Kotaku Writer Paid $800 To Dev He Was Sleeping With, Without Disclosure

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.

Profile photo of Billy D


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Contact.

  • vr

    he paid to much for her

  • Falcus

    >$800 and all those favoritisms for landwhale sex
    He’s still the gooniest of the goony beard-men.

  • ObeliskDR

    To be honest, if he made it clear he was dating her, there’s going to be financial ties so I find the point moot.

    • boonesimpson

      a payment of $800 is a bit more serious than “$40 for dinner”

      Now yes, this could be as innocuous as him paying his share of rent or paying back a loan, but that STILL should be disclosed. i.e. “I date and live with the developer mentioned in this article”….even better any REAL journalist or editor would RECUSE themselves from a story with such a flagrant conflict of interest.

  • The Chief Lunatic

    Holy smokes. So he also had financial ties with ZQ as well? Wow …

  • Syltique

    Not a small amount of money really. I’ve never even loaned a family member half that.

  • Reggie Anderson

    All things considered I’m glad to see that Mr. Grayson is speaking to the media about this. While it isn’t a complete baring of all it’s still communication.

    Thank you, Mr. Grayson. I can imagine it took courage to even speak about this to this reporter given the atmosphere that’s persisted around this issue. So, I want to thank you for finding the strength to stand up and speak. I hope that you remain strong enough to speak more on this when it’s relevant to this issue.

  • Cuca Culpa

    $200/hr x 4.

    Yeah, would probably take me that long to get it up for Chelsea too.

  • Anthony L.

    They were still hanging out recently if you saw the photos posted of them getting piercings/tattoos (and really Liffschitz? A tramp stamp?) so he’s just totally pathetic at this point.

  • ElliotRyan

    Well, at least gamergate seems to be inching closer to figuring out what constitutes conflict of interest and what doesn’t. I guess that’s a good sign.

    • GDI_M

      Cronyism and nepotism aren’t conflicts-of-interest, I suppose.

    • Fenrir007

      So, you still think Nathan shouldn’t disclose anything?

    • Jon Snow

      In what universe is reporting on a friend NOT a conflict of interest? Here, let me help you.

      A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests (financial, emotional, or otherwise), one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization.

      the more you know™

    • C G Saturation

      It’s difficult to define and distinguish conflict of interest whilst living in a society so deeply corrupt.

  • Kain Yusanagi

    How in the FUCK did Fart get this, and how is it legal?

    • Person Person

      I just learned Venmo exists, and apparently defaults your activity to public. Don’t ask me where it would be seen.

      • Fenrir007

        “Venmo also doubles, by design, as a social network. Every time a user makes a payment to a friend, he has to fill out a field summarizing what the reimbursement is for. The transaction, stripped of the specific dollar amount, is then shared with both parties’ networks of friends. For example: “John Doe paid Bob Smith” for “fantasy football domination.” You can adjust the settings so your transactions are private, but most users don’t. Part of the Venmo experience is the continuous scroll of your friends’ microeconomic activity as told through droll synopsis, inside jokes, and emoji. Such is the avant-garde of home economics circa 2014.”

        From: https://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-11-20/mobile-payment-startup-venmo-is-killing-cash

        My god, that sounds like a silly idea.

  • AeluronLightsong

    Disturbing but at least it’s out NOW instead of this continual battle just to be moral and ethical.

  • Sinsate Etasnis

    “I pimp this shit for FREE yo” – said by a white woman on the internet.

    I wonder… isn’t that what the SJWs refer to as “cultural appropriation”?

  • Ajt

    Ummm? A little over 90 days after they begin a short intimate romantic relationship, he sends her $800, and when asked claims it is absolutely non work related, but was related to the time when they were in said relationship.


    I’m suddenly thinking this is something we really don’t want or need to be asking questions about. At all. Let’s just walk away from this one and say no more.

    • Jon Snow

      My thoughts exactly

    • SonofaGlitch


      Grayson was too dumb to wear a condom. He probably has six different kinds of venereal disease now too!

      I’m actually feeling bad for the guy. I figure he’s probably in a rock and a hard place over all of the following events. As in, I’m guessing he probably resented Quinnae Moonchild after everything, but knew he couldn’t say a damn thing due to being the total dumbass who knocked her up. She has forever leverage over his scrotum now.

      Well, at least he knows he doesn’t shoot blanks.

    • Am I Tuna?

      lol I don’t understand what are you talking abou-ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

      Yeah lets let this one be guys.

