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Game Journalist May Have Been Fired Over Negative Review 397

Posted by Zonk
from the that-was-not-a-move-you-should-have-made dept.
It started as a rumour post on Kotaku and a Penny Arcade comic strip: reviewer Jeff Gerstmann was fired from the gaming news site Gamespot for giving the co-op action title Kane and Lynch a low score, and snarking on the game in the review. The catch? The firing was dictated by games publisher Eidos, who didn't appreciate the veteran reviewer's tone in the piece. Their ad campaign (spread across the entirety of the Gamespot site) may have been used as a bargaining tool of some kind. Joystiq has a lengthy, detailed summary of this event and its implications, which is no longer technically a rumour. Gerstmann confirmed to the blog that he has been let go from the C|Net-affiliated site, but as of right now can't talk about the details. "The ramifications of the story, if true, are huge. Readers should fairly expect there to be an inviolable firewall between advertising and editorial in journalism, and game journalism (yes, that includes "just reviews") is no different. While our industry has had its fair share of accusations of impropriety, nothing so far has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Giving a publisher the power to fire a senior editor is a line no outlet should be willing to cross." Update: 11/30 17:40 GMT by Z : The Joystiq story continues to be updated, and Tycho has put up what the PA guys heard about the tale in text. Joystiq also has an additional post about the story, with a brief (noncommittal) response from Gamespot.
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Game Journalist May Have Been Fired Over Negative Review

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  • Update - 7:12 AM EST (Score:5, Informative)

    by dlZ (798734) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:45AM (#21531551) Journal
    From Joystiq:

    Update - 7:12 AM EST: Jeff has confirmed his firing to us via e-mail, but says he's "not really able to comment on the specifics of my termination." He added that he's "looking forward to getting back out there and figuring out what's next." We're still digging.


    I haven't given Gamespot reviews any real thought in a long time, due to the massive amount of advertising games would get on the main page at the same time the review was out.
  • by moranar (632206) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:46AM (#21531569) Homepage Journal
    Roger Ebert is still alive... You mean Gene Siskel?
  • Community blacklash (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arrow_Raider (1157283) on Friday November 30, 2007 @09:50AM (#21531623)
    There seems to be a huge community backlash in the user scores section: http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/kanelynchdeadmen/players.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;yousay [gamespot.com]
  • by InbredTom (1189565) on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:12AM (#21531877)
    As an investment banker I can confirm that this practice is common in the world of Finance too. Banks will often pay a newspaper, investment magazine, investment orientated website a fee in return for their product being 'officially recommended' by the journalist. When I discovered this in my own industry I was (maybe rather naively) shocked; but the ramifications of my discovery are that one needs to question the independence of reviews in ANY industry.

    I know to take reviews left on online retailers with a pinch of salt, ie they are probably more shills writing for most products than genuine reviews - how many times have I left a +ve review? None. How many times have I left a -ve review? Often. Even when reading reviews written by supposedly authoritative journalists working for supposedly independent journals, one must always my mindful the likelihood that the author is not just writing out of a passion for the subject, but just because he has been financially rewarded for writing +ve spin to his/her readership. Evil I know.

    There is a magazine in the UK called Which? I believe it is a not-for-profit organisation that carries out reviews of a wide range of products. I recommend.

    [I didn't get paid by Which? to say that]

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:44AM (#21532263) Homepage
    ### Is the game as bad as he said?

    He gave it a 6/10, Metacritic had an average of 6.5/10 last time I looked, so he isn't alone with his opinion.
  • Re:Unsurprising (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @10:47AM (#21532317)
    And yet I still read post after post from people wanking off over their Slashdot contrarianism. Censorship through moderation on Slashdot is a small issue, given how many posts flow through the site in a given day. Sure, some high profile abuses happen, but I still get to read about "Slashdot groupthink" on a regular basis anyway.
  • by Hieronymus Howard (215725) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:20AM (#21532737)
    just remember the "Golden Rule" folks... who pays the piper calls the tune

    You've got that very slightly wrong. The Golden Rule is "Those with the gold make the rules".
  • by ueltradiscount (1195109) on Friday November 30, 2007 @11:52AM (#21533155)
    The DRM in Bioshock is an industry first (and hopefully last) on PC. A game that stealth installs a DRM software, counts the number of times it has been installed/uninstalled, and is designed to then commit Harakiri. How wonderful. A $50 game with a self-destruct mechanism built in. Next is the obviously missing widescreen aspect support. Everybody noticed it immediately. But 2K denied there was a problem and kept claiming that the game was tested on and developed for Widescreen. Just as they made a lot of angry posts about the forced DRM disappear. Then there's the exquisitely dumb AI, the not quite optimized Unreal Engine 3, the crappy console interface for the plasmids and inventory ported as-is from Xbox to PC, the woefully inaccurate weapons, the lack of environment destructibility and the really short singple player game with little replay value. All in all, the package doesn't rate above 70% despite the polished sound, music and graphics. And that's generous for a game that is so callously DRM'd. I hope they learn from their mistakes for the sequel.
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday November 30, 2007 @01:43PM (#21534831)

    Who was the last President you know of that was not from the big two parties? 1849/50?


    1797. The last President who was not from one of the two big parties was George Washington, who wasn't a member of any party, nor was Congress divided into parties during his administration. The original framers of the Constitution disliked parties and had attempted to craft a system of government that wouldn't require them (as a Parliamentary system like Britain's does). However, inevitably, after Washington, the US political scene was always divided up into two parties, and the President always came from one of those two parties. One party was always the Democratic Party (originally the Democratic-Republican Party), while the other was replaced several times (the Federalist Party, then the National-Republican Party, then the Whigs and finally the modern Republican party in the 1850s). If you only want to count Democrats and Republicans, than the last one was Millard Fillmore, President from 1850 to 1853, who was a Whig.

    Chris Mattern
  • by nobodyman (90587) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:03PM (#21535161) Homepage

    I haven't given Gamespot reviews any real thought in a long time, due to the massive amount of advertising games would get on the main page at the same time the review was out.

    What's funny is that the same thing happened back when the Spiderman 3 game came out. There was a similar advertising deal where the site was skinned with spiderman artwork and there was even a "countdown" clock leading up to it's release. The trick is that the review was held until launch day. Sure enough, clock hit zero and the review hit: 6.6 [gamespot.com]. I'm sure Activision was pissed but it earned Gamespot some respect. Jeff Gerstmann didn't do the review, but as the editorial director I'm sure he took the heat. I wonder if the Kane and Lynch review was the final straw.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:32PM (#21535631)
    Actually, reviewers use a separate live service called PartnerNet instead of the one the public does. Otherwise there'd be huge problems with secret achievements being unlocked before a game is even released, info leaks etc., and not to mention there'd be problems from hell where reviewer accounts would get banned for playing games before release dates. Example: people got nailed for playing Halo3 copies that were picked up before the launch date.

    That particular Intarwebz Forumz Detective has forgotten his common sense; please don't follow him around just because he has his siren blaring. If anything, seeing achievements on Gerstmann's normal account could just as easily mean he tried to give it another shot or was doing even more research or something.

    Links of interest because I'm too lazy to figure out how to properly tag the words I was going to tag in the paragraph:

    PartnerNet info: http://www.google.com/search?q=xbox+PartnerNet&hl=en [google.com]
    Halo3 Bans: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=halo+3+banned+before+release+date&btnG=Search [google.com]
  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Friday November 30, 2007 @02:47PM (#21535927) Homepage
    ...I have little doubt of the "darker" side of the Gamespot tale.

    My own tale comes from what you might call the Dark Ages, back in the dim days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, I was a monthly columnist for the now-extinct life-form known as a "programming magazine."

    My specialty was comparative reviews of compilers -- back in those days, there existed A LARGE NUMBER OF CHOICES as to which compiler you could use for C or Fortran programming on PCs. And, in a review of Fortran compilers, I stated (correctly) that a certain vendor's product failed miserably at a well-known benchmark.

    The vendor pulled several full page adds; I was fired. The editor was quite honest in admitting that my dismissal was entirely based on placating a disturbed source of income.

    The purpose of any business -- even television shows, magazines, and commercial web sites -- is to generate REVENUE. They do NOT exist for the greater public good, or for the search for truth, or for any other reason than to make money.

    What amazes me is not that someone is fired for telling the truth or expressing an opinion -- what amazes me is how many people EXPECT morals or ethics from profit-oriented entities.
  • by zerocool^ (112121) on Friday November 30, 2007 @03:22PM (#21536503) Homepage Journal

    Maximum PC has addressed this; they are better than some about the wall between advertising and reviews. I remember once they called some iomega product the worst tragedy ever for data storage, and two pages earlier was a full page iomega spread. Someone wrote in and asked about it, and they said the advertisers don't get to know the content of the reviews, and everyone who sends a product to them for review basically signs something that says they understand this product might get a bad review.

    Anyway, as far as the "out of bounds" stuff, basically, Maximum PC says if it's a "bad product", they'll give it a 5. To get below 5, the product actually has to cause grief outside of just the frustration at how bad it is, i.e. software that corrupts your registry, or deletes your mp3s via changing them to a proprietary media format and adding DRM. Once a "home networking over powerline" product got like a 2, because not only was it's speed slower than literally 56k modem speed, but it didn't work as advertised (only on same electrical circuit, no crossing circuit breakers), AND it interrupted the flow of electricity (lights would flicker when data was being transfered.

    So, basically, to get a 1-4 rating, your product has to damage existing setups, corrupt files, or include the possibility for human harm.

    ~Wx
  • by Creepy (93888) on Friday November 30, 2007 @03:29PM (#21536617) Journal
    2s, 3s, and 4s do appear, but rarely, and the really bad ones usually don't get published by major publishers, so a true bell curve with 5 as the median really isn't a fair judgment. Usually a rating under 5 means there are fundamental issues with the game (horrible controls, badly dated graphics, bad gameplay, lots of crashes, etc). The reality is you end up with a compression slightly above the middle for most games. There aren't many 1s, but there also aren't many 10s, either.

    I've played ET on the 2600, and it deserved a 1 (thankfully, it was rented). When you have that as your bottom standard it skews the curve, as well. Top is harder for me, as it varies by game type (my personal favs by genre are Fallout [RPG], The Longest Journey [Adv], UT2004 [shooter], Civilization [strategy], Starcraft [RTS], Gran Turismo [racing], and still Wing Commander [space] because I've never really loved a space sim since - I have no opinion on Flight Sims).

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?

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