“Riley MacLeod: i regret to inform you that over the weekend i burned out my immersion blender making seitan, which means i need a new immersion blender but ALSO my previous food processor was like a thing that attached to the immersion blender and should i buy a separate food processor, is this the time”
“Riley MacLeod: i taught myself to drink coffee black because i got tired of the tyranny of buying dairy
“Therese McPherson: But wait... how did the gnocci turn out ?
“Riley MacLeod: oh my god terrible lol
So now it’s time for the goodbye moment…as they used to say in the Gawker days, “Eat shit, Riley.” Thank you for being so you. Please update your Twitter with all of the kitchen disasters to come.
I have tried to think of an appropriate roast of Riley, watching the cursor on my screen blink idly for longer than I care to admit. The problem is this: Riley is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I have ever worked with.
We’ve spent hours talking through a litany of climate anxieties, even more hours locked in various rooms working to bargain and find consensus on GMG Union’s second contract, and swapped various recipes for everything from beet gnocchi to cold brew coffee. How do you roast someone like that and not feel like a total asshole (looking at you, my fellow roasters)?
It sucks for our recipe Slack channel, our union, and our sites that Riley is leaving. But ultimately, I’m happy he’ll have more free time to perfect canning peaches and figuring out how to store root vegetables in preparation for the impending heat death of the planet.
Riley MacLeod, a man who has three fascinating life anecdotes for every one of yours, has a bizarre fascination with being cold. I am not sure what this tells us about Riley, but he sure does love freezing his ass off. What’s his idea of fun? Going to the Arctic Circle to go dogsledding. What’s his favorite game? Any game that simulates you battling with frostbite. The Long Dark! Frostpunk! I haven’t discussed Super Mario 64 with him, but I’m sure, if he played it, he’d love the snow level most. Or maybe not. Not cold enough, right? Probably the ice level.
Here is another thing about Riley: he’s an overachiever. He signs up for a half-marathon, never having done one before, and he crushes it. He spends much of his Kotaku run editing people, dusts off his writing skills and nails it again and again and again.
For six years, Riley has been the heart of Kotaku. In some amazing times and in some rough ones, he was a reliable partner to me, a wise and trusted colleague whose concerns, criticisms and ideas for solutions were always spot-on.
Whether the official records show it or not, let it be known: Riley MacLeod, managing editor and then editor-at-large for Kotaku was this site’s deputy editor in 2020 and was the interim EiC carrying this site to its next phase. One of the great editors in Kotaku history, who accomplished so much. Much of what readers like about Kotaku is due to him, and many a writer has found the space and support to thrive thanks to his guidance.
Riley’s only failure: not opening a Kotaku bureau in some teeth-clatteringly cold locale.
I joined G/O Media in March 2020, a weird time to get a new job, especially with no office to go to and mingle with coworkers. But from pretty much my first day, Riley was just the best—a welcoming presence on Slack (which is basically all that exists of work), an endlessly patient answerer of questions, a venting buddy, a laugher at my jokes (naturally; I’m very funny), and I’m not even on his team. He’s really great! I would probably even talk to him in real life. Unfortunately he’s leaving, so that won’t be possible, at least at the office. Jerk.
Few people know this, but Riley is an old man. It’s something he doesn’t like to talk about and tries to hide beneath his ‘90s all-black anarcho punk attire. So it came as a shock to many of us when he excitedly volunteered to embed himself in the zoomer trenches of Fortnite. Instead of screaming at the kids to get off his porch, he ran up to them in the playground, stole their ball, and subjected it to all manner of spiritual probing and existential reflection and then presented it back to them like a priest offering communion to a squirrel.
Riley is endlessly curious and cultivates uncertainty like a carefully tended garden. This made him delightful to chat with and occasionally rage-inducing to be edited by. The bane of my existence is getting a Google Doc back from an editor and seeing an ocean of highlighted comments, and Riley was the king of this. Never before has one person asked so many people to explain their jokes and then listened so carefully as they wilted on the vine until you struck them from the copy yourself. The only thing more frustrating than a pedantic editor is one who’s (almost) always right.
When I started full-time at Kotaku, I was commuting three days a week to New York City from Philly. Starry-eyed and eager to please, I left the house at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t set foot on the Megabus back home with a soggy Chipotle burrito in hand until 8 p.m. It was, as they say, “rough.” But on those days I got to sit next to Riley, the most gracious, big-hearted, and committed person I’ve ever met, and the hours went by a little quicker. Riley was my best friend and closest confident at Kotaku, and I don’t know what I’ll do here without him.
Riley is a deeply kind, warm, sincere, loyal, talented and dedicated person who I know will be greatly missed at Kotaku. Only someone special would evoke the amount of love and gratitude that I’m certain will be written in this RIP post. And he got me onto The Long Dark - a game that’s always been a meditative and rejuvenating escape for me. Is there a better gift than that?
Perhaps the most roastable thing one can write about Riley, as impeccable a human as they are, is that I will never fully understand why they worked at Kotaku for so long.
There are so few people in media that you would want to protect from the overwhelming sadness and jadedness of this world. I see enough of that in Australia, a microcosm of markets like Europe and the United States. But seeing what Riley endured from afar, I was always left with one question: why?
Why was someone so kind-hearted still that way after everything? Why was someone who made everyone around them better, the living embodiment of an AoE buff, somehow at the vortex of so much chaos?
Some would see that as an enormous character flaw. For my money, and from the perspective of an observer who came into the Australian branch of Kotaku roughly around the same time Riley entered its New York headquarters, his loyalty and unwavering support Is perhaps one of the rarest and most admirable traits anyone can have.
Riley made days better. Even thousands of kilometres away, I could occasionally send a message to Riley knowing there was someone on the other end of the line who Got It. Better yet, he managed to continue to do so throughout all the upheaval, the never-ending dual torments of the internet and internal tides, the absurdity of our industry and the expectations of those inside it, the inherent instability of publishing, and Riley never lost one shred of humanity.
Loyalty is rare: loyalty with unwavering decency is a cheat code.
Farewell Riley. I have never met you, but hopefully one day I will. And I pray that you will find yourself somewhere that truly values your rare blend of capability with humanity, although I’m not entirely sure any place can.