I take a couple of days off last week, and the staff goes and publishes some blockbuster stories. Those two events can’t be connected! My five favorite stories from last week:

  • The Horrible World of Video Game Crunch | “This made me come to the realization that crunch was not some occasional occurrence before you gave the thumbs up on Gold Master for large-budget games, but was instead an off the record mandatory death march required of all employees who wanted a career in the video game industry.” That quote from a former game-tester is just one of many eyebrow-raisers in a superbly well-reported must-read by Jason Schreier. I am proudest of our news reports and features that tell you things you weren’t otherwise going to find out, though timely scoops tied to controversial topics and the outing of outrageous behavior are important to our news mix as well. They bringing us ever further for the seductive comfort zone of being a site that just tells you the Latest Things About Products, which is what I don’t want Kotaku to ever be.
  • For Two Years, This Kanye West Game Has Been Hiding a Disturbing Secret | A wonderfully bizarre video game surprise, chronicled by Patricia Hernandez, who has a knack for covering this kind of thing.
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The Kotaku Review | A lengthy, interesting, smart, funny review of one of the month’s biggest games by the ever-curious Kirk Hamilton. It’s worth reading, whether you are going to get the game or not. Writers should avoid cliches, so I appreciate Kirk ending the review with a line he probably won’t be able to use again: “Come for the epic showdown between good and evil; stay for the unicorn sex.”
  • Valve Isn’t Evil, They Just Don’t Understand People | The fact that Nathan Grayson covers Steam as a beat for us put him in a good position to explain just what in the world is wrong with the often-incredible, occasionally-infuriating Valve. Smart analysis.
  • Transformers Fixes A Pair Of Glaring Combiner Wars Errors | Mike Fahey has been producing a lot more video for us these days. His output includes his entertaining looks at the First Five minutes of various games and a new series about toys called Toy Time, of which this Transformers piece was the first. I’m not a toy person, but I am a fan of having our staffers show you all more stuff through the magical medium of video. This Transformers piece is amusing and informative. Who knew that Transformers fans would be so upset about a helicopter Decepticon? And who knew that Hasbro would be so responsive to them? You learn something new every Toy Time.

There you go. Five very different but very special Kotaku stories. My Five Favorites. If this was, say, my Sensational Six, I’d have mentioned this wonderful freelance piece about vanilla World of Warcraft. If this was my Superb Seven, I’d surely have linked to Evan Narcisse’s Thor appreciation. Were it my Ego-stroking Eight, I’d have had to have linked to my (and Patrick’s) Banjo-Kazooie retrospective. If it was the Neat Nine, then, yes, this incredibly-headlined piece would be in here. Etc, etc.

Best GIF we published last week (from this post about the terrific new game Not a Hero), despite my attempts to find something classier... oh well:

Got thoughts about what we published last week or about stories you’d like to see on the site? Let me know.

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To contact the author of this post, write to stephentotilo@kotaku.com or find him on Twitter@stephentotilo. Top image from Tina Amini’s post explaining what in the world Adventure Time is—helpful for cartoon-ignorant people like me.