In the fight for ethics, #GamerGate has uncovered many of the dirty secrets associated with gaming outlets. One of the biggest issues is a lack of disclosure. In the case of Kotaku writer Nathan Grayson, new leaks have revealed that after giving $800 to a former romantic interest, he wrote about the subject in a Kotaku piece about GDC 2015 on March 13,th 2015. The problem? No disclosure about the financial ties.
Back in August 1st, 2014 Nathan Grayson paid $800 to Zoe Quinn via Venmo. As evidenced in the screenshot below, courtesy of PressFartToContinue.
Grayson did confirm the payment, but also noted that it had nothing to do with Kotaku and was a separate matter relating to the brief time when he and Quinn were together. I reached out to Grayson and he responded saying…
“This concerns something that happened then–nothing even *remotely* work-related. Given that it’s a personal matter, I’d prefer not to say any more.”
I did reach out to Kotaku’s editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo about the issue, and asked whether or not he had anything to share about the information relating to Grayson, Quinn and the exchange of money, but Totilo declined to comment.
To his credit, Grayson does mention that he dated Quinn in the article cited above, but he made no mention that he dated Quinn and had financial ties to the subject. It creates a conflict of interest because to a reader from the outside looking in, it could appear as if Grayson is indebted to Quinn and is writing about her as part of re-payment. The average reader doesn’t know the details, but seeing images starting to float around the internet that there are some significant financial ties between the two, it creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Of course, an issue like this is an issue that could have been easily resolved either by recusing oneself from the subject matter or notifying readers that there are “personal and financial ties to the subject”.
However, this isn’t the first time that Grayson has been caught in a financial conflict of interest. It happened before with IGF chairman Brandon Boyer, both of whom were on the Game Journo Pros list. There was also a lack of disclosure previously with Grayson and Robin Arnott. It’s a pattern.
The issue of a lack of disclosure wasn’t just an issue with Nathan Grayson, a Game Journo Pro and a current writer for Kotaku. This was also an issue with Ben Kuchera, an editor for Polygon. It was an issue with Tyler Wilde, an executive editor for PC Gamer. It was also an issue with Cara Ellison, a contributor to sites like Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Eurogamer, where she wrote a review for a game called Hate Plus by Christine Love, but failed to disclose the fact that her and Love are very close friends, even to the point where Ellison requested she become Love’s PR agent, and later saying she “pimp this shit for free.”
Simple things like disclosure go a long way in preventing blowouts like #GamerGate. Unfortunately, instead of this being acknowledged as an ongoing issue that creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, many of the top editors and site runners from outlets accused of partaking in impropriety tried to hand-wave the issues away. Unfortunately for them, angry consumers cannot be waved away in the face of fighting for reform in game journalism ethics.