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Playing the game of integrity

Games

Remember what I said the other day about Gamespot’s reviews being “almost always the most reliable and judicious of the lot”? Well, forget I ever said it. Nothing can be considered 100% conclusive at the moment, but a rather nasty picture of this organisation is beginning to develop, stemming from the revelation that editorial director Jeff Gerstmann, a veteran of the company of more than a decade, was fired without notice, the dismissal coincidentally (or not) coinciding with games publisher Eidos kicking up a stink about having shelled out to Gamespot for them to advertise their new game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, only for Gerstmann to award it a lukewarm score of 6 out of 10.

Now, before jumping to any conclusions, it should be pointed out that Gerstmann has been a rather controversial figure for a while. He is well known for laying into games he doesn’t like mercilessly, particularly in his video reviews, and many people feel that his tone is overly condescending and antagonistic. It seems a little far-fetched to imagine that Gamespot would dismiss a high-ranking and long-term employee simply because one of the site’s sponsors didn’t like one of his reviews, so a more likely explanation is that this was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Neither Gamespot nor Gerstmann seem to be inclined to clarify the specifics of the firing, but if you add to this the unexplained removal of Gerstmann’s video review of the game from the site (see it in all its glory at YouTube), it all starts to look most suspicious.

If the rumours are true and Gerstmann truly did get the boot because Eidos paid for a glowing review and, when they didn’t get it, decided they wanted their money back, then it’s a sad day indeed for gaming journalism. It’s no secret that many of the major movie publications are deep in the pockets of the Hollywood studios, but, given that gaming was, until recently, a comparatively niche medium, many readers put considerably more faith in the principles of sites like Gamespot than, oh, say, Empire. Certainly, Gamespot, who proudly proclaim that “our commitment to our readers is to provide them with unflinchingly honest and thorough appraisals of games”, have a great deal of explaining to do.

 
Posted: Friday, November 30, 2007 at 9:57 PM | Comments: 3
Categories: Games | Web

 
Comments

1.

During internet "boom" era, for a few months I had the venture of working for an online professional mag, doing videogame reviews.

Probably I was particularly unlucky, but it was a really bad experience by all accounts: my articles were often edited and watered down, negative judgements were taken away especially when they were against some publisher the editor-in-chief wanted to keep good relationships with (one of the 'protected' games was Daikatana, go figure! and so 'we cannot talk bad about it' was the premise - when practically the entire world was trashing the game).

One time he got so far as to sign one (positive) review I wrote with his name and not mine... and so on. Worst of all, they paid me less than 20% of what I earned and then went belly up (no surprise here).

This obviously doesn't mean that all mags are on the same low level, and I still greatly enjoy reading game reviews, both on paper and online, but I've never worked again in the field.

Posted by: MCP, December 1, 2007 4:09 PM

2.

Wow, that's the first footage of the game I've seen (his video review). Despite being not interested in the game that much, it looks rather bland after seeing all the ads splashed across the 'Net.

Though getting the point of your post, I agree. Even if there was a line of past problems with Gerstmann, this shouldn't have been what got him fired. If that's actually the reason that is...

Posted by: Jayson Sehn, December 1, 2007 4:16 PM

3.

Video games are just further grist for the mill of contemporary consumer capital: all the discussion of video games as a revolutionary, consumer-led artform has vanished, the same way that dreams for cinema as a revolutionary artform seem to have disappeared as Hollywood has, over the last thirty years, regained its stranglehold on the world film market.

I tend to steer away from journalistic reviews of films or video games anyway, as I'm not really concerned with how much someone else likes the video game or film: I'm much more concerned with what the text itself has to say. However, one shouldn't be surprised that the video games companies have one hand in the pocket of the journalistic games commentators: they both want to sell you their 'product', after all. This type of stuff has been going on since the days of Amstrad Action, which being a whippersnapper you probably won't remember ;)

Posted by: , December 1, 2007 10:49 PM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 31st 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

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