Journalistic Integrity?

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT
 

With the recent rumors of Jeff Gerstmann (Gamespot) being fired for his less-than-glowing review of Kane & Lynch, I suppose it's as good a topic as any.

Source:
http://kotaku.com/gaming/rumor/gamespot-editor-fired-over-kane--lynch-review-328244.php

Gabriel of Penny Arcade stating that it's true:
http://forums.penny-arcade.com/showthread.php?t=42776

Review (unsure if it is unedited - seems doubtful):
http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/kanelynchdeadmen/review.html?om_act=convert&om_clk=gssummary&tag=summary;review

In summary, the guy essentially wrote a not-so-nice review of the game, Eidos got mad (you may have noted the many K&L ads on Gamespot of late), said something to CNET, and the guy got fired.

Ultimately, not a particularly good thing for anyone involved. If you're a developer, it makes it look like you can intimidate a score out of Gamespot, even if your game isn't great. If your game is great, you get to share the limelight with people who did intimidate their way to those higher scores (and have lower quality games). Gamespot ends up looking like it has no integrity. CNET makes money - for now. So I guess not everyone loses.

Small incident, but the principle is a big deal. News agencies have been dealing with this sort of thing for centuries, now. The BBC makes a pretty darn big deal out of it. MSNBC gets flak for it. Of course, this happens because it's important that readers can believe that they're reading articles that aren't being censored by their subjects. What's the point of a movie, book, game, or art review if you can't know the writer is being honest, without punishment hanging over his head if he says the wrong thing?

More on the focus of gaming, what does this say about other review sites? How common is this in the industry that we all know and love? It's relevant to us because it's in our interest that there's a monetary incentive for companies to produce quality games. People use reviews to determine purchases, and - while I'm sure many of us do more research than a review or two at the major sites - if "quality" can be faked through underhanded tactics, then people are going to be tricked into buying games of lesser quality. Which means there's less money and more confusion when trying to find a game that actually is brilliant. And that sucks.

That all does sound a bit conspiracy theorist, or maybe alarmist, so I want to make it clear that the above instance is still a rumor. Regardless, I think it's a topic worthy of some thought.

-----------

(5:25 PM Pacific) Update (I thought I'd keep all my rumormongering in one post):
http://kotaku.com/gaming/rumor/alleged-gamespot-employee-spills-guts-on-valleywag-328797.php

Summary:

An uncomfirmed Gamespot employee posts on Valleywag and comments on the situation. He doesn't seem happy, and indicates several reasons why the situation happened on this timeframe. He also comments on a lack of communication about Mr. Gerstmann's termination. Note that he has NOT been identified as an official source, and that this is still a rumor.

Posted on Kotaku 7:40 PM ON FRI NOV 30 2007 (I am unsure of the timezone, likely EST)

Gerstmann's been with Gamespot almost since the beginning. His record's been fairly spotty over that time, but name me a game reviewer that's been around as long as he has that doesn't have some haters.

But, he works for Gamespot. Gamespot's got Kane & Lynch all up the ass and on its face like the victim at a bukakke party. And Gerstmann's review isn't that far off from the Metacritic score. So it might well have been the last straw for his payola-loving bosses.

Yes, I'm pretty sure this means that any well-trafficked game review site is at risk of letting the weakest of the game industry (Eidos and Ubisoft are the latest to get fingers pointed at them, and at least one of them has been in danger of insolvency not that long ago) push them around.

No gamer should be surprised by this, however. Integrity is not and has never been a strong aspect of anything remotely connected to commercial gaming, and of all entertainment media consumers, gamers are the least evolved.

The only thing that really surprises me is how overt it is.

I've always thought that it was implied that if a site is getting heavy advertising from a game company, that they will be more inclined to please the company. Quid and Quo without the Pro, really. They help keep the site afloat, and in exchange there's some implied favorable scores for some games that are published by that company. If they don't, the advertiser can go elsewhere and that is that.

So what surprises me about this story is the allegation that Eidos applied direct pressure. If they were that mad I would expect them to just stop advertising on GameSpot for a while if they felt that their money wasn't well spent.

