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The Bloatmann Affair
Gerstmann got fired, but on the other hand CNet gave him a redundancy cake as compensation. "To a whale of an ex-editor" read the frosting inscription.
"GIMME YER HOT DOGS OR I'LL THOOT YOU"
Man, only in the gaming industry could something like this happen that would have people caring. For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, Gamespot fired one of their editors, Jeff Gerstmann, for negatively reviewing a game (Kane and Lynch) which happened to have a lot of on-site advertisement. Supposedly, some fuck on Team Marketing told editorial it wasn't really a good idea to have high profile games given scores like 6.0 (which translate to 'fair' on Gamespot's scale). Gerstmann's fired, people are pissed off, the video game blogosphere is in chaos, and lots of self-styled industry pundits believe this could have grave ramifications for Eidos (Kane and Lynch's publisher) and Gamespot. Me, I don't believe it. Why? Because none of this shit matters.
None of this shit matters because it's not really a surprise. Fixing scores to satisfy publishers who will in turn ensure their continued advertisement on the site? Yeah, that's definitely not a fucking surprise if you, I dunno, read anything from IGN, Gamespy or Gamespot ever. The fact that there's decimal scores alone should confirm it, since there's no other reason to have those except for more opportunity to give shit 8s and 9s. "I'm not giving it a 10, I'm giving it a 9.7. See, no hyperbole there!" Game reviews being bought by publishers has been suspected for forever, and all the Bloatmann Affair does to advance the theory is give some solid evidence of the trend at work. Beyond that, it's not especially significant.
Christ, it's not as though Gamespot had some sort of positive reputation. The only person I know who likes Gamespot is Furioso, and I think that's entirely because he's aware they suck less than IGN and Gamespy. Therefore, Gamespot's enjoyed not so much for its quality but for the greater absence in quality in its competition. Journalistic integrity for any video game site or magazine, including Gamespot, does not exist. They've never been journalists and never will be journalists because their continued existence completely depends on advertisements from the very games they cover. I don't know, complaining about the lack of journalistic integrity from hype organs strikes me as pointless, much in the same way observing Wizard is a masturbatory celebration of decadence isn't exactly needed. It's like getting pissed off that used condoms have semen all over them. What's the goddamn point?
Jeff Gerstmann certainly isn't some fucking paragon of journalism, either. He's not even the Pizza Hut of journalism (although he sure likes Pizza Hut!). At best he was a mediocre reviewer and at worst he was a hack asshole who couldn't opine worth a damn. He worked for Gamespot for 10 years, which should tell you he lost all common sense at least 9 years ago. I still remember his fucking awful review of Twilight Princess. I'm not saying it was horrible because he gave it an 8.8. I'm saying it was horrible because it was horrible; the criticisms were arbitrary, the critique worthless and the score just a transparent attempt at courting controversy and creating name recognition. The pathetic attempt worked; before his firing he was known as "that fat asshole who gave Twilight Princess an 8.8". Now he's "that fat asshole who got fired for reasons irrespective of his assholery". I guess that's an upgrade in status.
For proof of his hackery/douchebaggery, let us take a look at the supposedly 'tonally incorrect' review of Kane and Lynch. It's available here for anybody who wants to follow along. Basically, his complaints about the game are spurious at best, such as claiming the constant swearing made the game 'abrasive'. Abrasive? What the fuck does that even MEAN? The points taken off for the lack of online co-op also strikes me as a fatuous, Tallarico-esque move. NO XBOX LIVE SUPPORT!!!! DRECK C-. In fact, the 'the good' and 'the bad' bullet points should be more than enough to sink the credibility of the review. How is "variety of different scenery" a fucking positive? Not to mention the, quite frankly, insulting little pictures which supplement "the bad". They consist of: 'disappointing', 'weak story', 'poor control' and 'gratuitous swearing'. I like how Gamespot doesn't think its audience is smart enough to read and elected to include little pictures (though to be fair, they're probably correct in assuming their audience is too dumb to be above a 2nd grade reading level). All in all, a completely mediocre review with nothing notable in it. Which, I suppose, makes the firing confusing. It's not as though Bloatmann pulled a Doom and called the developers homosexual Nazi rapists or compared the controls to the Rwandan genocide. The most recurring theme of the Kane and Lynch review is it's fucking boring. I expected more, Gerstmann! You suck.
