The Top Ten Reasons Top Ten Lists Reign

Sam Machkovech | 28 Apr 2009 13:05
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8) The author is always wrong.
WTF, dude?! Why didn't you mention Final Fantasy Tactics, Advance Wars or any of the Namco Museum games? How about you grow a pair and import some real GBA games like Kuru Kuru Kururin, Rhythm Tengoku or a bunch of other titles people can't even buy?

The Game Boy Advance sucked, anyway, because it was for 12-year-old losers. You're a 12-year-old loser. I totally hate you - so much so, in fact, that I'm going to endlessly refresh this comments thread in the hopes that either you or one of your 12-year-old loser friends replies to my rant, so I can reiterate just how much I hate you. Loser.

7) Most gaming news outlets are already lists.
Folks are still trying to figure out how readers consume web content, but the current consensus is they prefer skimming and don't want to click through a lot of links. With those criteria in mind, list-formatted content wins out every time. Even the most popular gaming sites have little reason to shy away from the bloggy, long-column format.

Digg and Reddit take this one further, allowing users to rank the presented content by date, number of views, comment count and other variables. The top 25 list as an ultimate gateway to top ten lists is meta enough; this very top ten list has gotten dizzy and fallen over just thinking about it.

6) Everything old is new again.
Even the biggest gaming outlets run out of things to talk about in their rush to post 40 stories a day. When stretched thin, some outlets use the opportunity to "investigate" or "report." Not your favorite sites, though. On slow news days, they prefer to dust off the yearbooks, reminisce about the good days and wistfully regret that they never asked Super Metroid out when they had the chance.

There's nothing inherently wrong with nostalgic lists, because they're a reflection of the way we consume games. This list, for example, catalogs the ten problems the author hopes won't reappear in the forthcoming Diablo III. His piece is as much a chance to uniquely reflect on an old favorite as it is a chance to anticipate and salivate over a long-awaited follow-up - and the list's attention to Diablo detail caters to the series' biggest fans, who are already doing both of those things in droves. (It figures that dungeon-crawling addicts would be compulsive about information.)


Also, lists like "top ten N64 games" don't read much differently than when friends get together for some FPS mayhem: Somebody inevitably brings up GoldenEye, another guy mentions BattleTanx, insults are thrown, Cheetos fly, etc. The top ten list is an easier way to reflect this never-ending fanboy conversation - without the cheese-orange fingers.

5) They help you become an expert as quickly as possible.
To the previous point, older titles form the basis of our gaming vocabulary. As in any other critical field, games writing would be nothing without comparisons - "Killzone is Call of Duty mixed with Gears of War," etc. To keep up, we flock to top ten lists for the same reason we consume so many gaming sites in the first place - to "win," to know everything we can, to be masters at the game of gaming. With a list, we can learn about a chunk of similar games in much less time than it would take to play 'em all.

Chances are you didn't own a Sega 32X, a Neo-Geo, and a Jaguar, let alone every single game for those systems. (If you did, chances are I showed up at your doorstep begging to be your new best friend.) For hoarding nerdy minutiae, lists are the only reasonable option, especially since they skip over a category's ho-hum titles and focus on the studs and duds.

And for younger gamers who've missed ancient consoles, listening in to neurotic list-makers is an organic way to catch up - and to learn fun, new curse words in the comment threads.

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