Kotaku generally has a dismissive attitude toward concerns by gamers over censorship of video games. The site has covered multiple controversies involving games imported from Japan. During the localization process sometimes elements are removed from the games and characters in skimpy outfits are made to cover up. During these controversies Kotaku often includes scare quotes around the word censorship to let their readers know the term is in doubt.
Other instances of censorship include which games are allowed on Steam, Valve’s massive online video game marketplace. Valve has the right to deny some games from appearing on their marketplace, an action some consider an act of censorship. Kotaku dumps on those claims, too.
So it was a bit jarring to see Kotaku‘s Nathan Grayson pen a very sympathetic article about the trials and tribulations of an uncensored sex game on Steam. The game in question was Ladykiller in a Bind, which was made by Christine Love, a frequent subject of Kotaku articles and a former partner of Patricia Hernandez, another Kotaku writer. Hmmm.
In the past Grayson has made statements that seemed to imply it was not censorship if a game was denied access to Steam and that they could just be purchased elsewhere. One example here:
“Going back to the Target/GTA controversy, both that and today’s Hatred removal are examples of storefronts exercising their right to curate products and sell whatever they want,” he wrote. “That’s not widespread censorship; that’s a decision made on the part of autonomous companies based on their beliefs. If you want those games, you will still be able to get them elsewhere.”
To be fair Hatred is a game about indiscriminate mass murder while Ladykiller in a Bind is some artsy porn game, although the principle still stands.
But when writing about Ladykiller, Grayson is eager to stand up to Steam’s “censorship.”
Ladykiller In A Bind is releasing on Steam next week, which means a significantly larger audience will have a chance to check it out. Does this mean Valve is starting to change its tune on non-pandery sex games? Hopefully. Over the years, the policies of platforms like Steam and iOS have limited people’s range of artistic expression, especially where smaller developers are concerned.
Huh, now Steam’s policies are harming artistic expression. What a turnaround.
In the article there is no disclosure that the game’s creator, Christine Love, has any prior relationship with Kotaku writers—even though it’s clear that Grayson is at the very least a personal acquaintance of Love.
A quick search of their respective Twitter accounts shows multiple occasions of the two either going out to karaoke together or attempting to plan karaoke outings.
So obviously they are either friends or personal acquaintances, which should probably be disclosed in the article. Kotaku has long struggled with disclosing personal relationships between writers and subjects they write about—it was one of the main reasons the Gamergate clusterfuck happened in the first place.
But did this affect the opinion and coverage in the article? Who knows, but it certainly is telling that Kotaku suddenly changes their tune on censorship when it’s affecting one of their buddies.