The Ungratefuls: The Rise and Fall of Giant Bomb

The Ungratefuls: The Rise and Fall of Giant Bomb

The past 24 hours in the internet gaming media has been nothing short of a whirlwind of disbelief, astonishment, bewilderment, genuine befuddlery and a sentiment of “huh, about time” (whatever the word for that feeling is, because I don’t think there is one). Since Couch Money is a collective of us, who actually liked Giant Bomb one time or another, and our server has become pretty interesting, I felt that I wanted to take a moment and write down my full feelings on everything that has happened so far. While I know most already know exactly how I feel, as I don’t sugar coat things, I do want to make it clear without anyone thinking I just hate everything now period. So here are my personal feelings on what has gone down these last 24 hours.

Monday afternoons announcement of Jeff Gerstmann posting on twitter that “today is my last day at Giant Bomb” was nothing really of a shock. We all knew it was coming, and most of us even called it out that he would just announce it one day without any fanfare. It really wasn’t surprising. But I even have to admit I sat down when I saw the news and went “wow….” Not because I was shocked by the announcement, but more because it finally happened. Jeff has seemed uncharacteristically different over the last few years, and especially since the NextLander split. He seemed like an entirely different person in some light. Sure, give him a couple months and he was back to touting “We’ve got big plans!” and “This is just the beginning!” and “We are giving all the budget to our friends to do crazy stuff!”... but it was mostly lies… or at least I believe it was lies. He could have been genuinely trying to make Giant Bomb something different, but with the roll out, he seemed less and less interested in everything that was actually happening, while he smiled and lied through his teeth that “things are great!” the site just dug itself deeper and deeper into something no one wanted.

Over the course of the last few months, most of the time I completely forgot Giant Bomb even existed. It was only because of our server, and others posting here that continued to bring up the random weird unbelievably awkward things that were happening to the site on a weekly basis, all under the stewardship of Jeff Gerstmann, or so it seemed. Since Bakalar technically was really running the site in conjunction with Gamespot, and seemed to be pushing more and more cross-promotion, we all knew Jeff was relegated to the corner closet in his once owned company. But again, it hasn’t been “His” company in years, he sold out to Whiskey Media immediately, in turn CBSi bought Giant Bomb and then sold that to Red Ventures. So it hasn’t been Jeff’s personal company, he has just been founder and “editor in chief” of a gaming site that hasn’t published more than a handful of reviews a year since 2015.

From what I have gathered on Jeff over the last year, he really hasn’t done much of anything at the site he build from the ground up (with everyone else who technically built it never being named, Jeff is just the face and idea man). He’ll show up on a UPF and then claim he has to take care of his kids instead of working the job he was being paid well to do, from home, for a handful of hours a week, that only involved talking about a hobby). You can see the worlds tiniest violin I am playing from a mile away. All while everyone else tried to come up with ideas (none of them good, but that’s a different rant) Jeff sat around, moved out of San Francisco to a new remote location away from any possibility of ever going back to a office. The writing on the wall was again, visible from space. Jeff clearly wasn’t interested in Giant Bomb or anything do to with the company, but would gladly smile and collect a paycheck.

Later on Monday afternoon, apparently “Giant Bomb” wrote a article about Jeff leaving that seemed like a Laywer-Bott 3000 wrote it from it’s AI brain, and posted it on the site. Later it was removed because it seems like no one actually with the site wrote it, but also someone did and the staff knew who but couldn’t name a name. Fairly on-brand for current day Giant Bomb, and really shows the kind of leadership and communication they have over there. No one knew what was happening, other than “Big Boss Man Jeff” was gone, and immediately the tweets started to roll out. Some were classy, like Phil Spector, who acknowledged Jeff’s legacy and good times on the E3 couch. While others made it entirely about themselves, showcasing their narcissism and how they couldn’t wait for the corpse to be any fresher before they started reaching for the so-called throne. Even this news seemed to come as a surprise to NextLander as it happened during their stream, they all seemed to not know this was going to happen either. All we now had to go on was a timer on Giant Bomb’s Twitch page that showed up counting down to the bombcast and hopefully more information on what the heck happened for the last few hours.

