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Ladies and gentleman, it’s time for an interview with Mr. Jim Sterling, Reviews Editor for Jim is widely known as one of the internet’s greatest feather rufflers with articles such as How Microsoft ruined fun for everybody, but is also famous for his hilarious video series The Video Game Show What I’ve Done.

Come with us as we muse on the gaming industry at large, PR firms, the review process, and how he got started in the blogging arena!

So how did you come about blogging, and where did you get your start?
I started writing online about seven or eight years ago, slowly working for sites that no longer exist, like Oratory Opinions or Project Wonderboy. I set up my own Web site, Morphine Nation, which was a social satire site (it’s still going under new leadership, check it out). I’d never thought of writing as a serious career move, instead pursuing a career in comedy. It had promise but I never had the love for it that you need to make that stuff work.

One day I just thought to myself, “I love videogames, I love writing, why not try and make it work?” I emailed a few places and somehow got on the good side of IGN. I wrote a piece for IGN Insider about the failed arcade fighter Tattoo Assassins, since I knew someone who worked on the game. The piece succeeded and it opened a lot of doors for me.

How did you end up transitioning to Destructoid after your early work?

I was looking for a regular gig as a game reviewer and happened to be reading an issue of GAMEStm that had an article on how to make a career in the games industry. Destructoid was featured as an example of a gaming blog that had “made it.” I heard they paid, so I emailed Niero with some samples and the usual patter. He put me through to Nick Chester, and they decided to take a chance on me. It was a bumpy start, but I got there in the end.

So as a Reviews Editor, do you get to choose who is assigned to what title?

No. We’ve always had a diplomatic system at Destructoid. What we do is provide a release list of games and the writers can pick what they want/are able to review. Of course, as reviews editor, I get to sneak in there first and claim dibs on all the hotly contested stuff, like Dynasty Warriors. Ooh, there’s such a fight over those games!

How much time do you spend writing and editing others work a week?

It varies, but I can be working for up to fifteen hours a day if it’s particularly hectic. I do a little of everything — news, reviews, features and now videos. It takes a lot of time to try and balance so much stuff, but it’s very important that I do. It’s what keeps my family fed.

As a comedian, what would you say is your greatest influence in terms of your style?

I’d have to say Chris Morris is probably my biggest influence. An absolutely brilliant satirist. I recommend checking out Brass Eye, a superb series he created that absolutely mocked sensationalist media apart before it even got started.

Which article of yours are you most proud of, and why?

I guess I’d say the Ten Golden Rules of Online Gaming, as it was certainly my biggest and most successful piece. I’d also have to suggest How Prototype is Blatantly Better Than inFAMOUS, as it seemed to be one of the biggest catalysts for the whole bitter debate. I don’t think that argument would have gotten as hilariously ridiculous if my article hadn’t stoked the fanboy fires.

We notice that you’re quick to pull out many an obscure pop-culture reference. Do you do things like watch movies every day to hone your craft?

I’d say it’s more to do with the fact that my mind retains useless information for a ridiculously long time. I can’t remember important things like doctor’s appointments or airplane flights, but I can remember the opening sequence to long-forgotten BBC1 children’s drama The Queen’s Nose. Ridiculous.

Do you feel any pressure when giving a game a particularly low score? Have you had any run-ins with PR (who will remain anonymous) where they question your judgment?

Not so much professional pressure as personal pressure. It’s hard to be cruel to a publisher you genuinely like and respect, and you worry more about hurting people you’re friendly with rather than having some big publisher try and fight you. In fact, I prefer publishers to get that way with me, as it’s far easier to stick to your guns when you’re dealing with a company that’s simply throwing a tantrum. It’s more difficult to have someone say “aw man, that sucks that you felt that way about our game,” and they’re being really friendly and you feel like you just strangled their dog.

That said, a shit game’s a shit game, and at the end of the day you have to bite a bullet and score it what feels right.

What do you think is wrong with the games industry, and what is it doing right?

I think fear is the industry’s biggest problem. A fear of new things, a fear of creativity. It’s my belief that anything can be as successful as Halo if it’s marketed as confidently as Halo, but publishers lack confidence in anything but the biggest franchises and most established ideas.

As for what it’s doing right? It’s hard to pin down what is being done collectively as an industry. It’s easier to point at individual companies, like Valve that’s been doing a great job harboring customer loyalty, or Electronic Arts, that is backing some good, original content lately.

How do you feel about the recent Eidos Batman: Arkham Asylum review scandal allegations?

I think it’s disgusting if there were any shenanigans afoot, but we of course don’t know. I think Eidos needs to fire its PR department, though, as it’s been unable to keep a lid on any of this bullshit lately. Perhaps it needs to just sit back and let the games do the talking … oh wait, that would probably be worse.

Speaking of controversies, do you think Eurogamer should have responded differently to the Darkfall Debacle?

