I’ve never been one for goodbyes, but here we are.
In the six months since I started here, I have frequently espoused my love of “B” games, the ambitious, rough-hewn, and easily broken titles that stick in your mind for years. Such games make you wonder what shape they could’ve taken with just a little bit more time and budget, but it’s worth remembering that their strangeness is a product of those same conditions. B games, at their best, have enough support to execute on their ideas while not being burdened with the pressure of blockbuster success. They are built to be just good enough to lay the foundation for the next game, which leaves them beautifully imperfect.
These games are the products of studios navigating a dying economic machine, creatives with an interest in subsistence, slow growth, and an acceptance that not everything can be a breakout hit—despite what most shareholders and all venture capitalists will tell you. This, sadly, is not the primary model our industry has chosen. Instead, as evidenced by Microsoft’s recent purchase of Activision Blizzard and the countless stories about crunch that come out every year, this industry has embraced the myth of infinitely escalating profits borne from reliable formulas.
These ideas have seeped from corporate culture into the basic logic of our lives. Success isn’t real unless it’s the most success. Your home is not enough until every want is fulfilled. Even then, you deserve another, don’t you? This approach doesn’t just breed overconsumption, it also breeds perpetual dissatisfaction.
This is the dissatisfaction that leads executives to push writers past their limit year after year, demanding that 15 do the work of 150 without understanding how that is not only impossible, but undesirable. Those same executives throw tantrums when their bad strategies fail. “The formula works, just do it.” They demand, completely oblivious to the fact that the need has already been fulfilled by someone else. On my worst days, I worry that this approach, championed by venture capitalists, will destroy every single publication I happen to like.
However, that doesn’t mean the answer to this dissatisfaction is found in abandoning all material consumption, or realizing the beauty of what you have, or investing in the power of friendship. It doesn’t mean accepting the way the world is, either. It involves imagining something better and giving yourself the grace to fall short of it. Sometimes it means walking away to try something new.
If I’ve learned anything from working here, it is that you have to give yourself the grace to fail if you have any interest in staying alive. I have published 103 posts on Kotaku dot com in about as many days. Some of them were good, most were fine, and there were no small number of real failures. Those failures were done in front of an audience of millions. This was definitely a learning experience.
But sometimes I failed my own values, too. Those were the hardest days.
And in spite of them, I kept going. I recommitted to what mattered and pushed forward again. Six months ago I said:
And what is it that I want to do? Well, that’s simple. I want to imagine a better world and then do it, one that is utopian and hungry. A place where good criticism and good storytelling and good community give people the tools and language to materially improve their own lives. All of this embodied by a website that, along the way to good writing about machines that go beep boop, makes people better people. And I think Kotaku can be that website. And so, for as long as I am here, I will do what I can to make sure this website will have sharp and beautiful teeth.
When I look at this website on its best days I see a beautiful, broken smile—chipped teeth filed to points. It is not the thing I imagined, it couldn’t be—I wasn’t working here alone, after all—instead it is something strange, better, and unmistakably alive. There is good reporting here, good storytelling, and a lot of odd blogs.
Good people, too. Lisa Marie, much to my chagrin, has become one of my closest friends, all while being a stellar editor. Carolyn pushed me to look further and think harder about everything I wrote here, and she was always there for me when things got bad. Alexandra is a terrific editor and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I am tremendously lucky to know her. John has become a real mentor and friend, in spite of the fact that I turn his old bones to dust every time we speak. And Patricia took an incredible risk on me, one that I will forever be grateful for.
And I am hopeful that my cohort here at Kotaku, and the new generation of writers we are a part of, will continue to see it as an odd beacon—present, in spite of everything. I am excited to see what they do with the place. For as weird and occasionally difficult as these last six months have been, I cannot help but love this B website. It is a beautifully imperfect place. I hope that the herbs who own it don’t run the whole thing into the ground.
Eat shit. And godspeed, gamers.