All of this felt very weird and sudden, which led some to speculate that Jeff had gotten fired, since there were rumors of other “big” employee’s that got let go on Friday from Red Ventures. I personally didn’t think that, as the nonchalant way Jeff announced on Twitter seemed in line with his newer personality of not carrying whatsoever. So to me it seemed like Jeff was just done with everything, and even games and just left.

Then Tuesday morning came crashing in with the announcement that Dan Rykert was coming back to Giant Bomb just about two and a half years after he left the same company for greener pastures on his other “dream job” as a podcast producer at WWE. Which made perfect sense at the time. Giant Bomb was slowly starting to circle the drain, and GBeast was putting abby and her priorities over the clear favorite Dan. In yet another true to form example, Giant Bomb completely botched the news and let all of this play out over a Monday (which they don’t even work on) and bleed into Tuesday with no one exactly knowing what was going on really. Dan announced on his own that he was returning instead of keeping it a secret and bringing everyone together to talk about everything. Planning even just a little bit, like saying “Dan, don’t post until you’ve said it on the Podcast on Tuesday” and “Jeff don’t post until after we make the announcement on Tuesday” is like marketing and business strategy 101. Then Jeff went live on Twitch.

I tried to tune in during work when I had a few moments of free time, but I was immediately greeted with Jeff spamming his old tired soundboard. I honestly am surprised it still works after how many button presses it gets. And I just closed the window. I then tried back a few times after he showed up on camera and only heard him barely talk about how he wants to start something new with an interest in still covering games, as he still loves video games. Which he could have fooled me, because over the last few years his disposition towards video games made it seem like he hated any video game that wasn’t a Commodore 64 or Sharp X6800 bootleg game.

He then announced the thing we all knew was coming, a patreon, where we can give him our own money so he can talk about video games away from the evils of Giant Bomb the company he just left yesterday to do exactly what he refused to do before. As he was announcing a new podcast, that he was going to live record the first episode. He also showed off the “worst podcast art in the world” (his words, not mine) and clicked launch. At this point I had to close the stream and get back to work on streaming myself, so I didn’t get a chance to see more, but from what our discord server said, it seems like he was getting choked up and emotional in a way that he very rarely does. He kept saying it was a crazy last couple weeks; which leads me to believe his weird Tik-Tok video a couple weeks ago where he was looking like he just got a ton of bricks dropped on him, was after he found out that he got fired from the company he built. It would line up and make more sense of why he just seemed absolutely checked out (more so than usual anyways).

The day has been progressing and he is continuing to stream and passed the 5 hour mark which someone pointed out is more than 2 Alex Navarro work days combined worth of work in a single day! From what it sounds like, Jeff’s demeanor and attitude have done a full 180 degree turn from what he has been displaying over the course of the last few months/years. But I guess that’s going to happen when you literally have over 3,000 people giving you several thousand dollars for a few hours of talking.

I kinda want to just wrap this up by giving my honest and true opinion on the matter. I was drawn to Giant Bomb because of the entire crew back in 2010/2011, but mostly because of Jeff. He was the one that always seemed like he knew what he was talking about more than anyone else, and did have that knowledge that most in the games media industry don’t have past the few well known trivia (Mario 2 is actually just Doki Doki Panic with Mario characters, things like that). At some point, Jeff’s attitude toward gaming turned bitter, and he seemed to grow more and more jaded and hateful at gaming in general. Nothing lived up to his expectations, and he became more of the “old man” than I or anyone else thought he would, and it happened fairly quickly. To the point where I no longer wanted to hear his thoughts on anything, because I already knew what it was going to be, it was going to be disdain for whatever new game that didn’t live up to the classic arcades and European PC systems of the late 80’s.

