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EXPOSED: Kotaku's manipulation

It was just about a year ago. I felt a bit unsettled after reading a Kotaku article by Patricia Hernandez, an article that asked the question "is it wrong to say 'I raped you' in a multiplayer game?" I felt a bit unsettled because the article came across as manipulative. Why was Kotaku spending their time on such a topic? "Oh," I thought to myself, brushing off my doubts "It's written by a woman who was actually raped in her past, so I suppose they think it adds credibility".

But I haven't stopped feeling unsettled from that point on in regards to Increasingly, Kotaku has championed an agenda in their articles. Whether it's hunting for racial slurs in an innocent animal-based flash game, or making sure animated breasts aren't too big, or calling out developers for making what can vaguely be called a "gay joke", Kotaku is here to save the day!

I'm feeling unsettled because I know I'm being manipulated. I knew it couldn't be a coincidence that Kotaku was ramping up their gender-equality witch hunt. There had to be something going on. There's nothing wrong with a news site posting opinion articles that differ from my own. That's just a normal part of life. However, when I realized I was rolling my eyes in disbelief at virtually every single Kotaku article that was linked here on N4G, I stopped and wondered what the heck was going on.

So, I did a little digging. I'm here to let you know, my fellow N4G browsers, that something is indeed going on with Kotaku. Please, feel free to yell at me, disagree with me, high-five me, or say whatever you like in the comment section. This topic should be talked about.

First, let's establish that something is indeed going on. Starting about 18-24 months ago, the number of hot-button gender-related articles on has skyrocketed. Topics that are years old (like crude remarks commonly made towards women on Xbox Live; nothing new) have suddenly found new light on Kotaku's article list. Setting aside the fact that Kotaku failed to report on these issues of harassment when they first cropped up years ago (in spite of their job titles being "journalist"), Kotaku has also been hiring - and posting articles from - female-focused industry icons. Whether highlighting Anita Sarkeesian for the tenth time or picking up on the most recent anti-gay slur, Kotaku has been picking up a lot of click-through, whether from like-minded individuals or angry readers and everyone caught in between. We've gotten articles (two, actually) like how Sony is sexist because there were no women on stage at the Playstation 4 reveal (what?), how Far Cry 3 is homophobic because it has a vague gay joke (ignoring the fact that the game is based on rude, crude, politically-incorrect '80s action-movie cliches), and my personal favorite, the dedicated and malicious attack on Vanillaware president/artist/designer George Kamitani for being a 14-year-old boy (apparently) because he drew a female videogame character with massive tits for a game that was announced nearly two years ago.

Remember how I mentioned that these sort of articles have been growing exponentially for about 18-24 months? Hmmm, what happened 18-24 months ago for Kotaku. Oh. That's right. About 27 months ago, Kotaku's parent company, Gawker, decided to revamp all of their site designs, which resulted in a MASSIVE decrease in site visits (and naturally, a massive decrease in ad revenue). Gawker fumbled and struggled to bring back readership by making a "compromise" in the site's design, and it was during this time that Kotaku also began to increase their number of tabloid-like, hit-seeking articles. All of this info is publicly available on Wikipedia, by the way. I'm not claiming to be some sort of insider.

"Okay, dude," you might be thinking. "So what? Gawker (and therefore Kotaku) hit a rough patch two years ago. It doesn't mean they have an agenda." You know what? You're absolutely right. If that one coincidence was the only thing I had, then it would be a bit tinfoil-hat of me to imply that Kotaku was engaging in some sort of targeted manipulation.

But that isn't all.

Surrounding the hubbub of Patricia Hernandez's two (yes, two) articles about "no women @ PS4 announcement!", Stephen Totilo gets on his high horse and says to his readers (you know, the people who put food on his table through their click-through) "if you don't like Patricia, then I don't want you to be a part of the Kotaku community". What? I'm sorry. It is one thing to ban lewd comments or discourage immature talk on a website, but to say such a thing to readers (who were understandably miffed at Patricia's incredibly one-sided and poorly-researched articles) stinks of an agenda.

And it gets deeper.

In a document regarding Gawker's future plans (found in about 20 seconds using Google here: it is detailed that Gawker planned on hiring several new "commerce specialists" for Kotaku and sister-site Jezebel (a female-focused website where a lot of Kotaku's gender-issue articles are cross-linked for additional ad revenue). This was just a few months ago at the end of January 2013. What is a "commerce specialst"?

