Luke Plunkett Leaves Video Game Website Kotaku After 17 Years

Luke Plunkett Leaves Video Game Website Kotaku After 17 Years

It feels weird to be writing one of these. Lord knows I’ve read enough of them over the last 17 years. But it’s finally my turn: today is my last day at Kotaku.

It’s been a trip. I started at this website in 2006, in the dying days of the PS2/GameCube generation. I was a kid in my 20’s who through some burned-out friends in the business had been scared off making video games (crunch did not seem fun!), but still wanted to do something around them, even if that was just talking shit about them on the internet. Kotaku’s EiC at the time had advertised an opening, looking for someone to run the (American) night shift, which for me in Australia would be daytime and seemed perfect. I sent a one-line email expecting to never hear anything again and…got a job talking shit about video games on the internet. I was a part-timer getting paid $10 a post, and like so many other (and better) bloggers at Gawker spent my time recklessly weaving facts with smarmy/terrible takes. A few months later I was bumped up into a full-time position. It all seemed so new, so chaotic, I thought the job was only going to last a few months before it all came crashing down. Whoops.

Now it’s 2023. I’m 43 years old. Fuck, that’s a long time. I’ve spent the bulk of my adult working life pouring my heart and soul into a website about video games, and now I’m just…walking away from it. Feels weird. I have a lot of emotions! I’ve made friends, I’ve made enemies, I’ve broken news, I’ve made mistakes. I ran an excellent cosplay site until our current owners broke it. I wrote a book, I started The Bests, I made a board game (and somehow managed to turn the pastime into part of the job), I’ve spent over a decade showcasing my favourite video game artists. I’ve travelled the world, met childhood heroes, made connections I’d never have imagined. And in between I would logon every day and try and write something, anything, whatever I wanted really, and somehow I got paid for it. I couldn’t have asked for a better job. It’s been a blast, and I’ll be eternally grateful for the opportunity.

I found this in a folder marked “Gawker Trip: January 2007″, looked at a calendar and instantly turned to dust

And yet. Working at Kotaku for this long has also involved taking one body blow after the other, sometimes from outside the building, other times from within. I could, and maybe should have walked away at any number of times over those 17 years. When Gamergate did whatever it did. When Peter Thiel used Hulk Hogan to silence Gawker, when we were bought by a TV network that had no idea what they were doing, when that TV network’s finances went down in flames and we went from the frying pan into the fire. When my favourite website was told to stick to sports, and when most of my friends left not long after and I didn’t even get a chance to say a proper goodbye.

What kept me here through all that was the work, and the talented, dedicated people I have worked alongside. Yeah, this site has fucked up at times, but for the most part we have also said and done things nobody else in this space has managed, honestly and fearlessly, and I have been proud to have had my name on the masthead—through so many job title changes I’ve honestly lost count—the entire time.

I’ve never been the most insightful critic, the busiest reporter or the sharpest writer. I’ve never hosted a podcast, and rarely appeared on camera. Hell, I only ever visited the New York office five times in my entire career, and one of those was on my honeymoon (long story). But I like to think I’ve still made a difference here, if not under my own byline then in the very bones of the site, behind the scenes in ways you never noticed but which I hope successive generations of writers and editors–whose work you do remember–did.

Every time I see this 2015 staff photo, where only a single person (our current EiC Patricia Hernandez) is still at the site, I feel like Luke Skywalker looking at the force ghosts at the end of Return of the Jedi

Every time I see this 2015 staff photo, where only a single person (our current EiC Patricia Hernandez) is still at the site, I feel like Luke Skywalker looking at the force ghosts at the end of Return of the Jedi

I’ve read enough of these posts to know that this is the part where I’m starting to lose you and need to start quickly thanking people, but man, 17 years, there are just too many to list individually. Still, I gotta try (and if we’ve worked together at any point I’m sorry if you’re not mentioned; I remember everyone, and you were all the best). First and most importantly: Brian Ashcraft. My wingman, my friend, we’ve blogged together, we’ve written a book together, we’ve travelled together, I’ve eaten at your table, thanks for always being there, every day. Thanks to Brian Crecente for giving me a chance and hiring me on the strength of that rude, one-line email. Thanks to Mike McWhertor for being such a huge influence, not on my writing, but on everything else that goes around it.

Thank you to Joel Johnson for lighting a fire under my ass. Kirk Hamilton for being the best who ever did it, Evan Narcisse for being too damn talented for this field (and going on to show it), Riley MacLeod for being the most wonderful human being I have ever met. Stephen Totilo for having the patience of a saint. Gita, Nathan, Chris P, Cecilia, Harper, Jason, you were all a part of the site’s golden age, and as each of you left Kotaku in quick succession a little piece of me left with you. To the current staff: I’m sorry we never got the chance to meet in person (Ethan, buddy, we are ships in the night!), but despite all the challenges currently facing you, it’s inspiring that you continue to do the work. Keep at it for as long as you can.

Thanks to Mark Serrels, a great man with the worst takes, who never actually worked here but may as well have. Thanks Mineralblu for all the photos, and to everyone who shared their amazing cosplay stories with me over the last decade, helping shape coverage that I hope treated the scene with the respect it deserves. Thanks also to the countless artists who submitted their work to Fine Art (or at least sent in the work of their colleagues who were too shy to do it themselves), giving me the pleasure of showcasing your stuff. More often than not it was the highlight of my week.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading (this post and everything else), and thanks for putting up with me for so damn long. I haven’t got anything else lined up, so I’m going to take a little break and decompress; next Monday I’m going to wake up, head downstairs and see what it’s like to be a fully grown adult who doesn’t have to play a video game and always be thinking about work while he’s doing it. Maybe it’ll be weird, maybe it’ll be fun, who knows. I’m excited to find out!

Queens of the Stone Age – You Can’t Quit Me Baby (Official Audio)

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