When people are nice to you, you want to return the favor. If a company invites a couple of your people out for a preview, gives you an exclusive interview or two, and then on top of that advertises with you, there's just a human want to repay them. The way a game site can is a positive review. It's nothing all that surprising, it's one of the reason reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt. But if Eidos really did this it seems much more like GameSpot isn't just trying to please an advertiser, but that they're more of a mouthpiece for whoever will shell out the money.

GameSpot used to be one of the more critical of the larger sites I've read, such a shame.

Gamespot has really been "spinning the drain" per se for awhile now.

Is is officially gone?

I don't like IGN, Gamepro is a joke, 1up is a joke...

I hope this community grows.

Since video gaming has become a bigger market, what with Wii, PS3, Xbox360 and PC, and the increase of staff and production cost of the hyped upcoming MEGAHIT games, the industry needs a lot of sales to break even.

My opinion, watching review magazines for quite some years (in germany) is, that the big corporations not only pay for ads, but also for reviews. Even if they can't buy a 9x/100 or something these supposed-to-be blockbusters hardly get anything below 85/100, and if they do, you should be alarmed about what piece of garbage they are. This manners of reviewing became obvious to me when I looked at scores for games from german publishers. One example below:

Even most foreign gamers will know the Gothic series. While being mildly bug-ridden from episode 1 on, the third installment was barely playable. Combat was broken, graphics were constantly flickering due to z-buffering problems, it was very slow on a modest gaming rig which could run Oblivion quite nicely, and there were even relics of unfinished skills on the character screen. Not to mention the design flaws, like giving the main character the most powerful sword in the game in the first town he founds, for a penny.
Still this game got favourable reviews in the top 8x/100 regime from the german press, since obviuosly many fans of the series awaited it eagerly. But the blatant bugs in the release version can hardly be missed by a reviewer playing 5 minutes, and even the first five minutes are so bad narratively that anyone in their right mind would give it 5x/100 or 6x/100 max.

So I for myself don't look at video game magazine reviews anymore, luckily there are some enclaves of objective reviewing on the net nowadays, but I still prefer playing a demo of most games, or reading forum posts by players.

Oh, dear. This can't bode well for the gaming journalism industry as a whole.
Luckily, it's been a while since I've given two rat's behinds about it. The only sites I go to for gaming news are gametrailers (for the trailers!) and gamesradar, both are quite biased against the Playstation 3, but they have funny things that make me laugh enough to make up for it.

That said, the only game reviews I read are the gamefaqs ones, where you have two hundred unpaid people either gushing about the game, or ranting about how bad it is. Aside a few exceptions (people posting scores of 10 for Shaq-Fu for example), the system works well enough to at least give you a ballpark, and you don't have to consider that the website is infamous for always giving Nintendo games top reviews.

This is basically fair confirmation of what most of us already knew- high marks can be bought, and the 'free voice' of the gaming press is under watch from Daddy Moneybucks at all times. This isn't so much 'news', barring the fact that this time, they got caught and thrown under the spotlight for all to see. The fact that Penny Arcade's first in line to take a swing is hardly surprising either, considering recent shenanigans involving another superhyped game receiving lukewarm reviews. (Although while I have yet to try out Assassin's Creed, I have played some of Kane and Lynch and am forced to agree with the general consensus that, at least as much as I've seen, it's a bunch of good ideas executed with all the skill and ability of a virgin on their wedding night.)

Prediction Time: IGN and 1-Up respond by turning up the heat on Gamespot while making statements about how their own company missions include a focus on 'unbiased' journalism separate from the advertising dollar that pays their bills (want to trust a professional critic? Find one who's paycheck doesn't come from the companies who make the products they critique- Game sites advertising video games makes sense until you REALLY think about it...) while Gamespot itself digs itself a hole by finding roundabout ways to call Gertsmann a 'maverick' or someone 'who's personal and professional integrity isn't up to C-Net standards.'

Sucks for Mr. Gertsmann- while not the most eloquent fellow with his reviews frequently dwelling on some rather petty and silly things and falls a bit... or a lot too far on the pessimistic side of things even playing games he really likes, the fact is that he was one of the few guys who's been truly willing to speak his mind, even if it's far from both critical and public consensus. (He's pretty much branded Mr. 8.8 for his opinion of Twilight Princess- ironically, listening to most people after they've finished it and moved on, hindsight seems to favor his opinion.) Best of luck to him, wherever the winds may take him, although maybe a career in another field may be for the best.

