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MAGFest Caves To Social Media Pressure And Apologizes For Joke Mocking Kotaku’s “Journalistic Integrity”

MAGfest 2023 organizers have apologized for a sign mocking that it couldn't find Kotaku's "journalistic integrity."

MAGfest 2023 organizers have apologized for a sign mocking that Kotaku’s “journalistic integrity” could not be found.

The Sorceress nurtures a skeleton to her bosom via Dragon's Crown (2013), Atlus
The Sorceress nurtures a skeleton to her bosom via Dragon’s Crown (2013), Atlus

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Jennifer Unkle, Scanline Media Co-Editor, shared the offending sign at Super MAGFest 2023. The sign directing to various displays included “Kotaku’s Jounalistic Integrity” at its foot, but with “404” as its direction.

Error 404 is typically a “not found” error in HTTP and web browsing — as evidenced with the sign having the magnifying glass with a cross in it. Unkle didn’t find the funny side, judging by the eye-rolling emojis included in her tweet.

Jennifer Unkle shares a sign at Super MAGFest 2022, mocking Kotaku's journalistic integrity via Twitter
Jennifer Unkle shares a sign at Super MAGFest 2022, mocking Kotaku’s journalistic integrity via Twitter

Other current and former Kotaku staff soon caught wind. “Booo @MAGFest booooo,” derided writer Ash Parrish, “like good job allowing the smegma from gamerg*te to linger.”

Ash Parrish objects to Super MAGFest 2023's Kotaku joke, comparing it to GamerGate's comments and opinions of the website via Twitter
Ash Parrish objects to Super MAGFest 2023’s Kotaku joke, comparing it to GamerGate’s comments and opinions of the website via Twitter

Unkle’s tweet caught the attention of Patrick Klepek, former Kotaku senior report, now Waypoint reporter and co-host of the Til Death Do Us Part podcast. Hey, this sucks. What’s the deal, @MAGFest?”

Patrick Klepek objects to Super Magfest 2023's joke about Kotaku via Twitter
Patrick Klepek objects to Super MAGfest 2023’s joke about Kotaku via Twitter

In turn, Klepek’s comment helped magnify the matter to Stephen Totilo, Kotaku’s former Editor in Chief (now Axios’ gaming writer). “Genuinely nice to see the real support and respect for Kotaku’s team in the replies to Patrick’s tweet,” Totilo beamed. “The team is good and can most definitely take jokes–at least when those jokes are good.”

It should be noted, other comments in reply to Klepek’s tweet were seen to be mocking Kotaku. 

Stephen Totilo shows delight that some had agreed with Patrick Klepek's objection to MAGFest's Kotaku joke via Twitter
Stephen Totilo shows delight that some had agreed with Patrick Klepek’s objection to MAGFest’s Kotaku joke via Twitter

IGN contributor Rebekah Valentine offered her support for the gaming news industry at-large. “You don’t have to like a website but a surprisingly large contingent of folks in this space have decided that Kotaku is the root of all journalistic evil and rake it and its staff across the coals for things that they wouldn’t blink at twice on other sites.”

Kotaku Senior Editor Alyssa Mercante addressed Valentine’s tweet, replying, “I have been at kotaku for < 3 months, and I have never seen so much frothing hate over the most body temperature takes it’s like the ghost of gamer gate lingers over every post, tweet, and comment.”

Rebekah Valentine and Alyssa Mercante object to MAGFest's Kotaku joke via Twitter
Rebekah Valentine and Alyssa Mercante object to MAGFest’s Kotaku joke via Twitter

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MAGFest Communications Director Dac Croach finally stepped up to handle the situation. Replying to Klepek’s tweet he wrote “Just a friendly jab. We still love Kotaku! I’ll put up a little heart and ‘jk’ on the sign so people know it’s in jest.”

Dac Croach insists the Super MAGFest 2023 sign mocking Kotaku was meant in good faith via Twitter
Dac Croach insists the Super MAGFest 2023 sign mocking Kotaku was meant in good faith via Twitter

Judging by the replies, however, it seemed many still felt MAGFest had made serious allegations against Kotaku. For example, Mercante replied with a clip of Trinity Taylor asking “where are the jokes?

“A formal response from @MAGFest calling this a ‘friendly jab,’ Klepek deemed. “Not sure that’s gonna exactly fly!”

Patrick Klepek finds Dac Croach's insistence that the joke sign mocking Kotaku at Super MAGFest 2023 insufficient via Twitter
Patrick Klepek finds Dac Croach’s insistence that the joke sign mocking Kotaku at Super MAGFest 2023 insufficient via Twitter

Not even half an hour after his initial post, Croach replied to Klepek’s new tweet. “We’ll pull the banner. This was supposed to be a snarky joke and was certainly not meant to be taken seriously. All of our nav banners have little s—tposty messages on the bottom. It was not a reference to anything in particular, though, certainly not ‘gg’. Sorry to #kotaku!”

Dac Croach confirms the joke sign will be taken down at Super MAGFest 2023, and apologizes to Kotaku via Twitter
Dac Croach confirms the joke sign will be taken down at Super MAGFest 2023, and apologizes to Kotaku via Twitter

The other signs having jokes had seemingly been overlooked in online discussion. For example, one sign — if genuine — seemed to point towards the traditional Danny DeVito shrine.

