Same Sky
All Worlds Share the Same Sky…

Black Monday

“Losing a job you’ve held for over 11 years in an abrupt manner is shocking, yes.”

With all of the controversy flying around the internet gaming community, famous website GameSpot is under heavy fire today — being labeled as “Black Monday” by the gaming community — in which a massive boycott has been set in place for all gamers to not visit GameSpot.com today.

After Greg Kasavin left a while back, new management took over, and, apparently, they weren’t very familiar with how to properly handle game journalism. After what was likely a snowball effect of differences between editorial staff and management, Jeff Gerstmann, former editorial director of GameSpot, was fired “on the spot” after his scathing review of Kane and Lynch from Eidos. Jeff scored the game a 6.0, which wasn’t too far below the critic average of 7; but Eidos, who had been supporting GameSpot with “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in advert money for that very game in the days leading up to its release, was none too pleased with “the tone” of Gerstmann’s review. Some editorial changes were made to his written review, and his video review was de-linked from the site.

You can watch it for yourself, here, though:

Obviously, Jeff didn’t like it terribly. Jeff has been known for other review scores which could be considered a bit “odd,” the most infamous being his 8.8 score for the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess last year. However, Jeff was undoubtedly one of the dominating personalities of GameSpot, and, very much like Luke Smith of 1Up fame, his controversial and sometimes jaded opinions were respected.

As Penny-Arcade put it, he “calls it like he sees it.”

After Jeff’s quick and sudden firing, in which he was supposedly locked out of his office without warning and told to leave (according to rumors) the internet gaming community has been ablaze with anger, outraged by the evidence presented to us thus far which seems to point to CNET (the company that owns GameSpot) throwing out integrity for money. Gaming journalism is a tricky business, and this only sheds light on the matter that sometimes money can overshadow professional honesty, and is even willing to step down on a game reviewer’s opinion. It sounds like Jeff was fired for doing his JOB — to share his honest opinion about video games.

I’m sure there’s more to the story than that, but Jeff is legally bound to not reveal information about the reasoning behind his firing, and CNET’s not talking, either, which is highly suspect, to be sure, and has only made the gaming community all the more angry.

GameSpot users are canceling their paid subscriptions, many users are “abandoning ship”, GoNintendo.com is refusing to post GameSpot updates as of now, many are telling IGN and 1Up to add Jeff to their team, and, as a whole, the community is up in arms.

It would seem that all of the work that Greg Kasavin and Jeff Gerstmann put into GameSpot over the past 10 years is all getting destroyed in the course of one week.

Alex Navarro, one of the leading editors still on the team, compared the situation to building a town in Sim City for a really long time, then pressing the disaster button and watching it all get ripped to shreds by earthquakes, tornadoes, and Godzillas.

GamePolitics has this to say:

“If the highly detailed rumors surrounding Jeff Gerstmann’s firing are true, then the people who run GameSpot have, by their own hand, utterly trashed a great media brand.”

1Up.com (ie: that place I want to work at some day) even staged a protest in support of their “fellow game journalists.”

Joystiq.com had some contact with Jeff (and I imagine his inbox has been flooded these days), and here’s what he had to say in conclusion:

“I’m not really sure what I want to do next. This whole situation has left me with a lot to think about. While this sort of clean break would be an acceptable time to think about trying game development, I feel like I still have more to say and do on the editorial side of the fence, too.”

“Despite the number of people who are taking these rumors … to mean that game writing is ethically bankrupt, I don’t feel that’s the case. Either way, I’m currently keeping my options open and have been in contact with interesting people on both sides.” 

Hopefully, we’ll see him back in business soon. It can be tricky to balance finances and integrity, but I KNOW it’s possible and I know sites do it, and I feel confident that GameSpot’s uneducated new management is to blame. They clearly didn’t know what they were doing in this case, now, did they? They’ve essentially crippled GameSpot — I have no idea if they’ll recover from this. This is a SERIOUS blow, folks.  GameSpot has taken a HUGE shot to its credibility, and without credibility, a journalistic site is near worthless in the professional world. Not only that, but this has caused many gamers to seriously take into question gaming journalism as a whole.

The way I see it, Jeff’s sudden firing (if it’s as sudden as we have been led to believe) is a travesty and a truly disheartening event to the industry and to future hopefuls such as myself. It shows just how delicate credibility is and just how tangled a web things can become when money is the root of the matter. I pray that the GameSpot staff (who is no-doubt a quivering mass of bulging tension right now) can try to pick up the pieces and fix things as soon as they can, lest they find themselves stranded out at sea like Jeff. Of course, it’s going to take some better management skills on the part of CNET for this to happen.

Personally? I think GameSpot is screwed. I wish this weren’t the case, but that’s my gut feeling.

GameSpot User WonderBoy46 contacted Jeff, who had this to say to us, the gaming community:

“All good things must come to an end, I guess. But don’t lose too much faith in the game industry over this stuff. Its a growing business and that always results in some very odd growing pains that always seem to manifest themselves in the weirdest possible ways.”

Growing pains, indeed. The long road to gaming journalism finding its rightful place in this industry is a painful one to be sure, and the stakes are rising. I hope that I manage to squeeze my way in someday and do some good.

But, for now, all I can do is support the industry from where I am.

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One Response to “Black Monday”

  1. “Remember remember the 29th of November”

    He got fired on my birthday…


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