Gaming and Technology

Critical closeups: Jim Sterling

Perhaps one of the biggest and most controversial figures in gaming news, Jim Sterling is best known through his online persona and video series: the Jimquisition. Jim is a game reviewer and reporter, who uses his presence in the community to report on, discuss, and criticise aspects of the industry that many believe to be distasteful. On paper, it is hard to understand why he is such an interesting case: any person who uses their position of influence to fight for positive change cannot be bad, surely? Still, Sterling is inundated with insults, death threats, and even occasionally doxxed or swatted. Why? The answer lies in his online persona. Donning a leather trench-coat and gloves, Jim’s attitude is overwhelming and self-centred, with a long-standing catchphrase cemented amongst his fans and haters: “Thank God for me.”

Still, I think it’s wrong to criticise him for this. Just because a gold bar has been wrapped in sewage doesn’t make it any less priceless. While it might have been more thoughtful to neglect the wrapping, it is certainly a more memorable present. In parallel, Jim’s cocky and rude behaviour may turn away potential listeners, but that does not make his point any less valid. Sterling’s career, at this point, has spanned a number of years. He has discussed microtransactions, pay-to-win games, the console wars, and much, much more. Scandals that have arisen throughout this time have been addressed in both his writing and viewing material, and Jim often takes a deeply critical view of many issues prevalent in both the industry and consumer fanbases. While Jim will review a game harshly for whatever reason – poor mechanics, a slow or ridiculous story, a lack of attention to detail – he will simultaneously pick out members of the community who flame and harass him unnecessarily for doing so. One such example included the above average score he presented Zelda: Breath of the Wild, only to be ravaged by furious fans who, in their childishness, could not understand why it was not a perfect ten. Rather than pandering for fear of losing fans, Sterling called them out and admonished them publicly. While many dislike the bluntness of his tone, it is a necessary bluntness considering many of the monstrous personalities he faces every day.

He does not only fight for consumer justice and fair business practice, but Jim uses his existing authority in the industry as a position from which to fight for issues that do not even directly affect him. Even as a white male, a demographic largely catered to in gaming, Jim has fought for equal representation for all races, sexualities, and genders, even in the face of heavy vitriol from many who label him as a ‘social justice warrior’. Jim has made a valid case in comparing the gravity of rape in comparison to murder in gaming, and argued why sexual abuse should not be so nonchalantly regarded by fans of larger series when impressionable younger gamers are more likely to see it as acceptable. His lack of pandering and sugar-coating has earned him more than his fair share of death threats, but alternatively a flood of respect from grateful and marginalised viewers. Whereas many women and people of colour have been quashed in their effort to tackle major issues in gaming culture, Jim’s personal authority has allowed him to keep his head above the water of hatred – even if only barely.

So, yeah, I will say it.

Thank God for Jim.

15/06/2017

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kirstymcalpine