Taking a break from Eschalon week here, to get up something different. You may be aware of the storm raging across various game sites and blogs over the firing of Gamespot Editorial Director Jeff Gerstmann.

I came on that yesterday, but then it was a rumor only. Today, it’s been confirmed by Jeff himself. However, he isn’t discussing it, and neither is CNet, which owns Gamespot.

What has everyone buzzing is the possibility he was canned because of the review he wrote about a console game called Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Aside from drubbing it in the text, he gave it a score of 6/10. I read the piece (it was still up as of this afternoon) and thought he did a good job. Not because he panned it, but because he brought out all the flaws, and did it well.

So did Eidos, the publisher of K&L, pressure CNet/Gamespot? Many noted there was a lot of advertising for the game on Gamespot, and that is all gone now.

Conspiracy theories are flying everywhere, naturally. At the moment, though, there is very little hard information. What we do know is that (a) the review went up on November 13th, over two weeks ago; (b) it’s still on the site; (c) a video review of the game by Jeff was pulled; (d) the game advertising has disappeared from Gamespot; (e) Jeff was let go; and (f) CNet has stated they don’t fire people based on “external pressure from advertisers”.

From what I’ve read of the less inflammatory posts, it would appear that CNet (or Gamespot, or both) was already upset over the “tone” of earlier reviews. In view of that – if it’s true – a reasonable conclusion is this particular piece was the one that put Jeff over the edge.

We don’t know if Eidos pulled their ads because of the article; but if so, they certainly took their time doing it. If they were that angry, why wait seventeen days?

In any case, the situation is a murky one, and not likely to become clear soon, if ever. No business is allowed to discuss employee matters such as “termination”, and certainly not in public.

There is also the matter of Kane & Lynch not getting good scores on a number of other sites. Has Eidos pulled any advertising there? Have any other reviewers been canned for giving low marks? I don’t know, and haven’t seen mention of such anywhere as of yet.

Coming up with an informed opinion on this is near impossible. The majority of gamers are, no surprise, excoriating CNet. They’ve already decided it was pressure from Eidos, and nothing anyone says is going to change that now. All they’ll believe is someone confirming that belief.

As for me, I don’t think it’s quite so cut and dried as that. Certainly, game mags and websites depend on advertising to stay in business. And yes, there is always some pressure for the good review.

However, going only by what I know from my own experience, reviewers – especially long-term people like Jeff Gerstmann – aren’t dropped over one piece. Not unless there is a lot more going on under the surface that few know about.

Will we ever get the full story? I have my doubts, as mentioned above. Will this change anything anywhere? Of course not. The backlash wil die out soon enough; the ‘net is too volatile to stay focused on one thing for very long.

While the storm lasts, though, it’s going to be an ugly one. This is one of those times I’m glad I don’t write for anyone else anymore. And it’s all about a number, that obsession with numerical scores. If nothing else, this is a perfect example why scoring should be dropped, permanently.

Blow By Blow on Joystiq

Commentary on rockpapershotgun

Opinion piece on gamesetwatch