    • JackDandy

      I absolutely get what you mean, but, well, a conflict of interest IS a conflict of interest.
      I think Billy D did it with grace- he brought it to people’s attention, but didn’t focus on the obvious (and unfortunate) implicit details of this transaction.

    • T H

      ZQ can’t pay for her own abortion? What a fucking bum.

      • Ajt

        Wow, this thread just popped up in my feed after a year. But yeah apparently included in the CON leaks were logs showing ZQ publicly claimed to have aborted Eron’s Baby. Take it as you will.

  • Jon Snow

    I’m not sure how many of you have been in this situation, but when I was younger my girlfriend and I got pregnant and decided we weren’t ready to have children. An abortion cost $800. I’m not saying definitively that’s what happened in this situation, but it is an extremely strong possibility. Please keep that in mind while thinking about the situation.

    • TeLin特林

      Jesus F. Christ….maybe that’s why they broke up(can imagine that can wreck havoc on a relationship).

    • Cuca Culpa

      She’s from Canada, though. Like Coffin’s fake girlfriend from Scotland, she could have done it for free.

      • Jon Snow

        Was she in canada at the time?

      • Cuca Culpa

        Even if she wasn’t, a flight or gas money (Canada and the US share a land border, remember) is considerably cheaper than $800.

        He could have done it for eight cents, really.

      • Jon Snow

        Gas isn’t cheap, nor are international flights.

      • Person Person

        Zoe is not from Canada. She lived there briefly. She’s from upstate NY.

  • JackDandy

    and n

  • AnotherOutsider

    It’s time that we stop asking or wondering if there’s a conflict of interest at Kotaku and just surmise that they ‘don’t care’ that there’s a conflict of interest, so the best their reader’s can hope for is disclosure. At this junction the $800 is a moot point, the romantic relationship was disclosed and that’s really about as much disclosure as we could ever require. “There’s a strong conflict of interest which Kotaku has disclosed and doesn’t care about,” end of. We that in mind, we can all still comment on the value of the article (and the site in general), of course.

    • JackDandy

      Don’t know about that. The second we let apathy crawl in, is where the entire cake crumbles. This stuff is not okay and should never be treated as a norm, unfortunate as it may be.

      • AnotherOutsider

        I’m not saying we’re apathetic to the conflict of interest. I’m saying that it doesn’t do us any good to nitpick and fall into the area of gossip when the essentially the strongest of conflicts of interest has been disclosed. Once Nathan revealed a romantic relationship, any details of money really become irrelevant as they can be for a gamut of reasons and virtually all of which are firmly none of our business.

      • A Real Libertarian

        $800 is a massive conflict of interest.

        Just because it’s not the largest, doesn’t mean it’s “nitpicking” to point out.

      • AnotherOutsider

        $800 is significant enough to be a conflict of interest, yes. Is $800 significant within a romantic relationship that has already been disclosed? Heck no. Once a romantic relationship has been established there is really no reason to go after the money changing hands between the two anymore, because said money is implicit in any romantic relationship, as a romantic relationship is the strongest of conflicts of interest. When you publicize any amount of money between the two as an additional ‘scandal’, you are absolutely nitpicking. It’s like after someone has gone to jail for first degree murder, the family of the victim decides to pursue additional charges for “assault with a weapon” on the deceased victim. It’s absurd and within the confines of a romantic relationship it amounts to gossip, as the money could be spent on any number of things and speculating doesn’t actually establish any ‘greater’ conflict of interest.

      • Once a romantic relationship has been established there is really no reason to go after the money changing hands between the two anymore,
        because said money is implicit in any romantic relationship, as a romantic relationship is the strongest of conflicts of interest.

        The relationship had already ended when the $800 exchanged hands.

      • AnotherOutsider

        According to whom? Grayson could have owed Quinn money or they were “just friends” and Grayson didn’t mind helping a “friend”. We already know that the romantic relationship “had” taken place and after that as long it was disclosed, we should be satisfied with the default presupposition that the conflict of interest still exists. To think otherwise is naive or purposefully ignorant and Grayson’s disclosure on his recent article reveals as much. I’m not on Kotaku or Grayson’s side for perpetuating this problem of conflict of interest, but asking for further disclosure and promoting this as a ‘undisclosed scandal’ feels counterproductive at best.

      • According to whom? .

        Stephen Totillo, Nathan Grayson and Zoe Quinn. It’s now common knowledge they dated “briefly”. Or are we going to get into the semantics of what “briefly” means?

        By August 1st it was considered that the relationship was done since Quinn had moved on to the new kid with the tramp stamp.

        I’m not on Kotaku or Grayson’s side for perpetuating this problem of conflict of interest, but asking for further disclosure and promoting this as a ‘undisclosed scandal’ feels counterproductive at best.

