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Are We No Better Than Jack Thompson?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 10, 2007   |   Episode 138 (Show Archive)  

   

Jeff Gerstmann was a good guy who had really bad taste in movies!
Jeff Gerstmann was fired, this much we know. Why he was let go, who was responsible and how it all went down are all questions that have yet to be answered (and will probably never be answered). But we know that Jeff was fired, we know that it looks like it was because of one of his reviews and we know that the entire game community was shocked, appalled and angered. Yet here we are, a week and a half later, and everybody continues to be up in arms about what happened. But I think it's time to calm down. It's time to take a few steps back and cool off while some of the facts start to come in. It's time to be mature about this, because the last thing we want is to be like Jack Thompson.

Wait ... Jack Thompson? What the heck does the anti-game lawyer (best known for trying to take down Rockstar Games) have to do with GameSpot, Jeff Gerstmann and the whole Kane &

It might not make any sense now, but I assure you that before this article is done we're going to wrap back around and talk about Jack Thompson!
Lynch controversy? Well, perhaps it's time to look at what we've learned from this surprising termination.

Due to privacy concerns and a general lack of real insight from those in the know, most gamers don't really know what the real story is. Heck, I don't know what the real story is (nor do any of my fellow games journalists). So to say that I'm out of the loop would be a polite way of saying that I have no idea what happened. However, that hasn't stopped me from watching the firestorm and reading through a lot of relevant forums. I've watched this controversy from the sidelines, refusing to get in the middle of something that has so many moving parts. That's not to say that I'm not interested, but at the same time I don't want to jump into a debate where neither side has any real factual information.


It's good to see that other media outlets (in this case 1up/Ziff Davis) are rallying around Jeff Gerstmann ... even if not all of the facts are known!
But despite staying out of the mud, I have found myself increasingly frustrated by the way many gamers are taking this news. What I've noticed is that most of the people who talk about Jeff (which include people on message boards, those who write talkbacks, various bloggers and people that have emailed me wanting to know my opinion) tend to only believe the "rumor." The rumor is, in case you haven't been paying attention, is that Jeff was terminated because he gave Kane & Lynch a low score and Eidos Interactive decided to pull their advertising dollars from CNET (the parent company of GameSpot).

Those who stand by this rumor feel that they have more than enough evidence to back up these very serious claims. How else do you explain the fact that the

What's next, will those angry gamers start to blame Kane & Lynch for killing Santa, too?
Kane & Lynch advertising (which was posted predominantly on GameSpot's front page) was taken down in the midst of the controversy? And what about the fact that Jeff's video review was scrubbed from the site at roughly the same time as his termination? And it's not just that, what about the complete silence from the GameSpot staff and CNET? And then there's that Penny Arcade comic, the one without a punch line that out and out accuses of Eidos Interactive of getting Jeff fired. These things can't just be coincidences, can they?

The people that believe this (and there are many) have decided that GameSpot is not to be trusted. All it takes is a cursory look at GameSpot's forums and you'll see that there are a lot of people who simply won't trust anything that GameSpot (or any other games

I'm sure that the only reason Super Mario Galaxy is getting unanimously stellar reviews is because Nintendo paid the writer's off!
journalist) says. These people look at game reviews with nothing but contempt; if a game scores lower than they were expecting then these people will start to complain that the writer wasn't paid enough by the company. Worse yet, if a game scores an 8 or a 9 then everybody will complain that the staffer is paid off. It's a no-win situation for the games journalist.

Of course the people that believe this have always felt this way. These are the same people who years ago complained that mainstream critics were bought and paid for. The only difference now is that these people have what they feel is proof; to them (and a lot of other people listening to their crazy rants) their entire conspiracy theory has been confirmed.

But I feel that I need to remind them of the logical fallacy. That is, just because event "A" occurs and then event "B" occurs, that does not always mean that event "A" caused event "B". In this case, just because Eidos spent a lot of money advertising on GameSpot and then, after the game was given a low score, Jeff was fired, that does not mean that Jeff was fired because of the Kane &

If you believe Jack Thompson's logic, then Bully is the root cause of school violence ... even though school violence has been around longer than Bully!
Lynch review. Compelling argument or not, the truth is that none of us really know what happened behind the scene. GameSpot and CNET have tried to explain some of the rumors away, but even if they are out and out lying, that does not mean that Eidos had anything to do with Jeff's termination.

You see, this is the reasoning that Jack Thompson uses. He sees a game like Bully and then sees a school shooting and says, "The school shooting must have happened because of Bully." To him (and people that agree with him) this argument makes sense, but again, that's the logical fallacy. Instead of actually trying to get to the bottom of the real issue, Jack Thompson simply finds the reasoning that he likes the most (which is often the most damning for the

Conservatives have been rallying against CBS (and other mainstream media figures) long before Dan Rather's botched 2004 story!
games industry) and runs with it. This is exactly what people are doing with this unfortunate GameSpot/Jeff Gerstmann controversy. So I have to ask, are we really no better than Jack Thompson?

The problem is that these people are so dedicated to the belief that they are right that even if Jeff goes to their house to tell them the whole story they still wouldn't believe it. We're talking about people who have always felt that game reviews were bought and paid for and now feel vindicated. But alas, event "A" does not always cause event "B".

We live in a world where nobody trusts the media. Just look at the approval of the mainstream press, news journalists tend to rank lower than lawyers, car salesmen and even Congress. Thanks to years of scandals and talking heads lambasting the media at every turn, the mainstream press has become the punching bag that everybody feels okay hitting. Things are only getting worse; we

Fine, don't believe professional game reviewers. If you would rather trust this guy to tell you what's good and what's bad then be my guest!
live in a society when people will ignore the news if it doesn't conflate with their own morals and beliefs. Sometimes it's hard to nail down a real truth, but I assure you that the truth is that no matter what side of the political aisle you stand on you probably don't trust the media.

So why should games journalism be any different? Because we don't want to be a bunch of cynical jerks who only want to read things that they agree with, that's why. Because a majority of the people that write about games (be it reviews, full articles or strategy guides) love what they do and want to continue to work in the games industry. Because we don't have an agenda to make one company fail or prop another one up. Because we don't want to be like Jack Thompson, a man who believes what he believes and will never, ever stop believing it.

There's something to be said about being able to change your opinion, it's just the natural thing to do when you get more information. Don't be one of those people who has decided exactly what they think of games journalists based entirely on a few early rumors. Not only will that limit your choices in what you read and watch, but it will also hurt a lot of innocent games journalists who make their living writing about this industry. Even if the rumors are 100% accurate, that still doesn't mean that everybody is guilty. Making up your mind and never budging is something that Jack Thompson is known for ... and the last thing you want to be is another Jack Thompson.
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