Tech Dead Men
posted by December 14 at 12:01 PMon
(This week’s Games column got cut in the print edition, along with the rest of the small-screeners, so I’m posting my column for all of the gamers I met at Moe last night.)
For the first two weeks of December, gaming writers were consumed by the firing of one of their own. I canít exactly blame Ďem for reacting to Jeff Gerstmannís canning at Gamespot.com: Whether coincidental or not, Gerstmann got the pink slip the same day that a huge ad campaign for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, a game heíd soundly trashed, was stripped from Gamespot. Within the same day, Gerstmannís negative video review of the game was pulled (and its text version was severely edited).
Our hometown gaming pariahs at Penny Arcade (makers of the above comic) fueled the rumor fire by claiming a trail of dirty money—Kane & Lynchís makers got pissed at Gerstmannís game review and pulled ads to the tune of $100,000s, they said. Anonymous tipsters sided with the claim, and it took a full week for Gamespotís parent company, CNet, to release a robust response. Too late—by then, corporateís story (upholding editorial standards) couldnít keep pace with Diggís (money, money, money). The hell kind of Web company waits a week to respond to Internet panic, anyway?
But the surprising thing isnít that advertising money can control editorial content. Ad salesmen and writers not getting along? Flaky five-star reviews coming outta nowhere? These things are sad realities in pretty much any review landscape, yet in this case as in any other, it’s more the exception than the rule. Whatís surprising is that when the money talks in gamesland, the results might actually be better. Follow me here—the latest issue of Vice Magazine has a well-written pull-out set of articles attached to an ad campaign for K&L. In the same vein as recent Wii TV ads, this advertorial chunk about buddy stories has an open-arms, mainstream stance. It’s a unique, compelling take on interacting with friends. And it’s a fucking ad.
Game publications generally donít treat their baby the same way. You ever tried making sense of a game review site, let alone a games blog? Theyíre obsessed with sneak peeks, as-soon-as-possible reviews and more, faster, newer. No conversation, no questions about why adults choose to make these 3D toys a significant part of their lives. When these people say the only story is that some guy got fired because of his review score, that narrow-minded scope becomes the story. You don’t see music or movies writers flipping out about a bought-out score because, even if it happens, it’s such a small percentage of the stories and opinions that their subject matter generally garner in print.
In Jeff’s case, maybe he’s better off writing for the game ad firms instead.