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The top five members of the videogames press
by Andrew Testerman

Disclaimer: The views contained in this article represent those of the author, and not necessarily Gamer's Guide to as a whole.

In this enlightened age of the iPad, 4G wireless, and Snuggie, it has never been a better time to be a journalist within the gaming industry. Yes, it’s more cutthroat than ever to get those cherished, traffic-driving exclusive stories, and jaded internet users are more than happy to pounce on any opinion that doesn’t match or validate their own, but now individuals are given a chance to rise above the outlets they represent, and carve out a name for themselves. Today’s list celebrates those who have managed to claw their way above the dull roar of the gaming press and make themselves heard.

In the name of fair play, I’m excluding GGTL staff from this list (because, let’s face it, that list would read something like: 1) Greg Mengel, 2) Greg Mengel, 3) Greg Mengel, etc.), but anyone else is eligible. The following five are respected journalists, but that’s not why they’re here: they each command a unique voice and presence that helps them stand out from the herd of other gaming outlets.

5: Geoff Keighley, GameTrailers

Known in some circles as the "Ryan Seacrest of video games", Keighley is the charismatic (though occasionally smarmy) host of both Bonus Round on and GameTrailers TV on Spike, though his résumé extends much further than that. Keighley has contributed to various television programmes, such as The Electric Playground and the now-defunct, and is the executive producer of the Spike Video Game Awards.

But don’t hold that against him.

Keighley can sometimes seem like an over-caffeinated MTV video jockey, but I would argue that the industry needs an over-caffeinated video jockey on its team along with all of the other members of the gaming press. Personalities like Keighley’s can be found throughout the rest of the entertainment industry, lending him (and the industry, by association) a sense of validation that, yes, even those nerdy vidja’ game folk can still hang out with cool people.

Probably the best thing about Keighley - aside from his good looks and Carson Daly-like rapport with the camera - is his apparent journalistic drive; GameDaily named him Journalist of the Year in 2005, and NewsBios named him one of the thirty best journalists under thirty, and he sometimes contributes to outlets like Official Xbox Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Kotaku. Keighley appeared on Fox News to discuss the Mass Effect controversy in 2008, and provided the treatment for a five-hour documentary on the history of video games in 2007 (which he also helped to produce). Though his face may be used to shill various things for GameStop nowadays, his on-camera persona and presence in the industry make him a valuable asset to anyone looking for advancements in videogame journalism.

4: Jeff Gerstmann, Giant Bomb

I’ll be honest: Jeff Gerstmann could make the list for this segment alone. His wild energy and everyman appearance make him incredibly easy to relate to, and a tonne of fun to watch. However, Gerstmann is not only an entertainer, but a fine example of how the internet can help ambitious, talented folk bootstrap themselves into success.

Everyone already knows this story, but permit me to retell it anyway. Back in 2007, Gerstmann was suddenly, and without warning, dismissed from his old post at Gamespot for unspecified reasons. Of course, the circumstantial evidence painted a pretty clear picture of what had happened: Eidos had been flooding Gamespot with advertisements for its new potential blockbuster, Kane and Lynch. The advertisements even worked its way into the site’s functionality, letting users edit their own Kane and Lynch trailers, and other such sundries. When Gerstmann’s review was published, however, the results weren’t pretty: he ended up giving the game a six-out-of-ten, a far cry from the score a game that was important enough to occupy so much ad space apparently should have got. Before long, Gerstmann was terminated from the staff at Gamespot, leaving him to fend for himself.

Gerstmann, however, dusted himself off and started anew, this time with his own website. Rather than give it a 'game-related' title, he went with the name Giant Bomb, which he felt would stand out. He was right. Today, Gerstmann provides editorial content and impressions videos for the site he created, as well as an inspiration to anyone who simply wants to "go get 'em, tiger".

