Trash Mutant Interviews (TMI): Jim Sterling
- by Ninja Ross, 24 September 2012
TRASH MUTANT: As a fellow Englishman, I have to ask: How did you escape? And why? Also, why did you move to Mississippi, of all places?
JIM STERLING: I left for marriage reasons. Wife's based here, and since I can do my job from anywhere in the world, it just made more sense to move. I probably won't stay based in MS forever. I'm eyeing up a handful of prospective destinations once it becomes viable to make another move.
How did you first get into game journalism?
I'd been writing online for a good few years before I decided I might be halfway decent enough to make a job out of it. I collected some game reviews I did for fun and basically emailed them everywhere I could think of. Eventually IGN Insider's editor got in touch and offered me an article. Did that, and it opened some more doors, eventually leading me to Destructoid, where I was given the job that led me to my proper grown-up career.
Why is it you love the Alien franchise so much?
What's not to love? Not only are the movies expertly crafted, the visual design is absolutely gorgeous. The Xenomorph itself is a creature I find utterly fascinating, from its invasive breeding methods to its utterly alluring look. It's a beautifully designed movie monster, and one I've been in love with since childhood.
Speaking of the Alien franchise, have your feelings towards Colonial Marines changed at all recently now that Gearbox have announced that female marines will be included?
I was already excited for it and I still am. More, my attitude toward Gearbox has changed from liking them to really liking them. Gearbox is a good studio, with some of the best writers around and a real energy and passion for the games it makes. Colonial Marines is in good hands, I think.
You're an outspoken critic of EA and their marketing tactics and a lot of people (including myself) completely agree with you. But do you see any sign of them redeeming themselves in the near future? Or do you see signs of them getting worse?
EA's been in a position of redemption before, back in the mid-2000s when it conducted itself with a shred of humility and seemed to champion originality while reflecting honestly on its past mistakes. It seems to have totally forgotten everything it did right back then, but never say never. It was close to being a halfway decent business once before, so maybe one day it'll manage to go the extra distance.
I find your videos to be very educational as well as very funny. How important is the educational side of your series to you?
With the Jimquisition in particular, it is of paramount importance. The comedy aspect's purely incidental to the driving point of almost every episode, as I have a lot of ideas I want to share with the audience and often feel the show is a way of exorcising them, lest they burst out of my head in a grisly fashion.
You recently joined other Escapist contributors at Escapist Expo. How well did that go, behind the scenes? Did you get along with all of your colleagues?
I was surprised at how well everybody got on. People are always at least professionally courteous at events, but it went beyond that with us all really having a good laugh. I loved meeting Gavin, and hanging out with Graham, and both Yahtzee and Bob were delightful to chat to. It's funny, because the Escapist is like a TV network for the contributors -- we each have our own shows, but don't really interact with each other. Since the expo, that's changed quite a bit. Couldn't be happier for it.
You're easily one of the most confident game's journalists in the business. Is there a trick to your confidence?
To make people think I'm confident when I'm really terrified of everything I do!
What video games are you looking forward to the most in the coming months, into next year?
Dishonored is pretty high on my list of wants, and I'm still honestly excited for Silent Hill: Book of Memories. Into next year, Colonial Marines and BioShock Infinite are biggies.
How do you choose what subjects to talk about in Jimquisition, out of all the major game news stories every week?
I'm afforded something of a bird's eye view of the news given that I do daily commentary on Destructoid so every major event passes my eyes. Either I select the most intriguing subject of the week, or I pick from my list of general ideas I've gathered together. Basically, I'll talk about whatever's pissing me off the most.
Do you have any regrets in your career?
I think some of my more reckless stuff, especially with regards to my talking about gender issues, were huge misfires. I've written "joke" articles that, in hindsight, were just straight up offensive and not particularly helpful, and while I'm a big fan of tasteless humor, I feel I've crossed the line into straight-up tasteless once or twice. Since I've reflected on that stuff, I've tried to make better contributions to the overall inclusivity and safety of the gamer community. I've probably stuffed that up too, but I can only do my best. There are helpful blogs out there that have collected some of my least savory writing and kept them held firmly under a microscope for anybody curious.
You must see and hear some weird stuff in your line of work. What's the weirdest thing you've experienced in your career?
Recently, standing in the middle of a public bathroom with a guy who's got his entire head wrapped in bandages, and is still wrapping, asking me if I am Jim Sterling. It's certainly the kind of image that I think sums up my career well.
Most people who are familiar with your work know about the Reddit controversy, where people complained about how you gave Mario Kart 7 "5 out of 10" for being a rehash of the previous games while you gave Modern Warfare a "9.5 out of 10." Many Reddit users saw this as hypocritical but you stood by your scores. Do you still get a lot of trouble from Reddit users? How has that affected you as a person and your career, if at all?
Reddit is Reddit. I've had threads where they've been very supportive, and many others where they've not been. I respect that community, but at the same time I try not to take it too personally anymore.
I think the MK/MW thing is a perfect example of what happens when people don't read the text and try to boil down an entire article to a two-line meme, but I feel more validated by that than worried these days. If you read the two reviews in question, the text backs up the arguments adequately. It's up to everyone else if they read it or not. I've done my part and I feel that continuing to argue beyond that suggests my job was unfinished.
I'm only affected by these controversies in my general attitude toward defending myself. For a good long while I'd get really defensive of my reviews, but once you see the same old arguments thrown at you no matter how many times you address them, it becomes very boring and pointless. Now I just post the review, stop reading the comments after they hit about thirty (once the angry people show up), and generally keep out of the fighting.
What's next for you? There have been rumblings of a novel and a comic book in the works. Any chance of seeing these projects being released any time soon?
Both the comic and the novel are kind of hobby ideas that I like thinking about, but don't quite have the time to take seriously at the moment. Right now I have my reviews and Jimquisition to concentrate on, plus an all-new show (not about games!) coming soon to the Escapist. Well, if the pilot is successful. I guess we'll see!
Thanks again for agreeing to do the interview!
Not at all!
Thank God for Jim Sterling! For more of his video game journalism check out all the episodes of "The Jimquisition" on the Escapist and read his articles on Destructoid. You can also follow Jim Sterling on Twitter, so get to it!