Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Jeff Gerstmann: The Grim Realization of all our Paranoid Fantasies

In The Gaming Community on February 14, 2008 at 6:31 am

Gaming has grown since its inception, and with it, so too has it evolved, travelling far from its simplistic roots. From something gangly, akward and technical to something that has occasionally been likened to art, or at least approaching the artistic in its aesthetic rammifications. And yet, just as this forward movement propells us towards something more mainstream, we have all felt that nagging tingle at the back of our minds, almost as a reminder that what we’re doing isn’t quite taken seriously by anyone outside of the gaming milieu. But, we tarry forth, self-assured that time will tell, and that it is only ignorance or prejudice that would assert otherwise.

Where we see the most stringent self-regulation among the industries of entertainment, others see the ESRB as a joke at best, incompetant at worst, and always supping from the cup of companies whose interests it surely must serve. Games that have approached the games-as-art barrier receive zero attention outside of the community itself, and even within that setting it is argued, debated, and at worst, ignored or not even a consideration for your average gamer. As our games go beyond our scope and into movies, we all eagerly buy our tickets to the theater hoping to support our complex gaming tapestry. Yet, the grisly pantomime of our games on the silver screen is unto viewing a horrid and embarassing display of attempted grandeur fall several feet short of even the barest dignity.

It is easy to see that gaming has issues with legitimacy, as a hobby, artform, or in its attached industries and communities, as a living or worthwhile career. Ever-present has the spectre of mocking illegitimacy been, formed from not only our own self-doubts, but the criticisms of others as well. Gaming journalism is not the least among these, struggling to maintain some versimilitude to legitimate, respectable journalism. In this industry, symbiotic and dependent upon that which it critiques, legitimacy is hard won, and words as objectivity and integrity are as currency to purchase the respect and consideration of gamers everywhere.

Jeff Gerstmann’s recent termination, made all the more infamous by Penny-Arcade’s recent comic, brings to fruition a cavalcade of ideas, a comlpex web of realizations all eminating from that singular, horrible point: that gaming journalism lacks any credibility and is nothing more than an extended, pervasive marketing strategy jointly held by multiple companies. This idea, so definitively proved with this event, disturbs us all the more because it is not simply that website, or just the journalistic aspect of gaming, but all of gaming that suddenly left standing in the midst of the foul sink of illegitimacy.

Worse yet is how the situation is perceived is all that matters, regardless of the truth of the matter or how time will eventually hold this event. To every casual onlooker, the mathematics of these happenings were simple, even if the result happened to be something we all hated to see associated with gaming. It’s with this sort of futility in mind that I actually defend Gamespot for their decision: I realize it will change nothing, as the die has already been cast, but sometimes you gots to calls it like you sees it.

Jeff Gerstmann was terminated for being a habitual problem child for Gamespot, regardless of how high his position or how close to the core of the company he happened to be. When I say ‘problem’ I am not refering to the potential, alleged issue of an editor that refused to be controlled or coerced, who tells it like it is regardless of other less specific interests. That story has already been told, despite the contradictions present. Contradictions as Gamespot not expecting to be seen for the charade it really is upon his firing, and that a malcontent like Mr. Gerstmann would probably be more useful on the staff than off. He would be the very public face of credibility that their private sham would need to actually have a purpose.

 (I realize that’s faulty logic; by this token, Big Tobacco was actually unaware of cigarette’s poisonous nature, as it would be a conflict of interest for them to kill of their customers. But, even as faulty logic, you see my point.)

When I say ‘problem’ I mean that Jeff Gerstmann had been failing at being a reasonable, objective journalist; increasingly so, as of late. I’d already commented on his review of Unreal Tournament 3 being incomplete and unnecessarily harsh. Even his description and evaluation did not seem to match up with the score he pinned to it; as a consumer of the product Gamespot provides, Mr. Gerstmann seemed to consistently produce the worst stock.

 So, what’s the issue with getting rid of a reviewer with an ill-temper, who is inobjective, produces incomplete reviews that don’t align with the assigned scores, who inconsitently praises and condemns similar, trivial qualities?

 Timing, apparently.