"The job listings describe the position as “a new type of service journalism” that includes “everything from posts about the cheapest deal on something our readers need to introducing them to new things they’ve never seen,” and notes that Gawker will be deriving revenue from those posts"

The phrases that really caught my eye were "introducing them [readers] to new things they [readers] have never seen" and "Gawker will be deriving revenue from those posts". Is Kotaku's recent explosion (or should I say exploitation) of gender-driven articles something new, something the gaming industry has not seen? Yes, yes indeed. Is the s***-storm stirred up by these articles generating ad revenue for Kotaku and their parent company, Gawker? You bet.

In another article (here: that addressed the same announcement by Gawker this past January, we see another side of the same story:

"The company [Gawker] is working on ways to show past posts that have generated high revenue through affiliate links to readers who haven't yet seen them, Mr. Denton said."

Interesting. So, Gawker (and by extension Kotaku) is trying to up ad revenue by cross linking posts. Even if you've only read a few Kotaku articles, you've probably noticed that they hyperlink the crap out of their own articles, giving you links to at least a dozen other articles they've written before you're done reading. You want to know an easy way to get ad revenue from these cross-links? Talk about the same topic over and over again. You want an even easier way to get ad revenue from these cross-links? Drum up an artificial controversy where the reader HAS to click back to other articles to get the full story. Oh. Gee. That's exactly what they've done with stories like "no wimmenz @ PS4 announcement" and "Vanillaware is run by juveniles", because those so-called stories have multiple pages on Kotaku, and of course they all link to one another, just to make sure you're getting the full story.

Does Kotaku care about gender issues? I'm not sure. Their coverage of all these "controversies" comes across as Baby's First Feminism, and now they're hunting for the devil under every rock, or rather, they're hunting for the dominating phallic symbol in every box art, the male-privilege hate-speech in every line of dialog, and an oppressed female behind every pair of oversized cartoon breasts.

But I think that's giving them too much credit. It seems to me as though this is intentional. Kotaku belongs to a company that has been down on its ad revenue for two years now. Kotaku belongs to a company that wants to aggressively expand its media holdings. Kotaku belongs to a company that paid a mole to steal footage from Fox News and got caught. Kotaku belongs to a company being sued by Dr. Phil for stealing portions of his exclusive interview and airing them before he could. Kotaku belongs to a company that violated Reddit's free speech and privacy policies (and was subsequently blocked) in order to get a "scoop" on users who were posting pornography on an adult-only sub forum. Again, these factoids aren't secrets. I found them by spending less than 10 minutes Googling Kotaku and their owners, Gawker. Kotaku already has a reputation for making sensationalist (and poorly-researched) articles about gaming for the purpose of stirring up artificial controversy and raking in the ad revenue when people come to watch the train wreck.

It would be one thing if they were doing this with videogame-related news (which is something they've always done anyway and it is annoying but ultimately harmless). However, Kotaku is using a real-life issue - gender inequality - and abusing it so that they can make Gawker a few extra bucks. The videogame industry has an opportunity to grow and mature, and gender equality is one issue where we have been growing. However, now Kotaku is stepping in, calling the shots, and pointing the "sexist" finger at everyone who disagrees with their take on the topic. They are co-opting the discussion and cramming their own agenda down everyone else's throats. No, it isn't for the purpose of championing a noble cause or crusading for the rights of the oppressed (even then, they would be doing a poor job of it if that was their intention). Kotaku's actions are for the purpose of dredging up ad revenue by any means possible, and this behavior should come as no surprise based on the actions and attitudes of their parent company, Gawker.

Gamers, these are your journalists. Are you happy about that?

LostDjinn4054d ago (Edited 4054d ago )

It's bad form to comment on an article you approve but in this case I'll make an exception.

Kotaku is owned by an advertising agency (as you've just shown). Their sole purpose is to generate revenue. Not to inform on, enrich or add meaningfully to gaming. It's just an avenue they exploit. Their method is outrageously simple yet effective. They provide drama.

Whether it's fabricating News, misrepresenting products or creating wedge issues (through the application of sensationalism, hyperbole and un/half truths) it all fair game to them. They then play this off as being the fault of an outside (anonymous) source or other fictitious party that can't be called to account. Or they make (sometimes) insane claims and then hide behind "It's an opinion" as though that absolves them of responsibility for whatever BS they've run with.