Regardless, the official MAGFest would later issue a formal apology. “Hey MAGFest community, we’ve heard you loud & clear that a joke we printed on our signage this year absolutely did not land. For clarity, it was intended to poke fun at one line in an article written about our COVID response last year. It was immediately pulled from the floor.”

MAGFest organizers formally apologize for mocking Kotaku via Twitter
MAGFest organizers formally apologize for mocking Kotaku via Twitter

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“We understand that most people did not receive it as such, and that it made people feel unsafe,” the statement continues. “This was a huge oversight and lack of awareness on our part. We’re so deeply sorry to our community and @Kotaku for this error, and we will do better with our banter in the future.”

MAGFest organizers formally apologize for mocking Kotaku via Twitter
MAGFest organizers formally apologize for mocking Kotaku via Twitter

It seems that article may have been Kotaku’s own report on MAGFest 2022 having almost 60 attendees test positive COVID-19 (out of over 10,500 guests). It would seem that rather than being related to GamerGate in any way (as several assumed), it was MAGFest mocking Kotaku’s coverage of their COVID-19 outbreak — accurate or otherwise.

Author Sisi Jiang wrote, “I am trying to be the bigger person but for the record i am not at all sorry about reporting on *publicly provided information* on a covid outbreak, which was clearly in the public interest.”

“It’s worth noting that magfest declined to correct our article when they responded to my comment request last year,” Jiang claimed. “In the interest of civility, i will refrain from quoting the *other* things they had to say about our journalism after i wrote the story.”

Sisi Jiang stands by their reporting of the MAGFest COVID-19 outbreak in 2022 on Kotaku, and claims they declined to correct the claims therein via Twitter
Sisi Jiang stands by their reporting of the MAGFest COVID-19 outbreak in 2022 on Kotaku, and claims they declined to correct the claims therein via Twitter

Going back to Parrish’s comments, Kotaku was one of the major gaming news outlets accused of poor integrity during the height of GamerGate. Along with writer Nathan Grayson being one of the journalists who gave Zoë Quinn positive coverage of Depression Quest without disclosing their sexual relationship, multiple employees were also accused of failing to disclose conflicts of interest when reporting.

They were also accused of biased coverage; including the typical “woke” or politically left-leaning claims levelled against game journalists as a whole. That would be rejecting anything that could exclude anyone- such as challenge, fan-service, or difficult narrative themes. Arguably, it’s something they continue to do to this day

[link] Jason Schreier mocks the character designs of Dragon's Crown via Kotaku
Archive Link Jason Schreier mocks the character designs of Dragon’s Crown via Kotaku
This infamously included Schreier’s disgust at the character designs in Dragon’s Crown, as well as Grayson’s claims that Far Cry 4‘s box art was racist and Ubisoft not including a female playable character — all while the game’s narrative director and PR representatives clearly struggled to answer in a way that wouldn’t incur Kotaku’s wrath.

Kotaku’s bias went far beyond offending content, however. Their coverage of the Brad Wardell sexual harassment lawsuits in 2012 (later dismissed with prejudice and accusations rescinded) was accused of being conducted without diligence.

It was later revealed the Stardock CEO had been given mere hours to offer his comments, regarding leaked information that may have harmed his case if discussed in-depth.

Stardock’s own lawsuit against the complainant was also framed as retaliatory, yet had actually started a year before sexual harassment case.

[link] Kate Cox reports on the sexual harassment lawsuit made against Stardock CEO Brad Wardell via Kotaku
Archive Link Kate Cox reports on the sexual harassment lawsuit made against Stardock CEO Brad Wardell via Kotaku
Writer Kate Cox also accused Twisted Metal designer David Jaffe of misogyny, after making a joke that giving the game as a Valentines Day gift would guarantee oral sex, especially “If you let her win […] split screen.”

Even Kotaku’s own readership accused them of being desperate or borderline slanderous, with Jaffe allegedly later chewing out Totilo as defending “a bad hire” who presented an opinion as fact.

[Link[ Kate Cox reports on David Jaffe's joke made while promoting Twisted Metal via Kotaku
Archive Link Kate Cox reports on David Jaffe’s joke made while promoting Twisted Metal via Kotaku
When critique fell on Kotaku after Grayson’s conflict of interest was revealed, Totilo stated that after an internal investigation, Kotaku found “no compelling evidence that any of that is true.”

While the claims against Quinn were initially made by her ex-boyfriend, Kotaku would later take part in the “gamers are dead” campaign — where over 30 gaming news outlets insisted the older gaming audience could be ignored, all released within mere days after one another as soon as their integrity had come under scrutiny.

The suspected collusion sparked GamerGate, as consumers demanded better reporting and consumer advocacy from the outlets they relied on.

[Link] Luke Plunkett's "Gamers Are Dead" article, kickstarting GamerGate via Kotaku
Archive Link Luke Plunkett’s “Gamers Are Dead” article, kickstarting GamerGate via Kotaku
Later reports claimed many of these gaming news outlets were part of the GameJournoPros Google Group. Along with allegedly rubbing shoulders with marketing executives and community managers from major publishers such as Activision and Ubisoft, Schreier seemingly worked with other journalists to provide positive coverage of Quinn in the aftermath of her exposé.

“As sympathetic as I am to the horrible harassment Zoe faced,” Schreier allegedly stated in the group, “I think this incident has raised enough questions about the incestuous relationship between press and developers already.”

Along with six contributors, Grayson and Deputy Editor Tina Amini were also allegedly part of the 150+ strong group.

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