Gamespot, Gerstmann, and Gratuitous Grandstanding

I’m not going to link to any of the handwringing articles over this because I don’t want to bore my readers to death. For those of you who are already following the situation, here is my take:

(1) No one who is talking actually knows why Gerstmann is no longer working at Gamespot. (2) Everyone who is talking is speculating. (3) All of the various posts people are citing that ‘confirm’ the rumors, don’t. (4) In 2 or 3 weeks, everyone claiming that they are boycotting Gamespot because CNET eats babies and rapes puppies will be happily reading it again, and bitching that their new favorite Zelda game didn’t get a high enough numeric score. Every so often someone will ask “Hey, remember Jeff Gerstmann?” and someone else will reply “No?”

But hey, for the sake of argument let’s assume the most scurrilous, scandalous rumors were true, and the guy was fired for a single bad review based on an angry phone call from a cigar-chewing fat guy at Eidos. The bigger issue here is that everyone knows that nearly all “enthusiast” coverage of gaming is awful. All “enthusiast” coverage of everything is awful, whether the topic is stereos, photos, knitting, or what have you. So what’s with the Captain Renault act all of a sudden? “I’m shocked, shocked to discover that there is a feedback loop between publicists promoting games and writers looking for things to write about.”

If Jeff Gerstmann hadn’t been fired, would you think that Gamespot’s ass- kissing coverage and laudatory reviews of terrible games were any more accurate? They – and every other gaming magazine that gives numeric scores -- have been doing this for years. If you really think this represents some sort of sea change in the magazine industry, what desert island have you been living on? The tragedy of this kerfuffle is that it prolongs the polite fiction that, were it not for Evil Publishers, game magazines would somehow be bastions of integrity. But as any freelance writer will tell you, you don’t need any sort of formal system of rewards and punishments to learn that biting the hand that feeds you is an activity best left to other, more unemployed writers.

Look: in the long run, readers get the sort of writing they deserve. Gamespot’s reviews are twaddle not because CNET hypothetically sacrificed one heroic editor before the altar of some shambling corporate presence, but because that’s the sort of review the site’s readers want.