It's the way they work. When their revenue stream is threatened expect things to become more hysterical. If you don't want to reward their behavior use Ad-blocker or better yet don't click their site. The only thing they understand is money (and to them the ends justifies the means).

tldr: Don't expect them to change as long as they can trick people into clicking.

Edit: Sorry I had to edit. :S

Donnieboi4054d ago (Edited 4054d ago )

How is it bad to comment on something I approved? If it's worth approving, then it's worth commenting on. Not disagreeing with u, but I like to comment on stuff I approve. Is it an n4g policy that says it's wrong?

OT: Kotaku is lame, and is barely even a step up from "examiner" website. Seriously, over time I realized much of the stuff on kotaku isn't worthy of being posted on n4g. But hey, people are gonna keep approving it anyway.

zerocrossing4054d ago

Very informative blog, I thought it was odd Kotaku was getting on their moral high horse when in the past it may as well have been a foreign word to them.

I still have no idea why Kotaku is aloud to have articles submitted on N4G, if there are any mods who come across this comment maybe you could please explain? it just seems strange to allow a journalist website that specialises in sensationalism, misinformation and slander to link to a website regarding gaming "news".

Nate-Dog4054d ago

I only joined the staff team a short time ago and wondered this and by chance asked about it just a few days ago when I had a look at how many negative votes compared to positive votes on the site there were from users (I won't say the actual figures, but the difference was massive, even I didn't expect it). There are some sites that the owners of the website (Hava Media) seem to have specific sites set to a 3-star rating which is next to impossible to change with user votes, and Kotaku seems to be one of them.

@Blog: Very informative blog and a great read. I stopped reading Kotaku around the same time of what Galactic Empire below me mentioned. That and the "Don't trust this website's review scores" when Famitsu gave MGS: Peace Walker a 40/40 score. It's funny because I just browse through the last 12 hours of news to catch up (I usually come on in the morning once and in the night once) and just through glancing through everything I can pretty much immediately tell what articles are from Kotaku from glancing at titles. Simple thing for everyone is to just stop clicking on their articles and giving them hits. But people usually don't seem to understand how simple a solution it is and get sucked into what is always just sensationalist flamebait.

DragonKnight4054d ago

I KNEW IT! I knew that Kraptaku's 3 stars had to do with some kind of an arrangement with the owners of this site. Just like those Spam blog posts from

It must be nice for the owners of this site to go against the sites own rules and guidelines. Frickin' sad. We're told our voices are what run the site, and yet when we come together to say "we don't like this site's submissions on N4G" and vote them down, the owners of the site say "Oh well, too bad."

Seriously pathetic.

zerocrossing4054d ago

Thanks for the explanation, honestly I had expected as much... with the sheer amount of users voting Kotaku down the fact they always had 3 stars seemed impossible, I guess all we can do is avoid giving them hits but I doubt enough people will have the self restraint required given their flame bait headlines.

Root4053d ago (Edited 4053d ago )

That explains alot

But I'm pretty sure cgoodno in one of DragonKnights articles said it was because they don't flamebait and it's because of us (the community) why they are still allowed on this site

So it's because of an obvious arrangement, wow, how can the Admins expect you to follow the guidelines when they just change what they want and don't follow them themselves....they do this all the time.

I knew the higher ups were corrupt.

....not you though Nate-dog....since your new-ish


They do this with comments aswell, even if people agree with you in an article and you can obviously see this like the agrees on 90 and the disagrees are 15-20 they would bubble you down for trolling, say it's the community who did it even though you can obviously tell it was them. When you send them a ticket they give you the "I'm right, your wrong argument" and thats it.

I mean as you know one of them thought I was a dup account, even though this has been disproven by Nineballs when I joined, when he unblocked my account after the mix up, he still thinks it's true and won't admit it.

Now he's apparently bad mouthed me to all the mods/admins so they won't listen to me.

Cat4053d ago (Edited 4053d ago )

To clarify, there is no arrangement between HAVAmedia or any of its employees with Kotaku or any other site for rating. Simply, Kotaku achieved a very high star rating when the rating system debuted, and it has not yet changed as a result of member votes.

