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Jim Sterling, a gaming critic notorious for his reviews and unfiltered opinions, has had the $10 Million lawsuit leveled against him by Digital Homicide, completely dismissed. I wanted to discuss why this is a good thing
The turmoil started back in 2014 when Sterling named one of their games, Slaughtering Grounds, “New ‘Worst Game Of 2014′ Contender.” The game which was a mess of purchased and free Unity assets, topped off with blood stain images lifted right from Google rightfully earned it that title, and Sterling, doing his job, pointed this out.
This avalanched into a two year “feud”, if you can even call it that, that brought about one of the most ridiculous lawsuits I have seen in years. You can just think of peak Jack Thompson levels of insanity. Love him or hate him, Sterling became the poster boy for critics in gaming. While being a bit of a former shell of his original edgy self, changing drastically from his persona built when Destructoid was fresh, he still generally strives for the greater good, in his own mind.
I say that in full knowing that he, in many peoples’ minds, is gaming’s equivalent of “live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” as he is prone to use what I consider damaging and petty uses of power when a company rubs him the wrong way. You should watch his “Why It’s Morally Okay To Pirate All Of Nintendo’s Games” video for a recent examples of this.
I have seen many of the more hardcore Sterling detractors state they would love to see this case ruin him, but I am here to try changing the way you think about this prospect. I hope to give you an idea of what would happen to all critics, big and small, good and bad, if this were to happen. Even though the lawsuit looks to have been written in a slam poetry jam attended by Dr. Seuss and Adam Sessler after a “really long E3”, if it had been won, it would have been the end of almost all media press and critics.
Now I know some of you might have a glint in your eye because of recent media events, but let me explain further. With a lawsuit like this, it places a monetary value on any type of criticism, in its entity, with no real limits. Simply put, you would be assigning a value to the discomfort of a bruised ego and hurt feelings, even if the party being criticized fully deserves the criticism.
The ripple effect would be that all media and reporting would be subject to this set precedents, establishing a pattern that would inform all lawsuits and those who file them in the future. This would essentially smack the First Amendment of our Constitution with the equivalent of a Fat Man, leaving an irradiated mess.
“Dramatic Exaggeration for emphasis.”
Sterling was lucky that Digital Homicide was incompetent as this was easy to dismiss once the ground game was placed by his lawyer.
Jim had a secure base and the money to fight such a lawsuit, but many don’t, which leads to out of court settlements all the time. Paying up can be cheaper then the alternative and is a fundamental problem with lawsuits in the United States. We’ve even see this tactic used on companies like Nintendo when it comes to false copyright claims.
With this dismissal we all win, as it provides all of us with a shining precedence to point to when criticism of gaming gets challenged as anything other then just that. Sterling footed the bill on this one and that should be acknowledged.
On the flip side of this is YouTuber H3H3, who has been in a costly legal battle with YouTuber THE BOLD GUY, mirroring Sterling’s battle with Digital Homicide. If this case is lost, it will destroy YouTubers.
Something like this would affect us at Niche Gamer as well, halting the ability to cast criticism without fear of crippling debt and costly legal battles.
You might not be “thanking God” for Jim Sterling, but you better be for the competent chain of lawyers he went through, because one wrong slip and everything from reviews to let’s plays tumbles down the hill with it. That my friends, is not an exaggeration.