Kotaku Posts Error-Ridden Hit-Piece Disguised as Intellivision Amico Coverage

On Tuesday, video game website Kotaku posted an editorial titled Oh No, Earthworm Jim, written Kotaku editor Luke Plunkett. This very short piece starts with a criticism of Earthworm Jim 4, an upcoming game for the yet to be released Intellivision Amico console.

Plunkett’s criticism begins with a couple of simple points: he doesn’t like the new game’s “hand-drawn” art style (fair enough), and notes that Earthworm Jim 4‘s latest video teaser doesn’t look very far along for a game that he thought was scheduled to release in October 2019.

Plunkett dedicates the second half of his commentary to complaining about Doug TenNapel, the creator of the Earthworm Jim character. Plunkett plainly calls TenNapel “an enormous piece of shit”, citing recent comments by TenNapel on racial divisions in the U.S.

Here is TenNapel’s quote as presented by Kotaku:

“The Black culture and Black communities are not doing well. They, too, are still the fallout victim of their own ignorance — and maybe their own willful ignorance, or fatherlessness, or whatever — so it’s not all whitey’s problem.”

This is enough for Luke Plunkett to end his commentary by issuing a soft call for boycotting Earthworm Jim 4, as TenNapel is listed among the original creators who are involved with the development of the new game.

The problem? Plunkett’s editorial, as it was originally written, was rife with errors and misleading statements. Regarding the game itself, Earthworm Jim 4 was never scheduled to come out in October, and was always been listed as a Winter 2021 release. Given that key detail, the trailer referred to in the Kotaku piece is understandably brief, which is why the video was titled as a “first look” on the Intellivision Amico YouTube channel in the first place. The artwork in the original Earthworm Jim games were also hand-drawn animation, “pixelated” only by the limitations of the platforms at the time.

Plunkett’s comments on Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel were also incorrect. For someone who clearly follows TenNapel’s online presence as closely as he does, it’s surprising that Plunkett knew so little about TenNapel’s relationship to the EWJ franchise. Despite maintaining his credit as the character’s creator, TenNapel sold off all of his rights to Earthworm Jim decades ago. From the very beginning of EWJ4‘s development for the Amico (over a year ago), both TenNapel and Intellivision have been very clear that his involvement in the game is 100% unpaid. He was only brought on to the team as a consultant for a single development summit in May 2019. Love him or hate him, not a single consumer dollar spent on Earthworm Jim 4 will go into TenNapel’s pocket, so why bother pushing for a boycott of the game?

Intellivision President and CEO Tommy Tallarico politely reached out to Kotaku and Luke Plunkett to point out two of these errors, implying that Kotaku did not contact anyone at Intellivision regarding the information in the editorial before it was posted. To Kotaku‘s credit, some of the information has been updated at the time of this writing, including the release date and clarifications on Doug TenNapel’s involvement in the Earthworm Jim 4 project.


But what information is left over after these corrections, and how did such a misleading editorial get the green light in the first place? If you eliminate all of his errors and misleading statements, Plunkett’s editorial essentially boils down to an overblown Tweet: “I don’t like the new art style of Earthworm Jim 4, and I have an ideological grievance against the character’s creator who is not poised to profit from the game in any way.” There is simply no other information of value remaining.

As a creator, TenNapel has worn his heart on his sleeve for years. If you look hard enough, you’re very likely to find a reason to not like him. Like Luke Plunkett, you may even judge him to be a “piece of shit,” which is your prerogative. However, given the number of sloppy errors that Plunkett made in his rush to publish a hit piece disguised as Intellivision Amico coverage, one might also come to the fair conclusion that Plunkett himself is a piece of shit – one who is also bad a his job.

The Intellivision Amico console is currently scheduled for release on 15 April 2021.


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