Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Ten Reasons Why "Top Ten" Video Games Lists Suck

You've all seen them; in the field of video game journalism lies the proliferation of "Top Ten" lists that list anything from "Top Ten Hottest Babes of Videogames" to "Top Ten Largest Breasts of Videogames" to "Top Ten Videogame Characters I Would Like to Have Dinner With Before Having Sex". Yes, we've all read them, and we all know they are terrible. The following is a compendium of the top ten reasons when they suck like a black hole in the "Lame-O" unverserse on an off day.

10. "Top 10" lists are an excuse for poor journalism.

A "Top 10" list is simply an arrangement of an itemized list of a personal opinion. There is no journalism done here, no investigation into a hidden truth or cover-up nor a spotlight onto shady facts that have not seen the light of day. A "Top 10" list can be drawn up on a cocktail napkin during the elevator loading screen of Mass Effect. It is lazy and shallow journalism that doesn't say anything new that hasn't already been said a number of times before.

9. "Top 10" lists are an exercise in poor English.

An essay, that type of writing you got graded on in school and did poorly, has a thesis. A thesis is an opinion you are trying to prove in an essay by using a number of arguments to prove your point. "Top 10" lists have no thesis, it's just a bundle of opinions. Even within such a "Top 10" lists you'll find tenuous arguments why something is what the author says it is.

8. "Top 10" lists provide fodder for continual meaningless arguments and fan-boy proliferation.

Video games love "Top 10" lists because it provides something to argue about. As the entire internet is a medium that allows netizens to voice their disagreement, "Top 10" lists provide a vehicle for gamers to instantly disagree with each other on subject matter, and if not that, the ranking of subject matter.

7. "Top 10" lists endorse the fallacy that everything is gradeable on a scale from one to ten.

As a tech-savvy person of the information age, we think we can control the humongous flow of information that passes by our doorstep every passing second. One way we think we can do this is by assign a digital value to this information; the fallacy of this is that criticism is not true criticism if you don't actually think and interpret this information before you judge it. What use is a "10" if you don't know what it means, or why it is a "10", or how it relates to other information and products?

6. "Top 10" lists are simply an affirmation of an experience.

So you've played a video game. Then, you finished it. Congratulations. Perhaps you had a great time while you played it; hats off, three cheers. However, the need to tell others of the excellent time had with the game doesn't really say very much, considering people around the world are having likewise similar excellent experiences. Compiling these experiences into a "Top 10" list is as meaningless as affirmations of enjoying fresh air, tasty food, good weather and hot sex. A "Top 10" list usually is rendered redundant by adding "So?" or "And?" at the end of it.

5. "Top 10" lists are testimony to the maintainance of the status quo in video games.

Gamers are always looking towards the next big video game release because we are always excited about the perceived advancement in video game and how future games will look. Video games have changed alot over its short history, but then again video games are still conceptually and fundamentally the same. Players control the idealized figure of a bad ass figure who runs around breaking crates and defeating the same two or three enemy figures who drop red orbs for experience and green orbs for health (blue for mana) until collect all the keys to progress to the next level, not before fighting a boss character that kills your protagonist a few times until you learn the predictable sequence of the boss that you can then use to your advantage. This status quo also includes the "boy's club" mentality that endorses violence and sexism. "Top 10" lists are important because they say everything without saying anything, and so nothing ever changes.

4. "Top 10" lists only detail the perspective and experience of the list's author, and so have no relevance except to people of the same perspective and experience.

There are a whole lot of video games; lots of good stuff, even more bad stuff. So when you write a "Top 10 Best" list you are constrained to all that you ever experienced and not anything more. Besides only just being an affirmation of your experience, it also just shows how little you know. If you've only ever just played Nintendo games, it would make perfect sense that you would consider the best game of all time, let alone the ten best games of all time, to be a Nintendo game. Such a list is only important to the person making it and people of similar experience.

3. "Top 10" lists by nature are itemized sets of ten, but are usually written with less than ten points in mind.

