As a child, James Stephanie Sterling often found themselves picking apart what made games good or bad, what entertained and what left them cold. Silent Hill 2 would prove their favorite game. They adored its evocatively bleak atmosphere, and years later, that mirrors how they feel about the video game industry. While on some level they love it, it’s also a relentlessly grim hellscape of cynical exploitation and empty platitudes. This caustic relationship is the key tension at the heart of Sterling’s long-running show, The Jimquisition.
The Jimquisition, the YouTube series first hosted at Destructioid and later The Escapist, is Sterling’s weekly bully pulpit where, clad in their trademark outlandish threads, they rain down scorn on game business scourges like predatory microtransactions, abusive work culture, and all manner of unethical business practices, emphatically reading “Poobisoft” and “Bethetic Games Studios” for filth in between non sequiturs about their affinity for Boglins.
Games journalism wasn’t the career path Sterling envisioned for themselves. It might not come as a surprise to habitual Jimquisition watchers, but a younger Sterling thought they’d become a standup comedian. While they didn’t have the zeal and passion to pursue the profession full time, their comedy discipline, alongside their love of analyzing video games, served as the foundation for The Jimquisition. Before the pandemic made working from home the norm, Sterling was working on the show full time from their laptop in a makeshift bedroom office and recording studio.
As a fresh-faced newcomer, they found themselves becoming giddy at the idea of having press access to review copies of games, as well as people in the industry commending them on their work. But the honeymoon didn’t last.
“Over time, as I started talking about the wider industry, I became so incredibly and bitterly disillusioned,” Sterling said.
The Jimquisition’s early success at Destructoid allowed them more freedom to fly off the handle while working at The Escapist, and they enjoyed more leeway than most gaming journalists to air out their grievances with the gaming industry. But that time came to an end.
One morning, Sterling woke to see that their Assassin’s Creed Unity review hadn’t been published. An email from The Escapist’s then editor-in-chief informed them they wouldn’t be running the review because of its critique of the game’s microtransaction practices.
“It was explained to me that [Defy Media] didn’t want to focus so much on the business side of games and felt that it had no place in games criticism with regards to talking about [Assassin’s Creed’s] monetization,” Sterling said. “They didn’t want to negatively impact potential sponsorship opportunities.”
As Sterling tells it, The Escapist’s vice president told them that sponsorship opportunities with game publishers were the direction gaming media was headed. The blossoming media personality decided to jump ship before letting the changing corporate tides pushed them out first, and went independent in 2014.
“I had already been mentally preparing the