There's been a firestorm of activity following Gamespot firing reviewer Jeff Gerstmann for giving the PlayStation 3 and X-Box 360 game Kane & Lynch: Dead Men a less-than-stellar mark of 6.0. The coverage is fair, each site providing its own take on the story, and most mention the matter of ethics in video game journalism. Game journalism, while not fully recognized as a venue of its own yet, still must adhere to to the same guidelines "regular" journalists follow if there is any hope of video game news media reaching the tipping point.

Eidos Games apparently expected a positive review of their title and spent a great deal of money, blanketing Gamespot with page backgrounds and advertisements. When a company such as Eidos releases a game, it's fair game for any reviewer, regardless of favors and ad revenue. It's not as though it was a minor oversight: to expect a positive review from a site as popular as Gamespot communicates a disrespect and misunderstanding Eidos has of video game journalism.

Never mind the fact that Gamespot's shady termination of a reviewer for giving other than what was expected, covertly or otherwise — this matter speaks to a deeper problem. Game journalism has nearly come of age as much as traditional print media has, and many publications are as respectable, often breaking stories before television and print outlets. It's significant when a popular, oft-read representation of video game journalism breaks a basic rule of reporting. It's a major failure to follow by example.

Perhaps Gamespot doesn't see itself as a site responsible for ethical journalism. It could view itself as an analog of mid-'90s video game print; a publication putting entertainment first. How Gamespot sees itself isn't important, though. Despite what Gamespot wants the public to view it as, it's come into being as a somewhat-reputable source. It's the responsibility of Gamespot, or any other Web site in the same situation, to treat their work as something which should be trustworthy and deserving of esteem.

CNet, parent company of Gamespot, issued the standard "no comment" whenever asked about the erstwhile rumor. It's still questionable when CNET lets Gamespot believe firing a reviewer for poor appraisal of a product is fine and then not offer an thorough apology for allowing the discharge to happen under this circumstance.

It's unfortunate when a leader in video game publication, not to mention the owner — also a technology writing icon — errs in this way. It would be unfathomable for a reporter for The New York Times to get fired for doing what Gerstmann did (or didn't do), so why not hold Gamespot to the same echelon, rather than letting it get away as if it were yellow journalism? Unfortunately, this may set back the fledgling video game journalism market. Credibility is low as is, so one can only hope Gamespot or CNet steps up and issues a retraction.

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