199: The Top Ten Reasons Top Ten Lists Reign

The Top Ten Reasons Top Ten Lists Reign

The web may have reinvented the way we write about games, but one format continues to dominate the conversation: the top ten list. Sam Machkovech catalogues ten reasons of his own why lists are so popular - and why that may not be such a bad thing after all.

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I imagine some psychologist somewhere has also drawn the line between numbered lists and a mathematical mindset as opposed to full-length review essays which cater to a more linguistic tilt. Satire, of course, belongs in both as demonstrated.

There will always be a place for lists because they are quick and easy. They're an overview which helps information gathering in a world where one may not have time to read something more detailed. So long as enough information is held within they're very adequate to that end. A review is something more involved (at least to my eyes) because it requires integration and flow.

As a guess, I'm going to say the entire thing started with Cracked.com. I'm probably wrong, but I hardly remember seeing them before Cracked showed up, and now here we are.

Top Ten Lists are one of the reasons why I stopped caring so much about becoming a video game journalist back in high school. It's also why I not-so-secretly envy anyone working for the Escapist. Call it brown-nosing if you want, but the Escapist has evolved video game journalism by leaps and bounds, while other sites are left in this myriad of "exclusive" interviews and... as the article suggests... top ten lists.

Ah yes, let us give props to the glorious Escapist for actually giving us journalism worth READING in addition to Mike Grace and now Ernest Cavelli's crazy ass news posts about non videogame related topics.

Still, I am a hesitant fan of the "Top Ten List" mostly due to the formatting of my second favorite site on the internet, Cracked.com. However the lists presented by them feel less like large opinion pieces and more like an arbitrary rating system for whatever insane (and remarkably well researched for a comedy website) information they want to convey at the time of reading.

I dearly wish videogame websites would work on this sort of thing... why not give us "The Top Ten Girliest JRPG Leads" or "The Top Five Reasons Why Bowser and Peach are totally banging." It would be an interesting diversion from the over praising "Previews" and the under critical "Reviews" and gluts of screenshots and pointless gameplay video's that every site and their mom has up. I suppose it would also be too much to ask for the average gaming website to give us, you know, something worth reading... like The Escapist...

Now if you'll excuse me I need to go wipe this brown off my nose.

Indigo_Dingo:
As a guess, I'm going to say the entire thing started with Cracked.com. I'm probably wrong, but I hardly remember seeing them before Cracked showed up, and now here we are.

David Letterman has been doing Top Ten lists on his show for over twenty years now and MAD magazine was doing them in print fifty years ago (*gesticulates wildly with cane, upsetting glass of prune juice*) so it predates cracked.com by a long shot. They've been online since Usenet went online, too.

I'll vote for "easy to do while drawing in lots of eyeballs" as the primary reason for ubiquitous Top Ten lists, myself.

-- Steve

I sometimes submit articles to a Dutch gaming website and it's notable that my three top 10 lists get higher scores and more comments than my reviews of freeware and Virtual Console games. The main reason for this is probably that people who don't want to read a whole article can now simply look at which games are listed and in what order. Because my lists are often combinations of universally popular titles and cult games there are a lot of people of thinking "Hey, that guy mentioned my my favourite game! I'm gonna rate that five stars!".

David Letterman has a Top 10 list every show, but his are short and sweet. That's really the reason why people make these lists, it attracts a users attention long enough to where the site will receive a "hit" from the reader, and the reader can browse the article in 1-2 minutes. I think it works well for for people with ADD.

but the article does hit on one of the reason why i love lists, which is an easy way to look for new things.... amazon has perfected it with listmania! and that other thing that they have. Yes, there's mucho repetition in many, many lists (gaming or non) but I'll almost always find something new to add to my neverending queue of things to read, watch, listen to and play.

I liked this article a lot.

On actual top ten lists wise, I actually enjoy reading them. If they're well written and the topic is at least half interesting then it'll be worth reading. I have thisa weird problem where once I've read a single list I can't stop reading lists. I blame Gamesradar.com for their ace Top 7 lists. They are, annoyingly, quite often the back bone of my games reading.

I need to write my own one day.

PedroSteckecilo:
I dearly wish videogame websites would work on this sort of thing... why not give us "The Top Ten Girliest JRPG Leads" or "The Top Five Reasons Why Bowser and Peach are totally banging." It would be an interesting diversion from the over praising "Previews" and the under critical "Reviews" and gluts of screenshots and pointless gameplay video's that every site and their mom has up.

