Hit absolutely any gaming site through any social networking portal, whether it be N4G, Digg, Stumbleupon and so on, and it’s incredibly likely that you are going to encounter at least one, if not more, Top 10 articles. Am I honestly the only gamer who cannot stand the sight of these complete wastes of virtual space?
Not only are lists the most lazy form of filler, they contribute nothing of any value to the general information highway, or news stream. More importantly, they’re a symbol of how the new media landscape is forcing writers to spend less time on writing quality articles and more time pushing out an alarming amount of junk for the sake of hits.
When I joined Gamer Limit as an Editor, one of the first types of articles I decided to remove from the site were Top Tens. Aside from being completely subjective, poorly written, traffic pullers, they have completely made legitimate awards irrelevant. Originally, lists were left for E3, or the occasionally slab of targeted light humour. The problem now is that a large majority of gaming media sites use them to fill the spots in their 24hr blanket coverage.
It’s widely known that a large bulk of content written on blogs and central gaming sites usually goes completely unread. The sheer amount of content generated in the space of a single hour is mind blowing, and a simple look on any social link aggregation website will demonstrate that. But how much of it is worth reading? And what happens to those “must-read” articles that get dumped in the rubbish bin of invisibility?
A colleague on another site recently mentioned to me how difficult it was to get quality work made visible. Digg has become such a phenomenon that it’s now impossible to simply submit an article and get more than 5 hits. A combination of spam, duplicated news, plagiarized news, and filler content now clog the pipes of the site. The only way to get your work on the top of the pile is to court the services of a “Power Digger”.
A Power Digger operates just how it sounds: it’s someone who has gained enough kudos and respect on Digg.com that their submissions are basically agreed as instant gold without question. Aside from the sheer fact that the system was originally created to avoid situations like “Power Diggers”, this is the reality. One particular PD decided to take a look through the backlog of posts on this site and choose a couple of possible candidates for addition. Yep, you guessed it; they were all Top 10s from when our site was in its infant stages.
Arguably, they do gain a lot of traffic. People love to argue and flame the writer, as well as each other, creating nothing but insults, rather then interesting and intelligent debate (which may or may not be a result of the below comments). Then they leave as quickly as they came, moving onto hungrily the next article, ignoring any of the interesting features regarding interviews with developers, previews on new games or anything that required actual effort or journalistic input by the writer.
If we hearken back to golden era of print media, or even early online media, this wasn’t the case. Interesting features on the state of the industry, of the people who worked in it, the games that were made from it, and the culture that spawned from it, were the norm. Sites like ours, The Escapist, Destructoid, and many others do continue to provide expert commentary and actual coverage (outside of the common press release), but many blogs, and sadly a lot of the big sites, are just falling back on lists.
My concern is that this flood of lazy work will become all that is available: press releases, lists, rumours, video rants and teasers. We now have access to the most comprehensive information network in the world, and slowly but surely, uninformed opinion and junk articles are rising to the top. People will quickly blame the reader for this, but I will blame the writer.
If you write it, they will come. If sites like IGN and Gamespot continue give in to this sort of pap, then so will others trying to replicate their success. To make myself clear, I have no problems with humorous articles. Light entertainment is all part of the fun, and I can deal with it, even though my writing tends to be more serious in nature. But you don’t have to write lists to be funny, just like our own Chris Carter, West and Jim Sterling from Destructoid demonstrate admirably.
So what is the solution? Are we going to sit on our hands and just complain about this? No: we’re going to deliver quality material to you without resorting to top tens. You’ll see a myriad of content that delivers the same excitement and laughter a top ten article might, but without resorting to a complete subjective and easy way out. I encourage all of my fellow journalists, who strive to be the light in the slowly growing dark to start focusing on why you started writing in the first place. I’m sure it wasn’t to create fanboy flame fodder, and I’m positive it wasn’t to bring down the high standard of journalistic integrity created by our print media forefathers.