Are you allowed to call yourself a real one? No, I would argue, you are not. That pretty much immediately disqualifies you from being a real one, so I’m already off to a rough start here. But today’s my last day at Kotaku, so I consider it my solemn duty to close out my award-wanting “RIP To A Real One” article series by eulogizing an NPC who’s very important to me: myself.
Nathan Grayson—who, to be clear, is me—is the sort of character who doesn’t really make sense in any setting. He doesn’t have a well-defined vibe or aesthetic. He is not good at conveying his emotions or explaining his motivations. It’s not clear whether he’s supposed to be a recruitable party member, a one-note side quest curiosity, or some rando who dies in the opening cutscene. Honestly, it seems like he was meant to be the latter, but he somehow got shuffled into the main deck. He’s extremely lucky, if you ask me.
It takes him a while to grow on you. Like, five or six years of in-game (read: real) time, and then he peaces out right as year seven rolls around. And yes, when he dies, he keeps all the gear you equipped him with. So make sure to beat him up and rob him by 5 p.m. ET today if you ever want that $15 Venmo payment, Ari.
You never get a good sense for his skill set. Is he an overly indulgent essayist? A reporter with too many opinions? A blogger who couldn’t turn in a draft that’s under 1,500 words long to save his life? It never becomes clear. It is, however, fitting that he’s ultimately done in by his goal of completing a 6,000-word reported feature during his final week. From his deathbed—which is not much of a bed because he didn’t sleep last night—he secures his place in the Real One Hall of Fame by temporarily freeing us from this interminable bit. He says:
I’ve always been one to draw out endings. If I really like a game or a TV show or a book, I’ll get within spitting distance of the finish line and then just...stop. It can’t end if I don’t let it end. That’s how I’ve treated this entire week, leaving loose ends in a tangled heap on the floor and piling on more to delay the inevitable: the moment when it actually hits me that I’m leaving.
It’s dumb, but I think about not being able to check Kotaku Slack anymore, and I start getting teary- eyed. I’ve come to take for granted the fact that, at literally any moment, I can pull out my phone and be surrounded digitally by some of the dopest people I’ve ever known. In just a few hours, I won’t be able to do that anymore. It’s fucked up!
I’ve been part of this thing for seven years. It has absolutely—in most ways that matter—made me who I am today. I showed up to Kotaku embarrassingly green as both a reporter and a person. For some reason, then-EIC Stephen Totilo decided to take a chance on me, and while I’m sure he regretted it on various occasions, he was at least polite enough to not tell me.
I’d never claim that my entire time here was rosy. Gamergate sucked, and something happened about two years ago that really messed things up; too bad we’ll probably never find out what it was. In the aftermath of that inexplicable event, for which it’d be impossible to assign blame to a single person or, for example, several people at the top of a company, some wonderful people got done dirty. It’s hard to stick around when the ghosts of those experiences still haunt the place.
Even so, I am incredibly grateful for the numerous completely bonkers opportunities I received while here. It took me a bit to really figure out what my whole deal was, but I was always given freedom to explore. I will never take that for granted because it meant that I got to hew new reporting beats from stone twice—first with Steam and then with Twitch. It’s rare, as a reporter, that you get a chance to define how a whole platform is covered; it’s rarer still that you get multiple chances to do so even though you definitely did not 100 percent nail it the first time around.
A small smattering of highlights: I did numerous deep dives into Twitch and adjacent topics, whether that meant spending months chronicling the rise of a groundbreaking star, cataloguing the evolving nature of universal topics like fame and death, or shining a light on how platforms like Twitch can facilitate the spread of misinformation. I held companies like Activision Blizzard, Google, and Cloud Imperium Games accountable. I investigated shady esports schemes and the political affiliations of powerful people within major companies. I carried on Kotaku’s long tradition of reporting on labor practices in games, both bad and good. I took the reins on a successful video game podcast and did an alright job of not running it into the ground (I think). I forced the front man of my favorite band to talk to me about video games—twice. I ate a giant game controller gummy and somehow lived to tell the tale. I met the love of my life, and her name is Warframe. No one ever successfully made me shut up about my stupid gamer chair.
That’s all from the past couple years. I’ve forgotten more things I’ve reported on and written about than I could ever remember. I don’t want to say I’ve done it all because, in many ways, I feel like I’m just getting started. But I’ve done a lot. That, in part—in addition to other reasons that make me think of fruit wine for some reason—is why I feel like it’s time for me to move on. Kotaku always has a way of keeping you on your toes, but I never want to risk becoming stagnant. It’s time to shake things up, at least for a little bit. Maybe I’ll return someday. I would like that. It’s always good to come home.
I have no doubt that Kotaku will continue to kill it in my absence, largely because Patricia knows precisely what she wants out of the site and is perhaps the best person in the world to make it happen. Honestly, I’m kinda worried that I’ve picked the worst possible time to leave: right as Kotaku stands on the precipice of another golden age. But timing has never been a strength of mine (ask literally anyone who knows me), and it’s time for somebody else to take that shine—to have all the opportunities I had.
As for me, don’t worry: I’m not going into PR or anything like that. I’d be a dogshit PR person, and we all know it. I’m staying in journalism, and I’m gonna keep covering a lot of the same stuff I do now. I’ll just be doing it somewhere else, which I’ll hopefully be able to tell folks about soon. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter: I’m @vahn16. I know it’s a dumb handle. I made it when I was a teen. If you don’t use Twitter, you can also just email me.
Now’s theoretically the part where I’m supposed to shout out individual people, but that’s always felt weird to me, because somebody inevitably gets left out. To my friends: You know who you are, and I love all of you. To my enemies: I forgive you but will continue to say petty things about you in private conversation. To everybody who contributes to my roast post later today: No, you eat shit.
Wow, and then he died—just like that. RIP to perhaps the realest one of all.
Actually no, never mind, it was Axehead. That guy fucking ruled.