My friend, GamesRadar has you covered. They do practically nothing but lists and the goofier ones are right in line with your topical desires. Besides the lists of "Gaming's most fabulous footwear," "10 reasons to respect Mafia II," and "12 games you might never play," here are some recent, notable top seven lists...

- Games where you play as food
- Lazy character cliches
- Outrageously camp bad guys
- Games so bad they had to add breasts
- Cringeworthy kisses

GamesRadar never fails me when I need to access the lowest common denominator of the gaming press. I would expect nothing less from a website with a side-banner reading "Straight to the sexy."

Top 10 reasons I loved this article
10) It featured top ten lists, which is a very original topic for an article.
9) More than once, I had to say "That is SO true!"
8) It's very well-written, with a very fresh style.
7) It's on The Escapist. I'd be damn happy to have my work published on The Escapist.
6) It's going to lead to some very interesting discussion, hopefully.
5) It is well-informed, with references to quotes, sites and whatnot.
4) Made me laugh with anti GBA argument.
3) It's about a topic that needs no expertise to understand, which makes it nice, light reading.
2) It takes shots at fanboys. Bonus points for that.
1) This spot is just carrot on a stick. Suckers.

People seem to be drawn to "list". I guess in this run around world its the quick-fix version of anything, just give me the quick over view so i can get on with doing nothing i dot need details. Look at VH1 it has made a lucrative living off list shows for a while now, pretty much reinventing itself, since it doesnt play fucking music anymore.

And, of course, this article wouldn't be complete without its entries on Digg and Reddit.

Well first off welcome to the escapist Sam! Second, thank you very much for an article that was well-written and entertaining on the parody of Top 10 lists. Finally, hope to see some more work from you in the future.

P.S. I'm a sucker for Top 10 lists for the reasons mentioned in the article. It has been a while since I've read one...until now.

@Tenmar: Thanks! My profile has links to other Escapist things I've written, among other links.

Anton P. Nym:

Indigo_Dingo:
As a guess, I'm going to say the entire thing started with Cracked.com. I'm probably wrong, but I hardly remember seeing them before Cracked showed up, and now here we are.

David Letterman has been doing Top Ten lists on his show for over twenty years now and MAD magazine was doing them in print fifty years ago (*gesticulates wildly with cane, upsetting glass of prune juice*) so it predates cracked.com by a long shot. They've been online since Usenet went online, too.

I'll vote for "easy to do while drawing in lots of eyeballs" as the primary reason for ubiquitous Top Ten lists, myself.

-- Steve

I've read over a fair few classic MAD's and I doubt that. And most of those were Top reasons or names, as opposed to real objects.

Great article Sam, loved the #1 on the list.

Still, making a top ten list is a bit of a cheap shot, isn't it? ^_^

Ironmaus:
Yep, I read the escapist and gamesradar as well, one for articles like the one on advertizing this week and the other for glorious nonsense.

The reason they're probably quite popular right now is because it's that time of year when news is slow. Besides, it's not like everything else isn't being covered; the sites guilty of Top 10 lists are most likely just putting up stuff they thought might make an interesting aside. A reminder maybe (and usually) of gaming past. Therefore I don't mind them, though I hardly go out of my way to read them.

Great article. I think you've managed to get many of the reasons spot on. I mean, I visit Gamefaqs with regularity (i.e., even when I'm not consulting a FAQ), despite not being a member of the site or visiting the forums, and one of the things I like doing is seeing the top 10 lists that appear on the front page.

Many times, I've felt despair at a list that included things I felt plain wrong or ridiculous, such as lamenting when a 'top 10 alternative use of weapons' included grenade jumping in Halo, but not the original (and far more important!) rocket jump of quake. Sometimes, on the other hand, I'll agree with a list entirely, confirming my prejudices, and sometimes I'll stop to analyze why the author picked one thing or another.

However, even when the list doesn't interest me, I'll usually take a look at the number 1 in any case, a clear sign to me that that is the big draw to these lists.