Why the rating has not changed is likely because a) it takes many votes to alter a rating b) because of the trust rank of those members casting the votes c) who is voting (if the same 5 members are clicking "yay" or "nay" the system detects it and the votes weigh less)

miyamoto4053d ago Show
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GalacticEmpire4054d ago

They lost my confidence the day they posted that slowed down video of GT5 load screens; such an obvious, hit seeking, troll attempt.

What really rubs salt in the wound of poor Kotaku submissions here on N4G is that they currently have a 3 star rating despite many calls to vote them down. I can't be the only one who is constantly down-voting their crap.

PopRocks3594054d ago

More than likely they have a lot of fans who vote them back up or something of the like... certainly wouldn't be the first dishonest thing they've done.

SilentNegotiator4054d ago

But more likely that they know how to exploit that system with a bunch of accounts that upvote every last article from their site.

DragonKnight4054d ago

You're definitely not the only one. Every Kotaku article I come across, you can see pretty much the same comment from me.

"Kraptaku voted down."

And it doesn't matter what the article is. The amount of sensationalist garbage they post severely outweighs any legitimate articles they post.

It's quite ironic that Kotaku gets to remain here and HHG was booted for doing what Kotaku does all the time.

MidnytRain4054d ago

"Kraptaku voted down."

That's technically spam, isn't it? Mods, what should I do?

DragonKnight4054d ago

No, it's not Spam. Spam is things like trying to sell things in the comment section. And besides, I never said that I don't comment on the article before saying "Kraptaku voted down."

And finally, what would you gain in helping Kotaku here by attempting to mark my comments as Spam?

coolbeans4054d ago

"Spam is things like trying to sell things in the comment section."

I've been marked for spam for posting one of whatculture's lists in the comment section, so no the term extends a bit farther then that.

DragonKnight4054d ago

@coolbeans: If you mean that you went through their list and posted all of them in the comment section so as to not make others suffer through 10 pages of list items, then the only reason you were marked for Spam is because the author of said list complained about it and not because you were actually spamming. In that instance you were treated unfairly though I'm sure someone will make the claim that the author was treated unfairly.

No one likes those lists.

MidnytRain4054d ago

Lol, I was joking, but that does still sound like spam... :O

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Elwenil4054d ago

I agree there is something fishy about Kotaku's rating here. I remember we got it down quite a bit at one time and seems like around the first of the year it suddenly jumped back to three stars. I don't want to get all tinfoil honestly have to wonder if this isn't the admins of N4G artificially changing their rating or people from Kotaku coming here and bumping it up. It's pretty much universally accepted that at least half of Kotaku's articles are crap. Some, like the sensationalist BS that has been out recently, are actually harmful to gaming. Why would gamers support this? Kotaku is nothing more than a gaming related tabloid these days. Just my .02

DragonKnight4054d ago (Edited 4054d ago )

Excellent blog. Kotaku have been terrible for years and years now. The one thing I would really hope is that we all come together and vote them down on EVERY article regardless of what it says so that we take away one avenue for them to get clicks. I really don't know how Kotaku has 3 stars here when they post such garbage.

Also, Kotaku had 3 panellists at the 2012 Spike VGAs. 3. 3 Kotaku site staff had a vote on which games would win VGA awards. That's more than any other site that was in the panellist group. These sensationalis sh*t starters (alliteration ftw) helped to decide which games won VGA awards. The corruption and general incompetence of the biggest names in gaming "journalism" has permeated nearly every area of the industry and it's sickening.

We need to be rid of Kraptaku. We the gamers have to force legitimate journalism to be re-introduced to video game media.

papashango4053d ago

IGN has more of a negative impact on legitimate gaming journalism and here I only see you guys cherry picking...

gamejediben4052d ago


IGN can post some pretty crappy articles but they could never, EVER match the volume of sensationalist crap coming from Kraptaku. Its a whole other level of inflamatory fecal matter.

NatureDecay4054d ago

Great article.

For a long time, Kotaku was my go-to game news site, up until the past year or so. As time went on, there seemed to be an increasing flood of terrible, and quite frankly bizarre articles surrounding misogyny and homophobia in the video game industry, with zero to no basis in fact. All the accusations seemed to stem from perceived injustices, distorted by an obvious bias, and tinged with sensationalist nonsense.

Kotaku is everything that is wrong with journalism.