While I don’t personally wish Jeff harm or hate him as a person, and I truely did like him and want him to be happy (which he seemed to definitely not be at Giant Bomb over the last year). I have lost all respect for him. Not because of his ideas on games or anything like that. But because he has openly mocked his audience, the one he now is courting to pay his salary. His perplexing attitude to remain utterly silent to an audience constantly asking for any update at all to anything happening to a site that again, was keeping him happy and at home over the last few years, his refusal to ever even engage in a discussion to let members and customers know what was going on is where I drew the line.

It seems like the last year, where his friends ditched him for greener pastures was the start, along with Jeff Bakalar becoming his own boss and managing him really was the main catalyst for Jeff’s complete disregard for anything and everything Giant Bomb. He kept smiling through it all, and telling everyone it was great and everything was fine, but deep down we all know it was BS.

Which brings me to my Jerry Springer, Final Thought. While it’s nice to finally see a change up, it’s nice to see Jeff leave a place he clearly was miserable at, it doesn’t excuse his attitude and lack of any effort over the last few years, no matter how “bad” your job was (again, it was sitting at home and talking about video games a couple hours a week) to treat everyone around you and your customers like that. It comes down to integrity and doing what is right even when what is right is hard. There is no way Jeff was gagged from talking about how the site was doing, or what this feature was promised and never happened, or why that feature went on “hiatus” never to return. There was prue radio silence from Jeff for YEARS. I can’t remember but there was something like a month before they said anything about what was happening to the site after the NextLander spilt, and the day NextLander launched, Giant Bomb also went “Oh yeah, um hey, we hired someone! That’ll fix everything”.

Everything about that company is a reactionary attempt. Nothing is ever planned, nothing is ever talked about, everything is kept secret like its contents are world altering. Dan coming back to Giant Bomb means nothing, because Jan and Jess and Jason and the rest are all still there and miserable to listen to. Jeff added nothing anyways, so adding Dan who now seems to be in charge just means we’ll probably see more ways to grift money out of people in scummy ways.

Jeff being on his own was something that should have happened at the start of 2020. But while the pandemic was happening, he knew he could just kinda hang at home and still keep food on the table and pay bills. But the moment he was really unhappy, especially around last year with the NextLander launch, he should have bolted too. Either hooking up with NextLander, as they seem they totally would be down to still doing stuff, but Jeff clearly has been too prideful as he even said today he hasn’t kept in touch like he should and he only assumes they are still  on good terms. We all have cell phones, he can give them a call and show up on stream one day… There is nothing in the rule books saying he couldn’t, clearly Bakalar is doing that.

Or he could have seen the writing on the wall and planned this out as a contingency plan. Being Batman pays off, that prep could have been done in secret and launched the moment the other shoe fell and he got let go. And it would have shown some part of effort on his end, and to me that type of stuff speaks volumes. If that silence and disdain for everyone didn’t go on so long, I might have more empathy, but he really burnt the bridge for me. And yes, I know I’m only one dude on the internet, who doesn't ultimately matter. Clearly 3,000 other people think totally differently than I do, but he had his chance, he had multiple times to show why kind of person he really is, and time and time again, that person didn’t care about the people who supported him, who kept listening and subscribing year after years, because they believed in the idea of Giant Bomb and Jeff Gersmann. But clearly that is a one way street, until he needs to actually earn the paycheck he gets, or at least seem like he’s earning it.

Too little too late, it applied to anyone and everyone associated with the Giant Bomb site. A little planning and preparation, forethought and effort would have gone a long way to make me feel differently. But as of now, I'm a doubting Thomas, I’m not going to believe it till I see it. If he really does change and puts real effort into this stuff, I’m down to listen again, but I have to see not just effort, but consistency. One day streaming for 5 hours isn’t enough, it needs to be consistent streams, real effort into production (again, SUPER NOT HARD, no matter what Vinny says) and communication that isn’t once every several months of “hey sorry, life got in the way”. I guess all that to say, I’m not Mad, I’m just Disappointed.