This is a really great top ten list, I love top ten lists so much I created a website all about it. People just somehow like things grouped in 10 and they like ranking things. It's makes you able to kind of say what is better worse than others. Great analysis though, it was really in depth and I enjoyed reading it. Anyone can post their own list to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

The funny thing is, I was watching the top 100 one hit wonders of the 80's on VH1 while reading it!

Tch, I clicked on this article for a funny list, and instead I get a list of why lists suck. That's....stupid. I'm at a loss for words, but I know I should say something.

"Scoff scoff. Scoooooooofff." We all do it, but this is just too elitist. The author doesn't even have a point to make, he's just bashing people who make lists and calling everyone who enjoys them impressionable cocks. I guess since this guy thinks lists are beneath him, I can never go to Cracked again. Oh well.

This is pricklike. I was hoping for, if not something funny, something insightful and intelligent. Something maybe important. Something that doesn't sound like an aristocrat putting out his cigar in a plebeian's face. This site is supposed to be superior, not act superior. There's a difference.

I sure hope Sam doesn't read this comment or his monocle might fall off.

You're not paying attention cball. He didn't offer ten reasons why they suck. That lists basically suck was part of his premise. There's a lot of hatred for the format, and it's useful to consider why they continue to be written, read, and linked despite that hatred.

When you're done knocking off people's monocles (An act I'm sure requires strength, intelligence, and moral superiority) maybe you could offer a counterpoint about how the list format inspires creativity, or is used in especially well-researched or written pieces, instead of just complaining about how someone thinks you have poor taste in written material.

shMerker:
You're not paying attention cball. He didn't offer ten reasons why they suck. That lists basically suck was part of his premise. There's a lot of hatred for the format, and it's useful to consider why they continue to be written, read, and linked despite that hatred.

When you're done knocking off people's monocles (An act I'm sure requires strength, intelligence, and moral superiority) maybe you could offer a counterpoint about how the list format inspires creativity, or is used in especially well-researched or written pieces, instead of just complaining about how someone thinks you have poor taste in written material.

You missed my point. It wasn't his content that I had a beef with. If he doesn't like list based articles, who am I to say he should, or that he shouldn't voice his opinions? My problem is his tone. There wasn't a single sentence that wasn't smug and superior. It was disgusting. And on a topic as unimportant as this, an attitude like that is petty.

Also, I'm confused as to why you implied I lack strength, considering you've never met me, intelligence, since this is likely the only post of mine you've read, or moral superiority, a very odd one considering I'm shooting back at Sam for acting like he's so superior. All things considered, I think it's more appropriate for you to pay more attention. I realize we're all essentially anonymous here, but you still ought to put more forethought into the things you say. There's no need to make enemies here.

That bit about the monocle sounded a bit smug to me. I was implying that you seemed to be proud of a mean feat.

There's a difference between being smug and not having a point. There are a couple of places where he defends instances of list-based articles as having merit.

"Take this Game Boy Advance top ten as an example. The reviews are short, even flippant, and each item alone can be shrugged off. But as a collection, the author has picked a revealing series of games...an authentic depiction of the author's gaming preferences, and chances are you can relate. It's the perfect "recommended if you like" scenario..."

He even does a piss-take on the responses said lists often inspired:

"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?"

I mean, I guess that was kind of smug, but it was pro-list, or at least anti-anti-list, and hardly qualifies as "just bashing" list articles.

The thing about list articles is that they are more often than not structure for it's own sake, in order to hide a lack of substance in what's being written. It gives the impression of authority or exhaustiveness through the use of hard numbers instead of the reality of those things, which would require work. That's the sort of trick that a good writer won't have to resort to.

What a prick. He didn't even put "because writers are stupid" in the list. Worst top-ten list about top-ten lists evar.

Clashero:
Top 10 reasons I loved this article
10) It featured top ten lists, which is a very original topic for an article.
9) More than once, I had to say "That is SO true!"
8) It's very well-written, with a very fresh style.
7) It's on The Escapist. I'd be damn happy to have my work published on The Escapist.
6) It's going to lead to some very interesting discussion, hopefully.
5) It is well-informed, with references to quotes, sites and whatnot.
4) Made me laugh with anti GBA argument.
3) It's about a topic that needs no expertise to understand, which makes it nice, light reading.
2) It takes shots at fanboys. Bonus points for that.
1) This spot is just carrot on a stick. Suckers.

hahaha, win!

Anyway, good article, I especially like the reason number 1 on the list. :)

 

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