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Russ Pitts steps down from Take This, on leave from Escapist

Charity co-founder, site editor-in-chief takes hiatus after "diminishing" experience of Gamergate abuse survivor in Twitter fight

Mental health charity Take This co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Escapist Magazine Russ Pitts announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from all roles at the former and taking a hiatus from the latter following the publication of a controversial article and a series of comments made to developer Zoe Quinn on Twitter last week.

The article in question, since taken down, was written and published by Pitts on The Escapist and titled 'How Do We Finally Talk About Ethics?' In it, Pitts invoked Gamergate as a vehicle to discuss issues of ethics in the video game industry and journalism - a stance that Quinn criticized shortly after on Twitter. Quinn was a primary target for harassment during Gamergate, which began when an ex-partner of hers went public in gaming communities with various accusations of infidelity and corruption.

To her criticisms, Pitts responded on Twitter, "Sorry Zoe. I genuinely thought you'd probably be over this being all about you. I'll be sure to check in next time." The tweet set off a longer thread between the two during which Pitts said that while he was not on the side of GamerGate, he was not on Quinn's side either.

Since then, Pitts has published an open letter on Twitter apologizing for his statements and announcing his hiatus from The Escapist and Enthusiast Gaming for an undefined period of time, as well as his departure from Take This.

"Last week, in addressing a member of the greater games community, I used words that diminished her experience as a survivor of abuse and disrespected her astonishing and inspirational struggle," the letter reads. "My words hurt her. I hurt her. I hurt everyone who rightfully admires her for her resilience in the face of an unbelievable amount of suffering. I hurt those who look up to me as a leader in this community. I hurt those who believe in the work I am doing. I hurt my friends, my family, my team. I hurt you."

The Escapist was re-launched by Pitts with an acquisition by Enthusiast Gaming in July of last year alongside a pledge that the site would "leave politics at the door." That pledge drew particular attention given that The Escapist in its previous incarnation had been perhaps the largest site to take a pro-Gamergate editorial stance.

Elsewhere in his letter, Pitts said that he had been slowly stepping away from the day-to-day operations of Take This over the past few years and had moved into a mere advisory role, but announced he will resign entirely as chair of the charity's board and from the board in general.

In a statement confirming his resignation from the board, Take This reaffirmed its commitment to improving mental health in video game culture through its various initiatives.

"Our vision is a game community that recognizes the humanity and mental health of game creators and welcomes and supports those in the game community experiencing mental health challenges," the statement reads. "As an organization we will continue to further meaningful dialogue and address how we can all do better in choosing our words and supporting fellow gamers and diverse culture.

"In 2019, we will continue to be a helpful mental health force in streaming through our Ambassador program and with our AFK rooms, a quiet, non-stimulus refuge at all the major video game shows this year. With the support and partnership of many game companies, we will be unveiling many new initiatives in 2019, including games that support our message and best practices for game companies."

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Rebekah Valentine avatar
Rebekah Valentine: Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.
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