Gamespot Editor Fired, Rumors Say Eidos Did It

image

Veteran game writer Jeff Gerstmann has been terminated from his position at Gamespot, and some sources are claiming it happened because of his negative review of the recent Eidos release Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

Gerstmann confirmed his firing with Joystiq this morning, but said he was "not really able to comment on the specifics of my termination." The issue has been quickly and widely publicized, most visibly by Penny Arcade, which has resulted in a multi-thousand post thread on the topic on the Gamespot forums as well as an apparent ban on the topic at the Eidos forums.

The rumors are at least in part the result of heavy investment in Gamespot advertising for Kane & Lynch by Eidos, which went so far as to include a near-complete skinning of the site that has now been removed. Rock, Paper, Shotgun claims a "very reliable source" has confirmed the review as the cause of Gerstmann's termination, but neither Eidos nor Gamespot have commented on the matter.

Gerstmann's original Gamespot review is still available here, although according to Joystiq the video review is a much harder-hitting piece that seems a more likely catalyst for Eidos' wrath. More information, including statements from Gamespot and Eidos, will be posted as it becomes available.

Permalink

The more I go around the rumour mill, the more I find that I'm one of only a handful of people who don't think he was fired over a negative reveiw.

For one thing, some of the facts don't line up.

The review was on Nov. 13, yet he was fired recently, or at least several days after.

Also, if Edios was responsible in some way, why didn't they just pack up their ads and leave, why did they want someone fired?

What's more, why not have the review taken down and have someone else post something "better"?

And while GameSpot's 6/10 score was low, it certainly wasn't out of the ordinary, most all review sites and magazines are in agreement that this is a 6/10 game.

Why would Gamespot be singled out, and why would such a senior and generally respected editor be demanded (and accepted by Gamespot) as sacrifice?

http://www.joystiq.com/2007/11/30/rumor-gamespots-editorial-director-fired-over-kane-and-lynch-rev/

No, I don't think his review, or at least any one specific one, had anything to do with it.

Though this does bring up the question of, "What did happen?"

There's no way of knowing just yet what exactly happened, but we'll try to find out.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that Kane & Lynch is one of the most disappointing games I've played all year. Expect my review on Monday.

I'm surprised at how overt this is. Even if it turns out to be untrue this is bad publicity. Maybe it's a smear attack from another game review site.

Personally I stopped reading Gamespot when they started skinning the site with the flavor of the month game.

Man, this is gonna become a touchy issue.
On the ONE hand, I've heard people saying K&L can be a lot of fun. Secondhand info, of course, but it might be the editor once again being a bit overcritical.
On the OTHER hand, he really should be entitled to his opinion, and quite frankly, can we imagine someone getting fired over a 1.0 on Big Rigs over the Road, because of advertising on the site? Just because you advertised for a game, doesn't mean it's going to be good.
On the THIRD hand (of a mutated 12-limbed freak), to them it could just be the last straw of him understating games everyone loved (Nintendo) and overstating games people thought "weren't bad" (THPS) But Eidos' involvement suggests otherwise.

One thing seems for certain. This means that any website that runs ads for games is GOING to be influenced. I have a new system: When a game is given a score, mentally subtract half a point for every ad on the page. Yeah, it might be a bit too general but at this point who gives about scores anyway.

Gerstmann has always seemed to me to be the jerk you liked in spite of himself. Honestly I hope the rumours are true...not for Jeff's sake ( he'll land on his feet somewhere for crying out loud ) but that the whole affair will drag kickback-payola-quid pro quo "professional" game reviews in to a brighter light.
I'd given up on game review sites...and game sites in general until I found this one. I too hope this community continues to grow....but is there a way to filter out the few game company plants that have cropped up recently?

Russ Pitts:
There's no way of knowing just yet what exactly happened, but we'll try to find out.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that Kane & Lynch is one of the most disappointing games I've played all year. Expect my review on Monday.

What's disappointing about it is that by now, I just expect bad things to come out of EIDOS. Last bunch of their games I remember playing were buggy and not so well thought out. It's wierd though, because a publisher normally doesn't have that sort of effect on the games released...
Hey, at least they have Hitman. I'm wondering if those developers should have just stuck to what they're good at. I give them props for inventing a new story, but...no one would have minded a direct spiritual sequel.