Video gamers hate filler; we all hated Halo for basically being a game that had a story that progressed into the middle and then rewound the story until the end; it was the video game equivalent of a palidrome. However, gamers tend to pad out their "Top 10" lists by putting in filler in-between points until they eventually reach number one. You don't need ten reasons or points to write about when you only have six or seven, and so a "Top 10" list is thereby rendered irrelevant.

2. "Top 10" lists have become an end to itself, and so have evolved to become too varied for any real significance.

Gamers love "Top 10" lists, but many "Top 10" lists have already been written to the point of becoming immaterial. "Top 10" authors know this, and so write "Top 10" lists that have nothing to do with anything important. A couple of examples that will eventually be written once the "Top 10" list genre become oversaturated (if it hasn't already): "Top 10 Weapons in Video Games that Based on Tropical Citrus Fruit That Have Become Extinct Through Globalization", "Top 10 Videogames that Rhyme with 'Obama-rama-ding-dong'", and "Top 10 Why Aliens From Alpha Centari Will Not Buy An PS3".

2a. "Top 10" lists don't encourage independent thought.

If you have ideas and thoughts but they don't fit the mold of a "Top 10" list, what is one supposed to do? Start a rogue video game blog so far off the beaten path that no one reads it? I don't know why anyone would do such a thing.

2b. "Top 10" lists glorify the number ten.

Back before the ratings war and before he became a big jerk to guest (and subsequently reformed), David Letterman came up with the Top 10 list to pad out the show's length. Since then it has become a staple in pop culture. But why ten? Sure, our numberic system is based on a base ten format whereupon at increments of ten the cycle resets to start again - but there are other great numbers. Eleven (Spinal Tap), forty-two (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and that British band Level 42), seven (that movie that made everyone think Brad Pitt and Gwenyth Paltrow are a perfect couple and also that "UP" soda), eight ("is Enough") and seventeen (magazine) are all great numbers. It seems after Bo Derek we've only become judges out of ten.


1. People only care about #1 on a "Top 10" list.

Even if you are a fair and balanced author who has scientifically judged your subject matter and weighed them with the impartiality of King Solomon (that guy who wanted to cut a baby in half - you know, that nice man), readers will only care and remember what you put at number one. That pretty much makes the other nine redundant and unimportant, and not what a list of ten would serve in the first place.

Everybody: stop making "Top 10" lists; stop reading "Top 10" lists. I realize I just added to the problem by writing this - it's like putting up flyers to urge people not to put up flyers - but how else do I get people to read this?


  1. Top 3 list of "Why lists of all kinds are pretty cool!".

    1. People like lists, especially of hierarchic nature. They bring an illusion of order thus bringing some sense to the chaotic state of any subject. It's funny to see the whole rich cultural legacy neatly compacted into "Top 100 best songs" or "Top 500 albums" or "1001 movies to see before you die", even though the illusion passes quickly.

    2. They do reflect the taste of author in a way, even though he does do himself a big disservice, cramming his presumably complex personality and views into a such a rigid system.

    3. If written humorously and in a light-hearted way, it can be a splendid template for a quick lol.

    But basically, yeah, it's disgusting to watch people bickering over the question of how to distribute the first three places among FFVII, Ocarina of Time and Super Mario Bros, as if the numerical score and position is the final destination in any game's evaluation.

    I think, the most absurd and stupid list I've ever seen in my life is the list some dude made, where he arranged all Beatles song (ALL) in the numeric list, based on their each song individual merit.

    It was completely serious, poker-faced and utterly pointless.

  2. You need promotion, man. I am sure many gamers will be interested in what you have to say. Maybe sent yourself over to gaming blogs like RPS and suchlike.

    Anyway, beer is okay with me. ;-)

  3. Yeah, RPS is PC-centric. But I rather meant their (and sites like their's) continuous hunt for interesting opinion pieces about games and them culture surrounding. I think the contents of this blog fits the bill quite nicely.

  4. "them culture surrounding"

    Geezz... "the culture surrounding them" is what I was meaning to say.