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Sick of Lists: The Pointless Game of the Year debate

Another year has passed and in the dark murky period of winter Santa is checking his list and checking it twice.

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Game of the Year 2013

So is everyone else it would seem.

Lists are prevalent in all areas of popular culture journalism. Websites like Buzzfeed and Cracked are built around the entire premise of quick click happy lists. However this time of year we are seemingly dominated by them from every facet of website media. It’s understandable being the busy yuletide season as we’re actively encouraged to take a break and relax by the fire whilst paradoxically throwing ourselves at every retail outlet to buy gifts for our loved ones, decorate our homes with tinsel and flashing lights, and arrange for family members we hate to come into our home and eat our food. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to fill your website with lovingly crafted and edited articles or videos. So slap together a quick few ‘best of/worst of’ pieces along with a few ‘what we’re looking forward to the next year’ lists as well.

It’s not that I have anything against it, it makes perfect sense and with some journalists I genuinely like to hear their opinion. The problem I have is when everyone starts to do it. Most of the lists are identical and the whole thing turns into a big holiday season beige.

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One part of the argument that the internet falls into is which game was ‘Game of the Year’. These lists help either cement a person’s view or opinion or completely blind side them, turning them into a frothing mass of internet fury. It is essentially pointless. To argue that something is better than another within the massive spectrum of something as incredibly subjective as video games is a bit of a fool’s task. Yeah, sure you can say fairly objectively that the latest Zelda is better than Minesweeper (or is it? Argue in the comments below) but to try and compare Indie darling Papers, Please against Bioshock: Infinite the waters get a little muddy. To create these lists is essentially to keep the argument going, the ongoing dialogue where nothing is actually resolved or decided upon – probably because it has literally no way of ending itself without informed rational debate which these quickly churned out lists have no possible way of doing. It’s just lazy click bait that meaninglessly decks the halls.

This isn’t just restricted to video games – music, film and fine art are all plagued with this sentiment. But I think video games, which have grown up hand in hand with the internet is affected more than others. Most video game websites have active forums to encourage a debate. Some websites are running community led votes to decide Game of the Year – its clever in the sense of involving your community in the end of year argument but it kind of boils down to whoever gets the most votes – just click on the game you like.

There is no greater dialogue than this. Just a click.

For a medium that is becoming far more self-aware and a huge part of popular culture (not just internet culture) this argument is very childish and although it can be enjoyable for the sake of ‘drama’ it is very much skin deep. To feel invested in a work and take time out of your life to experience it is actually a fairly large commitment. Blindly following a fabricated argument is also this.

It depends on what you want out of a game or what you felt playing it. Did you have fun? Did you find it interesting? Maybe even informative? To break it down into list format belittles the greater, and to me far more interesting, debate or analysis of what made a game so commendable in the first place.

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Right now you might be thinking something like:

“Hey man, like, fucking lighten up – it’s just some lists, I’m just killing some time on my lunch break. Why don’t you just ignore it if you don’t like it?” – Mr Strawman.

Which I don’t begrudge you for, however my other argument against these lists is this: it’s fucking boring. It’s fucking boring and it is everywhere. To actively try and avoid it becomes difficult, even to avoid GOTY arguments during the year is difficult and to have it build to such an apex during this period is incredibly frustrating.

When I think about games and this argument of Game of the Year I tend to think back to what games are actually important. Or rather games that still have an influence on us now, both in terms of their staying power or re-playability and the cultural impact they have. An obvious example would be Portal – a blend of rewarding puzzles, good humour and charming design. It is seen as something that other developers should strive to achieve. It is a good game and will always be a good game regardless of whichever list it was put on. Will we remember every game put on every list this holiday season? Or any other holiday season for that matter?

A part of me is worried that due to the simplicity of these kind of articles and the attraction they create is that one day this will become the norm. Everything will become a Buzzfeed, broken down into hilarious GIFs, bold text statements and share buttons. People will not accurately, articulately or informatively describe why they like a game so much. Just that they do and they will let us all know by clicking a button next to its name on a yearly vote.

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Will this actually happen? Hopefully not, I have too much faith in the human race (and video gaming) to believe we will become internet rats pulling a lever. I also believe in the deep analysis of video gaming, whilst it’s essentially there for our entertainment it is something we should have a good think about as well and not pile onto a list.

Then again maybe I should just lighten up.

Bah humbug.

PS. My game of the year all years is definitely Minesweeper – much better than Bioshit:Shitfinite.

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JDS Quinn is the Script Supervisor for a tiny production company that has yet to make any films.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Daniel

    3rd January 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Minesweepers got my vote for GOTY, over Twitter anyway.

  2. Daniel New

    3rd January 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I agree with the sentiment. These articles are designed to provoke a response because “shock horror” everyone’s opinions are different. That said, if someone can explain why a game deserves to be recognised (as Joshua Baldwin did on here yesterday with InFlux), I’m all for it.

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