Jeff Gerstmann, Modern-Day Martyr

« December 2007 »

Memo to the legions of amateur GameSpot hounders: ENOUGH ALREADY.

I appreciate your desperate desire to stick it to The Man, but GameSpot is really only The Man by the slimmest of margins, and to the extent you're capable of sticking it to them, they have been stuck to. Your work here is done. Please return to sniping people in the face and calling them "faggots" in Halo 3, secure in the knowledge that your week-long struggle for justice has balanced out your karma.

For those of you who wisely avoid the world of video-game-related Internet news, what happened is this. GameSpot, one of the larger video game news and review sites on the Series Of Tubes, fired longtime reviewer and editor Jeff Gerstmann. Then the Internet exploded.

You see, somehow, the Internet got it in their heads that Gerstmann was fired because he gave a "bad" review to Eidos' game "Kane And Lynch: Dead Men". And Eidos, who had spent a wad of money to advertise "Kane And Lynch: Dead Men" on GameSpot, was unhappy. They got this idea from, amongst other things, the Kane and Lynch video review vanishing off the site at around the same time as the firings, whisperings from people who claimed to be in the know, and of course, Penny Arcade.

Is that how it actually went down? I don't know. I love Gabe and Tycho as much as the next guy, assuming the next guy ALSO has a copy of Kung Fu Fucking Chaos on the shelf that he bought after one or the other of them inexplicably raved about it. But they were relying on the same scuttlebutt everyone else was and certainly did not intend their three-panel comic to be cited as a primary source.

But let's assume it is true, because if it's NOT true, then it was a very bad idea for GameSpot, CNET (GameSpot's parent), and Eidos to spend the last week acting exactly like a big company or companies would if it WERE true. And even though I have never been Gerstmann's biggest fan, I will agree that it sucks to get fired for calling a game you thought was shitty a shitty game. And that CNET and GameSpot and Eidos should suffer for their stupidity and corporate cruelty.

That said, a week of distributed denial-of-sense attacks on GameSpot's user-editable content is quite enough. Thanks. It was funny when hordes of people dropped the user review score on Kane and Lynch down to the two's in a matter of hours, until GameSpot had to prevent users from reviewing the game entirely. But the futile war of words being waged in every single possible comment thread on the entire site over the matter is what we in the snark industry refer to as "a bit much".

Usually, due to the risk of causing substantial rock damage to my load-bearing double-glazing, I try to avoid suggesting that someone else's time and outrage could perhaps be directed at a better target. But a week-long struggle to restore the integrity of online video game reviews? Even Sancho Panza wouldn't sign up to sidekick that shit. There's no integrity to restore. Even if game publishers aren't shoving their advertising weight around, your average online game review is only marginally trustworthy at the best of times.

Part of that is the nature of reviewing in general. Part of that is the nature of video games. And a whole lot of that is the nature of the kind of person who ends up reviewing video games online. And then there's the people the reviewers work for, who will inevitably have concerns that go beyond what any given Gerstmann wannabe thinks about the latest Kane And Lynch wannabe.

Gerstmann will land on his feet somewhere else. Reviews will continue to be helpful to a wildly varying degree. GameSpot will eventually recover from the loss of whatever you're withholding from it. Move on. There are bigger fish to fry, plus, from what I've read so far, you all really suck at frying fish.