Its hard to believe that there wasn't some kind of review process pre-publishing of the video. For this poor review to make it out, more people you would think would have known of its poor rating, and with k&l being such a large sponsor, the review of the game i'd think would have alot of eyes on it. Unless everyone really wanted to get out how bad a game it is, and are now scapegoating this guy. That would suck.

Really, are we all that naive to think that there isn't payment for good ratings? Why do you think zero punctuation is so popular? Hes honest, and isn't penalized for it.

I mean how many "mindblowing, insanely awesome massively multiplayer life changing" games can there really be?

At this point, I wouldn't doubt that when I review Legacy of Kain: Defiance on youtube in a negative light, Eidos will file a fraudulent DMCA notice against my video.

Russ Pitts:
There's no way of knowing just yet what exactly happened, but we'll try to find out.

One thing I know for sure, however, is that Kane & Lynch is one of the most disappointing games I've played all year. Expect my review on Monday.

Aww.. but I like you Russ, I don't want you to get fired!

xbeaker:
Aww.. but I like you Russ, I don't want you to get fired!

In order for Russ to get fired, another editor would have to slay him in a gladitorial arena battle and take his place. That's just how we do things here.

goodnight sweet prince. anyone reviewing a game that unhilariously badly needs slating in my opinion, times change, let them change, i know he did a good job for a long time, but things change, and always will.

Well I didnt check Gamespot regulary but I will be avoiding it all togather if this turns out to be true.

propertyofcobra:
That said, the only game reviews I read are the gamefaqs ones, where you have two hundred unpaid people either gushing about the game, or ranting about how bad it is. Aside a few exceptions (people posting scores of 10 for Shaq-Fu for example), the system works well enough to at least give you a ballpark, and you don't have to consider that the website is infamous for always giving Nintendo games top reviews.

GameFAQs reviewers have two possible scores: 10/10 (this game is good and I'll shank you if you say otherwise) and 4/10 (this game is terrible and all those 10/10 people are losers). There's the occasional good review, but you get to sift through piles of 10s and 4s before you get to the ones with actual points to make.

I guess your point is that the proportion of 10s to 4s gives you a ballpark figure, but some of those 4s are just "hi I'm an internet rebel and I'm taking a contrary position just to tick you off".

Virgil:

xbeaker:
Aww.. but I like you Russ, I don't want you to get fired!

In order for Russ to get fired, another editor would have to slay him in a gladitorial arena battle and take his place. That's just how we do things here.

Two editors enter, one editor leaves!

Dude, I practiced on the bungie swing at the State Fair for just such an event. I'm prepared.

Kronopticon:
goodnight sweet prince. anyone reviewing a game that unhilariously badly needs slating in my opinion, times change, let them change, i know he did a good job for a long time, but things change, and always will.

You're making the assumption that the game isn't a huge turd. This may be a mistake.

Watching gameplay movies certainly makes it look awful.

You may also notice that it's getting pretty mediocre scores from most reviewers: http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages4/934403.asp

Do you prefer the battle axe or the broadsword?

tentaclesex:

Kronopticon:
goodnight sweet prince. anyone reviewing a game that unhilariously badly needs slating in my opinion, times change, let them change, i know he did a good job for a long time, but things change, and always will.

You're making the assumption that the game isn't a huge turd deserving of such a review. This may be a mistake.

Watching gameplay movies certainly makes it look awful.

You may also notice that it's getting pretty mediocre scores from most reviewers.

erm, i mean that the game may indeed be very bad, but he isnt making the review funny.

Kronopticon:

erm, i mean that the game may indeed be very bad, but he isnt making the review funny.

OK, well, Gamespot isn't a comedy site, and the rumor isn't "Editorial Director Fired for Not Being Funny Enough." :)

I get the feeling that he was pissed at the way the site was shilling for the game, and he channeled some of that rage into his review.

Remember when the IGN McGriddles thing seemed completely ridiculous? Now it doesn't seem that out of the ordinary when a whole site is reskinned for advertising purposes. Crap.

A mudpit fight...while wearing bikinis.

