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Why List Articles are Usually Terrible


You know what it’s like, you go onto a games news website expecting to read about Fallout 4 or what shirt Phil Spencer is wearing under his jacket today - but instead you get a load of pointless list articles in an attempt to seem ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’ to appeal to low attention span teenagers, in spite of the fact that the teenage demographic does not ever use the word ‘edgy’, other than to describe poor anti-aliasing.

So here are a few reasons why list articles are shit.

Like an episode of Doctor Who, the person doing the writing thinks they have written a masterpiece, the perfect incarnation of what they are doing, when the target audience almost unanimously thinks that it is simply bullshit. So many list articles think they are Blink, the episode of Dr. Who that introduced the weeping angles, the most terrifying monster to grace the TARDIS since the 70s, when in fact these pieces are akin to Kill the Moon – a pile of arse that posits the moon is an egg for some fucking space dragon with giant spiders for gut bacteria. I get it, a lot of writers think they are hot shit; but that doesn’t stop them from producing shit. If I see one more Star Wars list that does not feature the only Star Wars game to actually wonder what the fuck the space wizards actually believe (KotOR 2) then the tables will flip. If I see one more RPG list that does not feature either Baulder’s Gate or Mass Effect then the writer simply hasn’t done their job. It’s like asking someone to put together an Assassin’s Creed game where they forget the parkour, and replacing it with more Abstergo segments. I don’t care about those French pricks – give me pirates, and leaping on armed men.

Also, lists are a cry for help

Out of ideas? Need something to talk about? Write for the Escapist? Do a list article. So many list articles seem like a stopgap for real content. As if it’s designed to just fill your attention for a day until the writers can drink more coffee and pump out a review of MGS V, giving it a 10/10 even though that number is probably a load of wank with little resemblance to the actual quality of the product, serving only to highlight the damage of reductionist reviewing. Then there are times where you see a load of list articles on the same screen. Like a communist car dealership you are confronted with a load of content that is either copied from better places or a load of rusting pig iron forged in some peasant’s back garden, as if the owner is desperately crying out for better vehicles rather than the slowly decaying Morris Minor clone in the corner. It’s as if the list article is there to fill gaps for content that never arrives, so the crap just builds up over time like the Steam Greenlight page. That or they are clickbait, there purely to garner your ad revenue because the site is slowly but surely going out of business, so resort to crap that they think will make money in the short term at the cost of the long term - as if they were taking pointers from Konami or some shit in an effort to reverse the fact that their medium of expression is in decline.

Even worse, they often have little explanation of why things are where they are

A lot of the time you see list articles with 20 words of explanation as to why in hell’s horses someone put Assassin’s Creed III in a historical games list instead of the rightful occupant of that space – AC: Black Flag. And then those 20 words are 20 words of pure tripe like someone copied some denizen of Twitter for their piece. And then readers ask why this is #5 and not #3, in spite of the fact that the list is not in any particular order because only those with that kind of attention span thinks a list article is actually worth their time.

Complaint Number 4: Then there are the obvious omissions.

You have the unexplained omissions, whether the writer simply forgot Republic Commando in their ‘Top 50 FPS of all Time’ list or why Imperialism II does not feature in a list of games from 1999, these omissions simply serve to show how bad lists are. So you start reading a list of the best WW2 games and don’t find any Il-2 game. That’s like voting for Tony Blair expecting things to get better only to find that they are infinitely worse when he's done. It’s like Iraq all over again; you go in expecting to see that you will find self-affirmation that your choices were right – when in fact you come out with a 9 year insurgency and a 3 day argument in the comment section with a gibbon, and no evidence of WMDs/Il-2 1946.

Number 3: They all copy bits from each other

Like a Chinese console manufacturer, they cannot do anything original; they have to copy from other, better people. It’s as if the writer in question woke up tired, had a bowl of cereal with milk that is slightly going off and then sat down at their PC and went ‘I can’t be asked’ – hit Ctrl+C when visiting Buzzfeed and changed a few words to make it seem original. Also, no lost can be original apart from the first one of a given topic. Let’s be honest, CoD 4 is the best CoD – so there is no way in which a list of CoD games can be original because we all agree that CoD 4 is the best CoD. Nor can we have a top 5 Total War games featuring Rome II, because as we all agree it was a puddle of congealed spunk not worthy of a top 5. So only the first lists ever written on a given topic are actually worth anything.

#2: They insert random words to seem ‘edgy’

Right, before we start – the word ‘edgy’ is shite. ‘Edgy’ is a word used by Fox News hosts to describe Buzzfeed, not the go-to word to seem down with them youth, you get me? So now that we’ve dealt with ‘edgy’, inserting seemingly random references to real world events is also shite. It’s like adding in always Online components to a racing game in an attempt to make it ‘social’. Its bullshit and we all know it. As is sticking in random swear words for the sake of sarcasm – that’s shite too.

#1: Lists are better done via audio

Leaving the reader to invent their own voice is about as risky as pre-ordering a Ubisoft game. Have you ever pre-ordered a Ubisoft game? The game either won’t work and you can’t get a refund, or they’ll pull whatever shitty trinkets you got for your blind faith. It’s gaming’s equivalent to karma. Likewise the reader may adopt some bland American voice as if they’re casting for a Battlefield game and miss the point when they need to read it in the tones of the writer, who has a British accent that lends itself to slow, sarcastic comments that can make fun of something ironically whilst still making a mildly humorous, but still pretty valid point. To avoid the risk, and waste the reader’s time properly, requires the dulcet tones of British sarcasm. Though I havn't avoided risk, because I've gone for ironic humour you dullard, and Americans don't understand that. One of the reasons writing is in decline, leaving writers to desperately demand attention from these lists is that video is just better. I should just be Steve Burns already, though that would require many years working for Gamespot. And who wants to do that? Nobody. Apart from Gamespot. Look, here’s what I mean:


So that is why list articles are just a massive waste of time designed to take your attention for a bit to make either an obvious or meaningless point, miss the obvious and not really explain itself, leaving commenters to be confused. And then, at the end, they have the gall to link to something that is frankly way better than what the piece describes after dragging you through many different, largely arbitrary paragraphs and images ripped from Google. That is why list articles are rubbish. But they are a solid investment so who cares, and ironic humour aside, they provoke way more discussion than a thought out comparison of games in a given catagory - so fuck it.

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About James Internet Egoone of us since 2:56 PM on 04.21.2015

Howdy! Welcome to the little corner of the internet that a part of me calls home. Here's some stuff about me.

Occupation: Student

Hobbies: Videogames, Chess, Philosophy

Interests: Law, Philosophy, Gaming

Chores: PC maintenance, Uni prep

Current Thought: Damn you Witcher 3! Damn you Crones to hell!

Favorite Game: KotOR 2 for reasons, but Witcher 3 is now joint first, bloody marvelous game.

Current Game: The Witcher 3

I am a fan of the written word as well as the spoken variety, so you'll find me doing a lot of written stuff. Every couple of days hopefully.

Here is a nifty list of what I think is my best stuff.

Destructoid C-Blogs
How Cities: Skylines Almost Screwed Up My Exam
Why the PR Man Can Lie
On Mods and Money
How Mass Effect Made Me Like Music
Questing For Immersion
An Afternoon With the SWG Emulator
How to Buy a game in 2015
Some Upbeat Thoughts on Bioware
The Pain of Playing Old Games
Why Citybuilders Are Not ABout Building Cities
On Valve's Inability to Follow The Law
Band of Bloggers: KotOR

Some Written Word on Game Design
Ambivalence and Not Caring

Front Paged Things
Bloggers Wanted: KotOR 2

Kotaku UK
The Best Zombie Game Out There

That covers the bio, right?

Oh, right - name. I'm James, in case you couldn't guess.