Eurogamer seems to get itself into a lot of these debacles for some reason. I think they handled it decently enough. They offered a re-review, and were completely open when called out. That’s all you can hope to be as a writer, really. Mistakes get made, we sometimes slack off. I’ve done it myself. To be held accountable, however, is all I’d ever expect from a writer.

What is your opinion on the classic stablemate of gaming websites, “top 10 lists”?

I write list columns myself, so obviously I think they have merit. I think the trick is to find a good angle, or turn the idea of list columns on their heads. There are so many “top 10 videogame babes” articles out there, which is why I parodied them by describing sexual intercourse with things like Kirby and Tingle. It’s all about having a unique idea that sets a good top 10 apart from a bad top 10.

People who claim that top 10s are lazy tend to be people who just have lazy ideas for them.

If you had one bit of advice for smaller gaming blogs, what would it be?

Treasure your readers, above all else. They’re the ones that keep you in the job, and the community you build is what keeps you going. Write for your readers, write about what interests both you and them. That’s how you make the transition from having readers to having fans. Also, it never hurts to start a few flamewars!

If you were forced to hole up in a seedy abandoned basement, which game would you take with you and why?

Hmmm … I’ll say Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It’s one of those games I can just play while my brain’s disengaged these days. It requires no mental effort, yet sucks up so much time. You can hardly ask for more.

Thanks for your time!

My distinct, non-sexual pleasure.

  1. avatar Kek

    Jim Sterling is quite the character.

  2. avatar Jank

    amazing header picture. that kirby sex article sounds hilarious.

  3. Mr Sterling seems like a funny guy. Have to disagree on the tops 10s bit though. Any good angle on a top 10 can (with the proper care and attention) be turned into an excellent editorial.

    It’s just that it takes more time and effort to do so.

  4. Chris, this was awesome. It was great to get some insite into the man that is Jim Sterling. I absolutely loved it.

  5. Which one is he in the picture? The blue one?

  6. avatar Mah

    great interview, would like to see more people that make blogs tick

    • avatar Marta

      Commercial would mean backed by a copanmy, wouldn’t it? I wouldn’t hold ads against a blog. But then, if we put it that way, then Destructoid would seem to be ruled out.Besides, the distinction is a little meaningless. After all, Alice at Wonderland and the mooks at UK:R are both employed in some capacity by game journalism outlets. Don’t their employers (in some sense) subsidize their work? Not that there’s anything wrong with that: they give good independent commentary. But part of the reason that they, and many other game bloggers, can do so is because they are commercially involved with the industry, either as game journalists or (in the case of Koster and Gilbert, to name a couple) designers.

  7. What a guy… what a guy. Crass and Straight to the point.

  8. Melody – the older sister in The Queen’s Nose – was FIT!

    Great interview. Jim Sterling is probably the main reason that I wanted to do this too :’o)

  9. Really insightful review there!

    • avatar Oke

      spike tv VGA? you watch that ? they are a joke they put blood stone over golden eye,they put ff13 in the rpg goty ctragoey instead of monster hunter trithe vga are a popularity contestsorry for my typing im not from usa

  10. avatar Jack

    Don’t forget to change the fonts on all the other articles too!

  11. I feel like there is a conversation I missed …

    • avatar Vasava

      The jewelry iletsf is amazing but I was disappointed to see that the birthstones were not in the order that I had request. I emailed them the order I wanted the birthstones in and I got an okay on it. So now I’m sitting here prying all the jumprings and re-ordering them. I would have given them a 5 if they decided to listen to me. So be ready to do some work if you want the birthstones in the right order!

  12. Haha Damn Aussies (Jack), always causing trouble. :P

  13. avatar Sterling's Feet

    Jim sterling looks like he ate a Subway party sub, defecated into his own hands and licked them clean. Oh, and he is obese, a human clog. I would relish seeing him trying to get onto an airplane.

    • avatar Dharis

      I think it’s more like asking the crrteoas of CSI what they’ve created to the field of criminal law. They, like Felicia Day are entertainers. Their job is to create enjoyable works of entertainment, and they have done so (subject to individual tastes, of course).That’s not even to say that entertainers don’t contribute to the field, tangentially. CSI has gotten tons of young people interested in forensic science who might not otherwise have heard of the field. I think Felicia Day’s contributions towards mainstreaming geek culture and women’s presence in it is really valuable. When I was a teenager I was a huge Tolkien fan but I never dared speak of LOTRO out loud, now that things like LOTRO and Game of Thrones are mainstream it’s so awesome to just be able to let my interests drop casually without fear of ridicule. I still keep my interest in gaming secret, due to my age and gender, but once we get a few more Felicia Days, I might not feel the need to do that anymore. That’s certainly valuable for me, at least, and all the future ladies who never feel they have to keep their hobbies secret.

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