Jeff Gerstmann oversaw GameSpot's editorial direction for eleven years, becoming one of the most well-liked and well-known personalities in gaming journalism. It was thus a massive shock when he was abruptly terminated by CNET in November of 2007. Surrounding the incident were suspicious edits to his recent Kane & Lynch review, rumors of advertiser pressure, and a general deterioration of morale and trust among GameSpot staffers. The public outcry put the integrity of every gaming publication on trial.
Following his departure, Gerstmann started a blog to keep in touch with the public, and eventually formed his new venture, Giant Bomb, with former GameSpot co-worker Ryan Davis (one of the several who abandoned ship after Gerstmann's firing). We gave Jeff a call to discuss his new site, the controversy at GameSpot, and the state of gaming editorial in general.
GamesRadar: Regarding GameSpot, we've only heard snippets of the full story - is there anything left to say?
Jeff Gerstmann: Not legally, no. [laughs] It's pretty much dead and over with really. Um, You know, I think it's... there's been a lot of weird rumors about it and no one can really confirm nor deny any of that stuff.
GR: Did you get any job offers after leaving? We figure you'd have been able to go just about anywhere...
JG: Well, it was really kind of weird, because I was fired, and kind of went home, decided to sit on the couch and just mope for a while I guess, because, you know, it's a pretty soul crushing thing to have happen, to lose your job. And then, you know, [I] just kind of got up and checked e-mail and saw that the internet had kind of exploded over that stuff. In the wake of that, yeah, a lot of people reached out, both with well wishes and also with job opportunities and stuff like that.
Above: Jeff at the office of Giant Bomb, next to "the most useful item in [the] entire office."
GR: So what made you decide to start from the ground up with Giant Bomb?
JG: Well, the guys here that I'm working with are people that I have worked with before and I kind of know what they're capable of in terms of building a site, and getting that sort of stuff off the ground, and that just sounded really appealing. It was a group of guys that I knew that I could trust, that I knew we would have a great time doing it, and so far it's really been fun.
GR: Did the idea just sort of form in conversations with your friends - Ryan Davis particularly?
...this is a business, it's not a couple of guys just blogging for the fun of it.
JG: No, Ryan wasn't really involved in any of that stuff - he still had a job at that time. This was just me with a team of engineers and business types that had a thing going here in Sausalito. And they were one of the first groups that I actually talked to, and then I kind of went out and explored a bit to see what else was out there - how crazy the job offers could get. Then I started narrowing that stuff down. It's like, "Okay, I don't think I want to move to the development side or the PR side, or anything like that." I don't really think that would be the best use of what I can do. So once I had decided [to stick to] writing about games, from there, it was really just down to a couple of pretty serious offers to start new things.
GR: So you're in Sausalito now?
JG: Yeah, yeah.
GR: How's that treating you?
JG: It is awesome. I actually live about 30 miles north of Sausalito, so it's actually a shorter commute than the San Francisco drive was. In addition to that, being outside of the city, it is seriously laid back up here and that has been nice. You know, not working all day and walking out and just finding crazy waiting for you on the streets. It has been very instrumental, I'd say, in making this a pretty low stress thing.
GR: You obviously have a lot of connections after 11 years at GameSpot. Has it not been too hard to get publisher support for the site?
JG: Yeah, that hasn't been too big of a hassle, but at the same time, we haven't really gone out and said, "Here we are, here's what we're doing!" to the industry just yet. That's partially just because we've been too busy setting up video capture and getting our studio built, and all those other things. So I've more just been, when we see a game come out, it's like, "Oh, we should really review that. Let's call this publisher and see about getting it." And we haven't really had any trouble getting that kind of support.
GR: According to the site, Giant Bomb is "blowing up this summer." Do you have a specific timeframe for its completion?
JG: Nothing more specific than Summer right now - we have ideas, but until a few things get locked down, we're not going to get more specific than Summer. Obviously, E3 is in July, and no one wants to launch after E3, I'll say that much.