Mike Fahey of Kotaku, one of the longest-tenured writers at one of video gaming’s oldest and most read online publications, died on Friday. He was 49. Over 16 years, Fahey wrote with great hilarity and deep affection for toys, snacks, giant robots, video games, and the emotional ties binding them all to his readership.
Fahey’s death was confirmed Friday by his partner, Eugene Abbott. In 2018, Fahey suffered an aortic dissection, which is a tearing of the body’s main artery, that paralyzed him from the chest down and forced him to use a wheelchair. Fahey suffered another such tear in April, and he died of an infection related to these chronic health issues.
Mike Fahey joined Kotaku in 2006, after establishing an online presence with comical posts about a Pikachu plushie gone missing. “He had a Pikachu that people kept kidnapping,” Abbott told Polygon. “People would hold up a sign saying ‘We have your Pikachu.’ I think the last time it was seen, it was strapped to the front of an 18-wheeler.”
Brian Crecente, the editor-in-chief of Kotaku from 2005 to 2011, recalled that Fahey was a commenter on a blog Crecente had started prior to Kotaku’s founding. When Crecente was named Kotaku editor, Fahey was his first hire.
“The reason I hired him, and the reason he continued working there, is he was such a naturally funny guy,” Crecente said. “So many who try to write funny stuff, it comes off forced, but for him, it was an innate ability. It was just so natural. I pushed him to do investigative stuff and longer-form writing, but I think the thing he liked most was making people laugh.”
Fahey climbed out of his shell when Crecente hired him in November 2006. He had remained on staff ever since. “I once again had a job, a girlfriend, and eventually my own apartment, sans roommates,” Fahey wrote. At Kotaku, Fahey became known for his appraisals of tasty treats — Snacktaku was the running title of these posts — and for celebrating the lighter moments of video gaming culture.
Fahey found his voice as an everyman pop culture fan, his interests and enthusiasm spanning the Transformers, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, Madden NFL, and especially role-playing games. In October 2009, he published a groundbreaking recollection of his own video game addiction while playing EverQuest, and how it broke apart a relationship with Abbott that he would soon mend.
“Everyone would say, ‘Ha ha, you dated the guy who ignored you for video games?’” Abbott said on Monday. They seemed to understand that Fahey was grinding toward level 40 — which they nonetheless hated. “But there wasn’t any part of me that was ever like, ‘Does he not care? Does he love the video game more?’ I was just like, ‘Bruh, hurry up.’”
Posts about a Michael McDonald fight stick, or how to cook an authentic Castlevania Wall Turkey, were par for his workday. In 2008, his one-man campaign on behalf of Stan Bush got “The Touch” — the power ballad of 1986’s Transformers: The Movie animated feature — added to Guitar Hero 5.
In one of Fahey’s most memorable, and most uproarious, posts for Kotaku, he was playing a video game in his office, looked over his shoulder, and saw “a spider the size of a small Volkswagen” on the ceiling overhead. He blasted it with a can of Elmer’s CraftBond adhesive, then smashed it with a copy of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for Xbox One. The case is still stuck to the ceiling.
Fahey invited comparisons to the cliché of the big, overgrown kid, not least because he stood 6-foot-6. Abbott remembers that he would often return from business visits to conventions and expos carrying a suitcase bursting with surprises for their children. “He’d come home with a suitcase and open it up, and all the candy and toys would come out,” they said.
“He came home from Momocon 2015 [in Atlanta] with a lot of ramune and Hi-Chew [candy],” Abbott said, “called the kids in and opened them up on the bed, then fell asleep, surrounded by candy.”
Polygon senior news editor Michael McWhertor, who was hired to Kotaku shortly after Fahey, had a similar recollection from covering San Diego Comic-Con together. “I came back to the hotel room, and there was Fahey, sleeping on his bed, surrounded by all the toys he bought from the show floor, like a kid on Christmas,” he said.
Michael Fahey is survived by Abbott and their two sons, Seamus and Archer, both 11. A GoFundMe campaign to assist the family has been set up.