3: Reiner and Phil, Game Informer

Apart, Andrew Reiner and Philip Kollar of are two entertaining, coherent editors for Game Informer, producing many well-written reviews and previews for the magazine. Together, however, they are a modern day Statler and Waldorf, banding together to roast games that come their way in the ongoing Reiner and Phil segments on Game Informer’s website. Though they’re often as kind as they are cruel, their best material far and away comes from when they run across games that... aren’t so grand.

Reiner and Phil’s videos are generally the first half-hour of gameplay for the week’s biggest release, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Crysis 2. Recently, they’ve started playing games that may be considered not-so-great, such as the recently released Beastly, based on the Daniel Barnz movie of the same name (which is based heavily on the Twilight movies). It’s here that they start to shine, frequently going down tangential nowhere-paths, and quipping there's no tomorrow. Phil often acts as the straight man, while Reiner cracks his knuckles and goes to town on the task at hand.

Both Reiner and Phil are also recurring guests on GI’s weekly feature, Replay - no relation to the GGTL column of the same name - which, true to its name, replays through an older or forgotten title from console generations gone by. However, they’re truly at their best when they bounce off one another, pointing out gameplay impressions in addition to throwing out one-liners. Both a comedy show and a way to demo the newest games, Reiner and Phil deserve special recognition from gamers who haven’t found them yet.

2: Adam Sessler, G4

It’s hard to argue that Adam Sessler hasn’t seen better days than he has now — the man, by all appearances, is starting to run out of steam. Theories for this are as numerous as the many shovelware titles for Wii, and it’s tough to truly say what the deal is. I personally think that the industry is slowly starting to wear him down (how much internal industry politics can one man take before he cracks?), and it certainly can’t help that the network he works for doesn’t seem to give a collective crap about him and his work (despite X-play being G4’s highest-rated show, of course).

That said, the Sess is just as valuable as when he started at ZDTV more than ten years ago, and has since become one of the most articulate and learned representatives of gaming and gamer culture today. Sure, the guy’s bad jokes and on-the-air antics can get a bit over-the-top, but few can analyse and break down a game and its themes in such thoughtful ways as this man. Over the years, Sessler has had many chances to stand up and make himself heard about gaming issues, including on Fox News in response to the infamous Mass Effect controversy in 2008, and a debate about Grand Theft Auto IV with Jack Thompson on NPR later the same year.

It’s true that he could probably stand to lighten up a little (some extended holiday time may do that) or tone down just a little (new writers, perhaps?), but when it comes down to brass tacks, no one in the industry can offer observations as poignant and thoughtful as Adam Sessler.

1: Brandon Jones, GameTrailers

Many on this list have charisma to spare, but only one of them has The Voice. You know The Voice. It’s the sound that lets you know there is authority in the universe, the sound that provides a total and crystal clear image of the way life works, the sound that bypasses your ears and goes straight to the area of the brain that makes you feel goddamn good. Similar to others with The Voice (for instance, Peter Cullen, and his old Toonami promos), Brandon Jones often seems to speak on behalf of a higher power.

Most video reviews available from other game sites are delivered by vocal performers who sound bewildered about being in the recording booth at all, often speaking extemporaneously and sounding like a 6th grade recitation of Through the Looking-Glass. Jones's dulcet tones, however, shine with polish, lending each highly-scripted review an air of authority that says, "yeah, this is the way it is". Even if you may not agree with the review, Jones still manages to sell the piece's ideas in a convincing, matter-of-fact tone that makes the content easier to swallow than hot tea and honey.

I will admit that I'm rather biased towards voiceover artists (the career is a personal aspiration of mine), but Jones’ contributions give GameTrailers a sense of distinctiveness, and make its reviews somewhat an anomaly: an entertaining and compelling way to watch someone else play video games. Others have occasionally stepped in to fill Jones' spot, but the effect is not the same. Jones' melodious timbre is the voice of GameTrailers, and I’m confident that the site would not be the same without him.

Of course, there are surely more quality members of the gaming press worth crowing about. Who do you feel should be in this top five? Make sure to sound off in the comments below, or reply via our Twitter: @ggtl.

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- Andrew Testerman

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