Jeff Gerstmann, As A Fellow Critic
Posted on Friday, November 30 2007 @ 17:21:11 Eastern
Let me confirm that the rumors are all true. Jeff Gerstmann, senior editor for GameSpot, got fired, and his review for Kane & Lynch was indeed singled-out during his meeting with upper management. A credible person who shall remain anonymous has notified us that this is all fact. But truly, this is not really something you joke about. Besides, how did Penny Arcade get to it so quickly. Why do think the comic is so accurate, so honest, so painfully true?
I respect Jeff Gerstmann. Always have and always will. Sure, I may disagree with the styling of his (or GameSpot's) reviews or his arguments, though I am one of the few that agrees with the 8.8 on Twilight Princess. But I never questioned his ability and integrity as a game critic. Jeff Gerstmann was true to himself, and that's all you can ask for.
His rather swift, unclean departure has been unnerving and only more so because I am a professional game critic myself. I would sit in my room, with its minimalist surroundings, and ponder about where I could be in the next ten years. Will I stay at GameRevolution or will I "move on" to something bigger and brighter? How big and bright could that be? I seriously considered GameSpot, because hey, I'm an oldie here. Being Level 39 on GameSpot is an age, not a rank.
But now I find myself caught between the dim and thin line between business and objectivity, the two things that make a game site work. We all know that editorial reviews and pressure from advertisements should never mix. We know that this is ideal, but game criticism runs on ideals. I mean, have you seen our paychecks? It sure ain't running on that.
What's missing from the discussion is pressure from publishers and developers. Since I have been at GameRevolution, there is always seems to be one particular PR person who is irritated with us, whether it's how Metacritic or GameRankings converts our letter grades to numerical ones, why there is no coverage for such and such, and why I gave Rock Band a B+.
And this trend has been escalating. According to Duke Ferris, my boss, publishers are inching ever closer to breaking that line between professionalism and just being plain obnoxious. Since until a month ago, it was a rare that any PR person would call us up over a grade, but something about these last six months (maybe holiday season or global warming or the rise in pirates) has made some publishers all uppity in their pants-ity. If you have all this time to call us for a grade that you think is unfair, why not ask the developers to just make a better game. Sure, free swag, free drinks, free dinners, and free trips are nice and all, but don't think for one second that I'm not going to bash your game if it deserves it. Don't give something we didn't ask for and expect critics to like you. We don't bark and we don't roll over.
This just makes it all the more surprising that this spiel with Eidos was the last nail in the coffin. I mean, Eidos? Really? I could understand if it was a major player like THQ, Nintendo, Capcom, or someone worth mentioning - but why a company whose most recent successful title was an anniversary of a long-since defunct boobed archaeologist? How much could Eidos really have spent on a Kane & Lynch advertisement compared to one for Final Fantasy XII or Rock Band or Call of Duty 4 or Bowflex?
Look, Kane & Lynch has about an average of 67 or soon GameRankings. It ain't good. And you, Eidos, know it ain't good. So please keep your public relations in line with your private opinions of the game. I know it's your job to be fake every once in a while, but I'm sure creating negative publicity isn't in your job description, either.
However, as much as I understand why Jeff got fired, it should never have happened. Go ahead and fire him if he's lazy, doesn't hand in reviews on time, or farts in closed spaces, but don't fire him for doing his job - the job he's been doing for about a third of his life.
Are critics supposed to be puppets from publishers now? Are we supposed to be tools for advertisers? Are we supposed to not have feelings like being mean or, I don't know, being critical? Are we not allowed to express feelings in a review? Should we just take the fact sheet and reprint it, and call it a review? Are we supposed to plaster on a smile and sugar-powder everything with five gold-star stickers and write a review in crayon?
No one likes a suck-up. Or a game site called SuckSpot. That's a name for a site that blows.
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