Free To Do What He Wants Any Old Time: The New Jimquisition
Jim Sterling isn’t afraid to evolve. A long time staple of the online video gaming community, the commentator, reviewer, and occasional voice actor has seen a great deal of change over the last near-decade. He’s written for Destructoid, contributed to IGN UK, and up until very recently was in charge of reviews for The Escapist, where he also hosted his popular gaming video series “The Jimquisition,” but when I say he’s open to change, I don’t just mean he’s bounced around traditional media outlets. He’s also been forthright about his gradual change in tone and stance on sexism, bullying, and other social issues. Sterling has always been one to grow with his content, never afraid to critically examine himself, his craft, and his place in the industry.
So, in many ways, it wasn’t shocking to hear that he had left his position with The Escapist, regaining full ownership and creative control of “The Jimquisition” in the process, and has struck out on a bold new experiment in independence:
Thanks to crowdfunding efforts, The Jimquisition aims to be an umbrella under which the established webseries, a weekly podcast, and a dedicated game review website can live. At TheJimquisition.com, your cheeky pal Jim Sterling will provided written criticism of the latest games, in an ad-free environment, free of sponsorship and brand deals.
In many ways, this is a natural extension of the product Sterling has developed over the last few years. The lifespan of “The Jimquisition” has seen is shift from a more general gaming series to one more focused on consumer advocacy, some would say as a response to increasingly shady dealings within the video game industry. One doesn’t have to look to far for an example of big publishers or developers misbehaving, and Sterling has dug himself a comfortable niche in calling them out when they do, railing against manipulative review embargos, dishonest press campaigns, and any other brand of general sleaziness.
And yet, the reality is that Sterling has never been his own master. The Escapist always seemed to, generally, stay out of his way when it came to content, but it still exists in an ecosystem built around profits and corporate relationships. When they review a game, it’s often at the terms of the publisher, who stipulate certain types of content at certain times in exchange for the early access necessary to properly review a game in time for release. Then, when those reviews are posted, they’re supported by ads, ads paid for by other companies with other interests and stipulations. And as tools like ad-block diminish those sources of revenue, even more emphasis is being put on generating exclusive content, with the help of publishers or arrangements, like paid brand deals. That’s the environment of traditional gaming media today. Jim Sterling’s response: “I have grown to dislike it. Significantly. . . I don’t want to be under the shadow of corporate entities, and I don’t want to feel my criticism of the games industry exists by their good graces.”
And so, here we have it; one of the more influential voices in gaming criticism and commentary leaving the comfortable confines of a steady-paying gig, and all the security that entails, to strike out on his own. His Patreon page, now, it would appear, his primary source of income, is less focused on begging for money than most any I’ve seen, but already sees over $8000 in support each month, as of this writing, from over 2200 contributors. Given the small percentage of his audience that number represents, it’s clear there’s potential for him to earn a great deal more, once the new website and podcast really hit their stride. But the fascinating part is how little that possibility seems to drive his decision making. It’s the autonomy, that’s where the value is for him. If he can “get by” in a paradigm that doesn’t involve corporate overlords, that’s more important to him that being more financially comfortable in the short term. That being said, it’s also true that, in a few years, we could be looking to Sterling as a model of how to truly actualize the earning potential of your own audience, without relying on middle-men, ads, or evil men in suits.
It’s never a bad thing when a strong voice frees itself of burdensome restrictions. In a space that values independence, that decries corporate shenanigans, it can only be good for the content, it can only ingratiate a creator to their audience. The real fascination comes from whether or not doing so is the best possible business decision. I’m confident when I say it is, and look forward to watching Jim Sterling prove me right.
Originally published at blog.gamewisp.com Nov 19, 2014.