Gamegate: The firing of Jeff Gerstmann
Posted on Friday, November 30 2007 @ 21:11:01 Eastern
It is not everyday so much **** goes on around the world. Evel Kinevil past away today, some nut took over the Clinton campaign building in New Hampshire, Chavez is probably going to win another election, and now this!
By now it's obvious what the news is in the gaming world. Jeff Gerstmann, a longtime reviewer for Gamespot, one of the oldest and, until this moment, more respected and trustworthy game sites out there. Jeff worked at Gamespot for 11 years, a long time reviewer and in my mind, online journalist, who did his job, and did it well.
Let's face it, Gamespot reviews, despite their accuracy, are boring and dry. I read them and sometimes have to stop for a few minutes to collect myself, because I can barely hold my attention that long through such a big article. But Jeff had a knack of making an semi-entertaining review this more akin, honestly, to Gamerevolution. It is funny in a way, because he could mix entertainment value and make great points about the pros and con's of a video game at the same time; something that I struggle to do in my own reviews.
Jeff was not the only one though who did this. Greg Muller, Bob Colayco and Brad Shoemaker also made some entertaining and engaging reviews from time to time. Unfortanatly, Colayco now works for Blizzard entertainment, and Muller left Gamespot for unknown reasons earlier this year. Shoemaker and Gerstmann were the only two I looked forward to now, with Gerstmann a very popular and high profile writer on Gamespot.
Since Jeff was fired, outrage has spilled across the major gaming websites, from IGN to Gamefaqs to even here. Fans of Jeff's writings are calling for him to be re-hired, while others are calling for Gamespot to be taken down. The dichotomy of feelings the fans, readers, aspiring journalists, and overall gamers have right now is fueled more by outrage over pure emotion, and I can guarentee people will be calling for the head of Josh Larson.
Who is Josh Larson, you may be asking? Well, Larson is the new Executive Editor of the Gamespot website, owned by C-Net, a giant conglomerate with ton's of money in the bank. Larson replaced Greg Kasavin, who is now an employer for EA, in this position a year ago, and since that time, the wall between the critics and the publishers has crumbled faster than the one in Berlin.
The following is a quote from an anonymous worker at Gamespot, taken from an interview on Valleywag.com. While I cannot say for sure the validity of this entire article, I post it here as mere evidence of what is likely the case.
The link, by the way, is found here: http://valleywag.com/tech/jeff-gerstmann/gamespot-editor-on-fired-writer-328775.php
"We're very clear in our review policies that all reviews are vetted by the entire team before they go live - everything that goes up is the product of an entire team's output. Our freelancers are especially guilty of making snide comments, but those are always yanked before the review goes live, because everyone in the office reads these reviews and makes sure they're up to our standards before they get put up.
If there was a problem with his reviews, then it would've been a problem with the entire team. Firing him without telling anyone implies that anyone else on this team can be fired at the drop of a hat as well, because none of us are writing any differently or meaner or less professionally than we were two years ago before the management changed. I'm sure management wants to spin this as the G-Man being unprofessional to take away from the egg on their face that results after a ten-year employee gets locked out of his office and told to leave the premises and then no one communicates anything to us about it until the next day.
This management team has shown what they're willing to do. Jeff had ten years in and was **** locked out of his office and told to leave the building.
What you might not be aware of is that GS is well known for appealing mostly to hardcore gamers. The mucky-mucks have been doing a lot of "brand research" over the last year or so and indicating that they want to reach out to more casual gamers. Our last executive editor, Greg Kasavin, left to go to EA, and he was replaced by a suit, Josh Larson, who had no editorial experience and was only involved on the business side of things. Over the last year there has been an increasing amount of pressure to allow the advertising teams to have more of a say in the editorial process; we've started having to give our sales team heads-ups when a game is getting a low score, for instance, so that they can let the advertisers know that before a review goes up. Other publishers have started giving us notes involving when our reviews can go up; if a game's getting a 9 or above, it can go up early; if not, it'll have to wait until after the game is on the shelves.
I was in the meeting where Josh Larson was trying to explain this firing and the guy had absolutely no response to any of the criticisms we were sending his way. He kept dodging the question, saying that there were "multiple instances of tone" in the reviews that he hadn't been happy about, but that wasn't Jeff's problem since we all vet every review. He also implied that "AAA" titles deserved more attention when they were being reviewed, which sounded to all of us that he was implying that they should get higher scores, especially since those titles are usually more highly advertised on our site.
I know that it's all about the money, and hey, I like money. I like advertising because it pays my salary. Unfortunately after Kasavin left the church-and-state separation between the sales teams and the editorial team has cracked, and with Jeff's firing I think it's clear that the management now has no interest at all in integrity and are instead looking for an editorial team that will be nicer to the advertisors.
When companies make games as downright contemptible as Kane and Lynch, they deserve to be called on it. I guess you'll have to go to Onion or a smaller site for objective reviews now, because everyone at GS now thinks that if they give a low score to a high-profile game, they'll be **** Everyone's **** scared and we're all hoping to get Josh Larson removed from his position because no one trusts him anymore. If that doesn't happen then look for every game to be Game of the Year material at GameSpot."
It is clear, to me and hopefully the hundreds of grieving and angered fans, game reviewers, and overall hardcore gamers that the state the video game industry is in now is deteriorating swiftly. Like the chruch interfering with the government, certian policies in business are beginning to mesh with the video game industry, and on many fronts.
Game reviewing is just one aspect that is being affected. The cost of making games has rised ten-fold since 1996, and big name companies now expect every game they make to be a blockbuster of some kind, even if it's mediocre like Kane and Lynch. When the publishers of these games begin to interfere with every aspect of the game they want published, it can make not only the games go down in terms of overall quality, but also the people involved in the process, from the programmers to the game critics. The more money involved, the more nervous publishers get, even though they have billions in reserves to keep themselves in shape, unless your as corrupt as Acclaim was. Hell, how do you think Nintendo survived it's dark age of the Gamecube for six years?
Since when did videogames become a facist business. The people with the money seem to take charge of the situation, even though they have no idea what they are doing, and dictate everything so that the consumers can willing purchase stuff that turns out to be junk? Why is this happening to an industry almost all of us grew up in? All of us who read these blogs or write these user reviews care about games in some form or another. Obsession no, more like passion and hobby for us.
And in the end, the biggest loser is Jeff Gerstmann himself. He loses his job for being a journalist and a critic. Money may talk in this industry now, but honest workers like Jeff need a job somewhere. If not for anything else, this is what Jeff deserves, because if this incident is an indication of the future for not only Gamespot, but for the entire industry of video games itself, then we are settling into a dark age indeed for our passions.
So Jeff Gerstmann, you gain all the respect and praise that I can offer, and I am sure everyone else on this forum would say the same for you. Thank you for being an honest and entertaining reviewer, game critic, and overall funny guy. I tip my hat to you, and hope that you find a nice job that is away from these petty politics of these fledging corporate beaurocracies that do nothing but spew hypocritical bullshit down all our throats. Hell, I am sure Gamerevolution would welcome you to the fold, no doubt about that. At least here, for now, is untouched by this deadly posion that is plaguing the video gaming world.
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