        Once it becomes public knowledge it needs to be disclosed, otherwise it has the appearance of a conflict of interest.

      • AnotherOutsider

        It is a conflict of interest, there is no mere suggestion of “appearance” here, no amount of disclosure counteracts it (bias 101). But yes, there is room for semantics, just as there is room for degrees of a relationship. Whatever the case, though, the romantic relationship was not far off at the time, we all know from the Zoe post that they were in contact at least as late as June, so to make them distinct is an issue of your narrowly defined “romantic relationship”. A return of material goods (one possible scenario) over a broken relationship may often take years, so again I don’t see this transaction as outside of the norm.

  • Fenrir007

    More and more proof comes pilling up showing how much of a conflict of interest there is with Nathan and Zoe – yet, somehow, this is all “harassment” of her (???) and a “conspiracy”. By their standards, I suppose you would call the NBA a conspiracy as well.

    Now, he says this is extremely personal and all. Okay, fine. I don’t think he needs to disclose exactly what this money was for. Had he disclosed in prior articles that he was in a relationship (or was friends with, depending on the timelime) Zoe at the time, that would have been enough and the story would have ended right there.

    Totilo is another person that should be called to answer as well, since, as EiC, he had the responsibility of disciplinating Nathan and forcing retroactive disclosures on his articles. He basically is letting the inmates run the asylum, and the sad part of this all is that he is the only one with a journalism degree in that loon house (or at least I think he is – does Nathan have one as well?).

    To think that GG would be really dead by now if they simply listened to us way back in august. People wouldn’t even be doing this amount of digging by now. You reap what you sow.

    PS.: How the hell does fart get this kind of stuff?

  • Marcus Lawshe’

    Why is this idiot still employed there? I mean, most companies by now would just see one very large liability, one that damages company credibility every minute they’re still there. How this imbecile can claim he’s anything but a yellow rag writing, hag-ridden, scramble-brained addled walking, talking fuck up is beyond me.

    Just cut this guy loose and call it a day Kotaku. He’s not worth the effort.

    • Elilla Shadowheart

      Those who are corrupt, are protected by those who are corrupt. It’s also called the “good ol’boys club.” It seems that quite a bit of the game journo’s clique operates on that level.

    • Fenrir007

      Perhaps because they know the moment they cut these people off, they will cry “harassment” or any other buzzword they love and this will set the company in the target of the SJW hate machine.

      However, in Nathan’s case, I think he went way beyond the point where keeping him would be better than just shouldering the hatemob.

  • Person Person

    Pretty sure this is a typo:

    “she wrote a review for a game called Hate Plus by Christina Love, but failed to disclose the fact that her love are very close friends …”

    • Ah, yep that’s a typo all right. Little bugger escaped through the woods before I got my sights on ’em.


  • Person Person

    Remember, ZQ also had someone pay ~$1000 for her hotel bill.

    I can’t even imagine how one goes about taking this kind of money from friends. Even a boyfriend may pay for stuff but has never just given me cash. Amazing.

  • Zanard Bell

    That awkward moment when the guy who jumpstarted GamerGate has been more forthcoming than his EiC. While I really have nothing but utter contempt for these ‘journalists’ and their so-called ‘pimping’ of their friends, at least I find it refreshing that they’ll admit money did pass through their hands. Whether people want to dismiss that as tinfoilery or a smoking gun, it’s all up to them. Frankly, I believe those even-handed positive writeups were part of that bargain.

  • Erthwjim

    They never learn.

  • Et

    A small correction: Ellison shilled for Christine Love, not Christina Love.

    • Ah, thanks. Got it fixed.

  • Hendrik Vanderstijn

    So how exactly was this information obtained? How do you get a screenshot of someone’s email? Was this a hack?

  • The_Last_Ride

    Damn good article

  • dirtysteve

    Is this evidence the result of hacking an email? I’d like to know it’s source. #GG shouldn’t be endorsing hacks.

    • That particular image from the e-mail came from PressFart2Continue. Others had access to the imgur that Fart2Continue came across. How he came across the imgur album or who did the original dump is about as big a mystery as the Polytron hack.

      #GG is not endorsing hacks. However, it’s fair game to report on images derived from the public domain.

  • Blightness

    How is this dude not fired?

    • Well, Kotaku investigated Kotaku and found Kotaku innocent.

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  • Jollyboy John

    Guys if we didn’t live in a patriarchal society there wouldn’t be a wage gap and she wouldn’t even need to sleep with him for money to get the new iPhone.

    Woops, did I just say that?

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