Monday, December 3, 2007

Gerstmann sacked. I'm pissed.

For those of you who don't follow the world of videogame news quite as closely as others, four days ago a Gamespot editorial director by the name of Jeff Gerstmann was canned for, according to recent statements made by Gamespot and parent company CNET, undisclosed reasons. You can check out Joystiq for their in-depth reporting on the subject and the events which have followed, but rather than regurgitate everything that has already been said, I'll just give you my take on the whole crapfest instead.

To sum up the incident, shortly following Gerstmann's firing, rumors galore exploded onto the interwebs saying these "undisclosed reasons" were, in fact, the result of Gerstmann giving a negative review to the game Kane and Lynch: Deadmen. Basically, the dude gave his opinion on a game he didn't hold in too high a regard. That game, Kane and Lynch, is published by Eidos; a company who threatened to pull their ad dollars due to the negative review. Shortly after, Gerstmann, an employee of Gamespot for more than ten years, found himself without a job.

There's a lot of he said/she said going on and a whole hell of a lot of folks refusing to comment "due to legal reasons." I call shenanigans.

Do I have any proof of what happened one way or the other? No. Do I follow Gerstmann's work and view him with a great deal of respect? Not even a little bit. I don't even know the guy. Truth be told, I didn't know two things about him until this whole incident occurred. Does that matter? Not one bit.

Why? Because the situation is a simple one. It doesn't matter who the journalist is or who the publisher of his work was. When a specialized provider of journalistic and editorial content receives advertising dollars from companies creating a product that very publisher is supposed to objectively review, the whole system is fubar. Gamespot and CNET can claim advertising dollars have never effected their editorials all they want and I will call bullshit every step of the way. No matter what your moral code or promise for ethical practices, you know exactly where your bread is buttered and the consumers should know that, sometimes, that relationship gets in the way. Does this mean all reviews are bought and sold so openly? I pray such is not the case. But it happens, and probably more than any of us would like to admit.

Is there a fix to this? Of course not. In the case of Gamespot, they sell advertising space to tech and videogame companies because, guess what, that's who their target audience is. It makes sense, and thousands of dollars to boot. One can't survive without the other. It's a dangerous relationship to be in, but an unavoidable one.

As such, we the people must put our absolute faith in the dream that there is an understanding between the two entities that one thing (advertising dollars) should never be effected by another (reviews). In this case, that line was crossed. Again, I have no proof whatsoever, but I feel inclined to believe these stories wholeheartedly. Why? Because it makes perfect sense.

What's the result of all this? Hopefully gamers come away realizing they can't put so much of their faith in reviews. The system is broken. Plain and simple. Also, hopefully more journalists out there will take note of this whole mess and follow Gerstmann's lead, providing unbiased content no matter what the cost and standing behind their own work 100 percent. As for companies like Eidos, Gamespot and CNET, a can of worms has been opened and I'm loving watching these bastards squirm. You know what you did, we know what you did, and there is literally no way to come out of this one unscathed.

When you forfeit ethics for dollars, you're playing with some seriously dangerous fire. I can only pray this costs all parties involved (save Gerstmann, of course) a significant amount since, as this incident shows, makin dat cheddah is the only thing they seem to care about. If you thought those advertising dollars were a significant figure, just wait until the monetary ramifications of spitting in the face of every one of your trusting consumers comes to fruition.

As for this humble blogger, I have 60 bucks not going towards your game and literally hours of my time that will not be going towards your services and thus, your advertisers. Who else is with me?
image borrowed from Gerstmann's myspace page

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