Yet, for the sake of devil's advocate, I'm going to proceed as though his firing was a grave miscarriage of justice. Okay. It wasn't the correct thing for Gamespot to do. ...So what? How does this affect anything? Don't fucking tell me this is going to hurt the bottom line. Gamers don't actually care about reviews. I don't read 'em, because if I have a slight interest in something I rent it off GameFly to find out its quality for myself. The games I automatically purchase, which averages out to maybe 2-3 games a year are sure things, such as Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy. See, gamers read gaming sites for previews, screenshots, trailers, various other pieces of information prior to release. Then they buy it when it comes out. They don't give a fuck about the reviews. If they did, Sims Expansion #039270942386 and Madden 2099 wouldn't sell so well.
And the thing about Internet users is they visit certain websites regardless of their opinion. The people who go to Gamespot will still go to Gamespot, albeit they'll start bitching more and claim the message board moderators are Neo-Nazi thugs. The people who don't go there (like me) won't care, just like we did before the Bloatmann Affair. Yeah, yeah, yeah, flame wars on Kotaku and Joystiq discussion threads, but no one will actually do anything. It's entirely symbolic (see those 1UP fucks showing 'solidarity' outside Gamespot HQ). This won't lead to some gaming journalism reexamination. The popular games will get the good scores because no one's got balls to piss off any of the big companies. Gaming rag sites can bash the lesser publishers, like Eidos, because no one gives a shit about Eidos.
Another reason I despise the entire fucking thing is how nerds on the Internet have responded to it. You should be able to know what they did without having any knowledge of what happened. Yes, they spammed message boards. FIGHT THE POWER, MANN!!! Most of the fucking retard commenters on places like Joystiq don't have a clue about how shit works or who's responsible, as seen by so many people blasting Eidos and spamming Eidos and otherwise decrying them. I may hate Eidos for putting out shitty games, but fault does not lie with them at all. They behaved the way any advertiser would. Gamespot advertised the game a lot, indicated it was a shit game in their review, and Eidos would be idiotic to not pull their adverts. The fault solely rests on the shoulders of Gamespot. If they had balls, they wouldn't care if Eidos threatened to boycott them altogether. They would stand their ground and stick by their editorial decision. Instead, the fucks caved and offered up Gerstmann as a sacrificial hippo. Therefore, you should be pissed off at Gamespot and not Eidos. Well, you should be pissed off at Eidos for being shitty, but not for their role in Bloatmann's axing.
Again, though, I don't see why anyone should specifically care in this instance because Gerstmann was an untalented lard lad. What the firing taught me is how naive and idiotic a lot of video gaming fans are. They reacted to the firing with shock and dismay, as though they weren't aware of how publications operate and how everything gets funded through advertisers who have a huge say in what's published or not published. My limited experience in print publication was railroaded by my capitulating fuck editor constantly rejecting my shit because "if we ran this, advertisers would stop supporting us". The dictatorship of the dollar, man. That's why I bristle at comments such as the following: "I knew the second this started that Gerstmann's dismissal would have widespread reprocussions in the industry, looks like I was right. Game journalism and integrity will never be the same." Shithead! INTEGRITY NEVER EXISTED IN THE FIRST PLACE! IT'S ALL AD REVENUE BLOOD MONEY! COME ON!
Their attempts to 'right' the situation, as I mentioned before, are really childish and don't accomplish anything other than a nice, SDS-esque "Well, I think I accomplished something" feeling. A boycott makes no sense because there'll still be shitheads bitching on CNet's forums anyway. Plus, CNet owns like 15% of the Internet. I know I'm not giving up going to GAMEFAQS for quick cheat code information just because some fat piece of shit lost his Taco Bell money supply. Cancelling subscriptions? Who gives a fuck. People who subscribed Gamespot deserved to have their sense of journalistic integrity violently raped. Boycotting advertisers...no way are gamers going to give up Pepsi and Doritos for more than 20 minutes. A real world protest...yeah, I'll believe it when I see it. In other news, Ron Paul is totally going to win some primaries!!!! None of this shit's going to have a long-term effect. A week from now, Gamespot'll offer up some exclusive content and people will go. Then two weeks from now Gerstmann's fat visage will be a distant, sweaty, greasy memory.
The only way for an impartial critique of gaming to exist is if it isn't advertiser supported or it refuses to take advertisements from game publishers. But since it'll never happen, all the gaming sites/magazines will remain co-opted hype organs analogous to any shitty rag (Wizard, Entertainment Weekly) that prefers to sell you shit than to tell you shit of any substance. Beyond my "so what? What else is new?" view, I guess I'm sorta happy Gerstmann got fired. I never liked the guy and am glad to hear his fat ass is going to have to waddle to the unemployment line this week.