If a bunch of gamers somewhere on the internet are screaming about a scathing review of their favourite game, chances are Jim Sterling’s the one who poured lighter fluid on the fires of their rage. Like Yahtzee, Jim Sterling is another Brit ex-pat who left this septic isle and buggered off abroad to bigger and better things. To Mississippi specifically, where he continues to piss-off anyone and everyone with his uncompromising, oft-controversial opinions on all things gaming as reviews editor for Destructoid.com. In addition to reviews and feature articles he also produces a video series called The Jimquisition, “a weekly unscripted rant” covering all things gaming that first appeared on Destructoid and now features on The Escapist. He’s often called “The Biggest Troll on the Internet” by gamers who can’t see the forest for the trees or, in this case, the message for the messenger.
That’s not a jibe about his weight by the way – I’m the last person to knock a man for his size. I’m referring to the force of Jim Sterling’s personality. When you first watch a Jimquisition video or read one of his reviews you might be forgiven for thinking he’s a smug, self-aggrandising know-it-all git who considers himself to be better than you. Anyone with half a brain cell who watches more than 10 seconds of a Jimquisition video would realise he’s indulging in the great British tradition of “taking the piss,” a fact lost on many oh-so-serious gamers who wail and gnash their teeth every time he opens his mouth. Particularly the sort of gamer who haunts internet cesspits like the GameFAQs message boards, where people debate such meaningful topics as which console is the best (it’s always the one their mummy and daddy bought them), which 5000 year-old demon in the body of a 9 yr old anime girl is most fuckable, or who would win in a fight between Tepig and Vegeta.
If there’s one thing dedicated gamers hate more than someone who challenges their delusion they’re the grand sage of all things gaming, it’s someone who actually knows what the fuck they’re talking about. Dragging a gamer from their comfortable haze of self-importance is guaranteed to upset them and few people do it better than Jim Sterling. That he does it in such an unabashed, couldn’t-give-two-shits way is what I find so endearing about the bugger, even if the nerd-rage it triggers often blinds gamers to the legitimate arguments he has to make about games, gamer culture, the industry, und so weite. And he does make very good arguments indeed, with an eloquent vulgarity that appeals to the 5 yr old child in me. For all my high-falutin ways I can still chuckle at a good fecal-related gag now and then, which Jim Sterling regularly delivers via his Twitter.
Beneath his feigned-smarm and confrontational attitude are serious observations about gaming that more gamers should take heed of. I don’t always agree with everything he says – he’s more charitable towards the Modern Warfare series than I’d ever be – but I’m willing to listen to them because, like him, I want gaming to improve. Stifling dissenting voices because they make fun of Nintendo or score a game lower than what fans expect, is detrimental to our beloved pastime. If there were nobody to challenge things like EA’s dismal attempt at a digital distribution platform (charging full retail whack for a download), lazy development practices and the habits of gamers themselves, gaming would be in a sorrier state than it is now. Legitimate objective criticism is nothing to condemn or be afraid of. It’s necessary if gaming as a whole is to improve and evolve, and if you oppose it then you yourself are a detriment to what you profess to love.
Now if you go to Jim Sterling expecting an objective review you’re going to leave empty-handed, disappointed, and possibly a bit miffed. Jim is unrepentantly subjective in his opinions, much to the chagrin of thin-skinned, precious little snowflakes that rationalise their poor consumer purchases with the fervour of religious fundamentalists. I appreciate the fact he’s never afraid to call a game a load of old shit, even if the hype-swallowing collective gamer hive-mind has declared it Game of the Year before even a single screenshot has been released. Conversely, Jim will champion a title otherwise overlooked by attention-deficit Mountain Dew guzzlers if he really enjoyed it, like in his review of Deadly Premonition for example. This has led to ridiculous accusations of bias from people who don’t understand what the word actually means, and are too stupid to realise you can analyse something objectively and still express a subjective opinion about it. Jim Sterling’s only bias is towards wanting gaming to improve and if that’s some sort of heinous crime, you can take us both out behind the chemical sheds and shoot us.
The main reason Jim Sterling’s is featured here, besides being British of course, is that he wears his love for gaming on the sleeves of his long black coat. Beneath the acid-tongued persona is a man who adores gaming with a deep passion that suffuses all of his work, which is as insightful and informative as it is entertaining. It’s the kind of love you couldn’t fake for all the money in the world. Part of loving something (or someone) however is to be aware of its flaws, not blind to them. As I mentioned earlier, objective criticism is healthy and gaming can only improve with hefty regular doses of it. That doesn’t just apply to the industry either. A lot of core gamers are still saddled with a clubhouse mentality that grossly over-inflates their egos and bolsters an exclusionism they should have evolved beyond years ago. Anything that punctures those egos and tears down the barriers of exclusivity and elitism are positive, healthy things, and Jim Sterling does his bit to help with an admirable gusto.
Yes, his opinions can be divisive and controversial. What’s wrong with that? I’d rather hear someone’s honest opinion on something than the meek regurgitation of a press release or a bland summary of events, even if I totally disagree with it. I’d trade a hundred IGN interns churning out tepid reviews of shovelware for one Jim Sterling who tells it as it is. Does he piss you off? Good! If your faith in the potential of gaming as an inclusive, far-reaching medium is so feeble and meek as to be hurt by some valid criticism, you deserve to be. If you want the objective verdict of a cold unfeeling machine that only sees the world in binary then bloody well go and build one. In the meantime I’ll sit here watching Jim Sterling’s videos, reading his reviews and listening to his ramblings about opium on the Destructoid podcast. Don’t read his Harry Potter fanfiction though: I’ll never look at Mrs Sprout the same way ever again.
Needless to say that link is Not Safe For Work, unless you happen to work at the Harry Potter Smutfic Society.