This whole thing is getting pretty interesting. The level of concern that has erupted on many sites really is something to behold.

With that said, there is this...

http://blog.wired.com/games/2007/11/gamespot-inside.html

These sources aren't great, but it's something along the lines I would expect someone at GameSpot to say. I hate having to sight forums and blogs, but there is so little to go on right now. It is possible that this is a just a very bad coincidence in timing, but firing one of the toughest reviewers they have after giving a less than stellar review to one of their sponsors just looks bad.

But even when you look at it, it wasn't really that bad a score. 6 out of 10 isn't that abysmal, but it is looked at as such by the gaming community at large. Looking at that raw number, that would mean that it's still more good than bad even.

Rating systems, review sites, gamers perceptions, everything seems wrong here. I hope this might make people examine the big sites more, maybe they'll try to reform, or maybe this can even give the opportunity for some of the smaller sites out there to succeed because of their perceived integrity next to sites that receive thousands of dollars from the people they're reviewing. Maybe just wishful thinking, though.

I lost all faith in game review sites a long time ago. (With the exceptions being this excellent site and gamerevolution.com cuz they badmouth everything.) So this is no shocker.

And Russ would destroy, Russel Crowe style.

Jesus, what a load of shit. Did Sony kick up a huge stink at IGN for their 4.9/10 for Lair? Eidos needs to take the carrot out of their asses and get over it. Their game sucked - Whoop de do.

Reviewers are a dime-a-dozen to the big sites. Gerstmann is no exception. If you don't pull the right game's weight, chances are you're going to disappear. Even if this situation is unrelated (spidey-sense sez, "No effin' way!"), there's plenty of other examples to look to.

Kronopticon:
erm, i mean that the game may indeed be very bad, but he isnt making the review funny.

Oh god, don't tell me we have to be funny now too.

CNET Responds To GameSpot Payola Allegations

CNET-owned GameSpot's Executive Editor, Jeff Gerstmann, was fired from his post yesterday. Internet rumors soon followed suggesting the reason was his negative review of Eidos' latest, Kane & Lynch, a high-profile action game rumored to be the beginning of a new franchise. A feature film starring Bruce Willis is purportedly already in the works. GameSpot's website, as of this morning, had been heavily adorned with Kane & Lynch advertising banners

Representatives from CNET, GameSpot and Gerstmann himself have all pleaded "no comment" since this morning, but the official statement from CNET came this afternoon:

"GameSpot takes its editorial integrity extremely seriously. For over a decade, GameSpot and the many members of its editorial team have produced thousands of unbiased reviews that have been a valuable resource for the gaming community. At CNET Networks, we stand behind the editorial content that our teams produce on a daily basis.

"With respect to Jeff Gerstmann, it is CNET Networks' policy not to comment on the status of its employees, current of former."

Last month, CNET hired Steven Colvin, formerly of Dennis Publishing (the publishers of Maxim and Blender) to head up it's Entertainment and Lifestyle division, which includes GameSpot. Exactly how Colvin is involved in the furor surrounding Gerstmann's firing is unclear, as is whether or not GameSpot accepted compensation from Eidos for editorial coverage, a significant breach of ethics. Further questions and requests for clarification have been met with a firm "no comment."

Trusted sources at CNET say the rumors, regardless of their truth, have caused quite a stir at the network. One source suggested the implications have cast doubt on the editorial integrity of the entire organization, although CNET and GameSpot are in separate divisions and do not share a management structure.

"Stephen is a dynamic, experienced, and respected media executive who has an impressive track-record of building highly successful lifestyle media brands in the U.S. and international markets," said Neil Ashe, CEO of CNET Networks, in a press release from last month. "We're extremely pleased to have him join our executive management team."

Permalink

I don't think this is any kind of payola thing since Gerstmann has been criticized pretty heavily before for his famously harsh reviews, but it does seem like some seriously bad timing to be firing him right after this review. If there is evidence of payola, then it'll just make me all the happier that the Escapist exists.

Viva la Yahtzee!

No wonder all the mainstream critics were afraid to give anything less than a perfect 10/10 score to the steaming pile of mediocrity and bare-bones competence that was Halo 3.

 Pages 1 2 3 NEXT

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked