Requiescat In Pace
The decision to close Off-Topic at the time was made for many reasons, but none of them were because we didn't want people to participate or to make people feel like their contributions weren't appreciated. As others have mentioned we had constant account suicides, DDoS attacks, users posting hate speech, and a lack of available moderators to handle everything. Off-Topic and OT Discussions also started out (especially in the early days) as a sort of informal chat room where users felt comfortable sharing their person details online because, well, 2004 was a different time - and it became clear after the incident that people were using the site's archives to doxx and specifically target certain members of our community based on posts that were available there. We felt that the safety of our members at that time was paramount to any other concerns.
This is why we decided to "start fresh" initially, since re-opening the off-topic even after a short amount of time would invite this sort of bad behavior to continue. For a while we were taking requests to move individual threads over to the new Off-Topic while we went about scrubbing personal details from the old database (at the request of doxxed users and other concerned parties) in an attempt to strike a balance between user safety and usability. Again, we didn't want to devalue people's hard work and site contributions. After the fervor had died down, we moved the old OT threads back to where they live now minus a couple of posts that users had contacted us and asked us specifically to remove.
We understand that this process may not have been conducive to NeoGAF's day-to-day activities at the time. We knew it would affect the users who weren't interested in the drama, but in the end it was a no win / "this is why we can't have nice things" scenario. The system was definitely in flux while we worked behind the scenes to figure out the best ways to move forward - what our moderation policies would be moving forward, whether or not we should allow political discussion on the site, even whether or not we should have an Off-Topic discussion board at all given the state it was in at the time. I feel like the decisions that have led us to where we are today are working out well, but at no point in time were we actively telling people to go elsewhere or making decisions like this one for no reason.
If these communities would like to come back to NeoGAF, we would openly welcome them back as long as they are willing to follow the site rules like everyone else. If not, or if they're simply happy staying put where they are for the time being, that's okay too. The internet is a big place, and we've got a lot of awesome new faces around here and there are some great discussions going on again so I have no doubt these types of community threads will start cropping back up here in no time.