Funny To A Point – Top Ten Edition
No matter who you are or where your interests lie, everyone
loves a good Top Ten list – a fact that's decuply true for gamers. Join me this
week as I delve deep into the appeal of the venerable Top Ten list and provide my
own Top Ten
Funnies To A Point. Funny To A Points. Funny To
Points(?). Top Ten Of These Dumb Columns.
Top Ten lists were created a long time ago, and are still just as popular today. Gamers especially flock to the Top Ten format; based on my own analysis, I approximate that Top Ten lists constitute nearly 87% of all games journalism.* The mighty Top Ten is one of G.I.'s longest-running features, and aside from a dedicated list in every issue, the rankings invade countless features and sidebars, including our yearly roundup of the Top Ten moments, disappointments, developers, and dorks (who could forget the dorks?). Top Ten lists will continue to be popular until the sun engulfs the earth, which will probably be commemorated with a list of the Top Ten Calming Mantras To Repeat While Bursting Into Flames.
As you might guess, 25 years is a long time to come up with Top Ten lists. I've witnessed plenty of stupid ones during my time here at G.I. – hell, I've wrote my fair share of 'em. Among the more dubious Top Tens I've contributed to the magazine: Top Ten Babies (surprisingly there are enough video game babies that I could group all of Mortal Kombat's babalities in one entry); Top Ten Loading Screens (it was riveting, trust me); and Top Ten Things We Legally Can't Call Mechs (a tongue-in-cheek title we used to avoid BattleTech's litigation-happy lawyers, though the real challenge was not using the term in any of the ensuing entries). I also wrote a Top Ten Stupid Video Game Titles for the magazine, and have been spinning off similar lists ever since.
Other dumb rankings from my fellow editors include Top Ten Video Game Moustaches (for Movember, naturally), Top Ten Helicopter Fights (battles against helicopters, not in them), and Top Ten Surprise Snowboarding Levels (why do so many of these exist?). Top Ten Space Marines also deserves a shout-out – we went over a year of issue meetings debating whether the joke of 10 identical-looking space soldiers was worth a page in the magazine before finally pulling the trigger. Top Ten Whips was the next groan-worthy replacement to end up in issue-meeting purgatory; Tim pitched the merits of the list to the staff for months until we all said yes, just so he would shut up. The current list that's being endlessly debated is Top Ten Balls; if you see it in a future issue, you'll know it was a slow month.
But now for the real question: When you read those titles, did your mind light up with potential entries for them? Of course it did! Why? I'm about to tell you!
Part of the appeal of Top Ten lists is our love of categorization. A primitive part of our brain loves figuring out which boxes things belong in and then shoving 'em in there. Every now and then I find myself obsessively reordering the games on my media shelf. Alphabetical is for chumps; mine goes by order of genre preference, then ordered by favorite games within that genre – with the exception of series that include several installments, which go chronologically because I'm not a monster.
Jeff Cork insisted I publicly shame Codemasters for making Fuel's title run the wrong direction on the box. Glad to know I'm not the only obsessive compulsive in the office.
The Top Ten list is like an open-ended invitation for our categorizing needs. We're not just given a bunch of random things and arranging them neatly (though that kind of satisfaction does explain Tetris' lasting appeal). Instead, a Top Ten list simply provides a prompt and lets your mind run wild.
And everyone's mind runs wild. No matter how stupid the topic, virtually every Top Ten list prompts aggrieved readers to write in with "missing" entries. Like our Top Ten Merchants, which "failed to include the guy from Link's Awakening who zaps you with lighting if you steal from him." Or the absence of Mario (circa SMB 3) from our Top Ten Stealth Masters, because "everyone knows that turning into a statue is the ultimate stealth mode." Some of the responses are obviously in gest, but feeling compelled to write in is no joke; everyone wants to share an interesting addition when they discover a connection no one else has.
The other appeal of a Top Ten is the actual ranking. It's not just a list of dumb things – there's a (supposed) logic to its order. No matter how long or short a list is, we crave that order. If you've ever read an irate Feedback response and wondered how people can get upset over such stupid and trivial topics, you should know that we do it in the office every damn time we put one of these lists together. Just this issue, we ranked every first-party controller since the NES, and the list had everyone fuming; numerous editors demanded a second meeting, and even after we shifted the entries around, the only thing we could all agree on was that the list still sucked. Or at least that was my impression – because if you honestly believe the Duke controller is worse than whatever the hell this thing is, you're crazy.
And therein lies the key to why Top Ten lists are irresistible, entertaining, and infuriating. We think of rankings as objective, and yet the criteria – unless restricted to raw numbers – are completely subjective (there are some rare exceptions**). Most gamers have learned this flawed logic when it comes to reviews being "objective" (because they SUPER AREN'T), but Top Ten rankings still fall into a happy blind spot. I mean, how can you say Luigi's vacuum is better than Blinx the Time Sweeper's vacuum, when clearly [insert random opinion here]. (And yes, Top Ten Vacuums was another real list in the magazine.)
Throw in the fact that ten is just a wicked-awesome number to count to – something even our forefathers knew – and you got the mother of all features. Listicles may come and go, but Top Tens are forever. So, to celebrate the timeless appeal of the format, here is the definitive list of the Top Ten Funny To A Point columns.
10. Funny To A Point – The Games Of E3 That No One Else
This one just barely manages to squeak onto the list thanks to its E3-themed shenanigans and photos from the show floor. I was up until 3:00AM on the last day of the show frantically trying to finish it in my hotel room – my initial idea had been to collect a bunch of funny moments during the show, but it didn't pan out. The switch to the faux game theme still allowed me to get in some humorous anecdotes from the showfloor, while poking fun at my own dislike of travel (and how awful Los Angeles is). However, the stressful deadline made me never want to attempt a last-minute column again.
9. Funny To A Point – Are You Suffering From Summer
This was another column that I struggled to find a good structure to support the main point – that sometimes I feel guilty sitting around and playing games when I should be out doing grown-up stuff. It still managed to rise above all the entries that didn't make the cut by providing a rather serious method for not getting burned out on the Internet (helpful nowadays), along with its not-so-serious list of side effects.
To A Point – It's Time To Lighten Up
Confession: I had no idea what the hell I was doing when I started this column. Confession #2: I still don't! However, I chose to include this inaugural post on the list because it at least established a tone. The title is basically a thesis statement for the entire column: To take a few minutes every now and then and remind yourself that games are fun, funny, and downright stupid sometimes – all of which help brighten our day. This first post also contained what I'm going to go ahead and coin a foreshadowing link to a future column. Mind blown!
7. Funny To A Point – Ode To Blowing #%$& Up
A poetic (or as close to poetic as I get) look at the enjoyment of virtual destruction, this column was jokey and philosophical at the same time! I also worked in a reference to Bomberman's diarrhea bomb power-up, which can never be mentioned enough as far as I'm concerned.
6. Funny To A Point – Getting Lost In No Man's Sky
One of several game-focused entries, this super-sized column takes the No Man's Sky's extreme haters to task, along with Internet culture in general. I took my own screens for this one, which gave me a chance to show off some of the hilariously awful alien creatures I've come across, as well as the beautiful sci-fi vistas. And rocks shaped like dongs.
5. Funny To A Point – The Dreaded Question
I wrote this one right after the stupidly long No Man's Sky column, and was looking for something less time-intensive – like say, writing up a bunch of quick-and-easy entries (sound familiar?). So I based it on my very real inability to convey video game plots to my wife (fun side note: I wrote it without telling my wife I was going to mention her in it, which is probably something you should never do. She ended up being cool with it though). I won't lie: Half the reason this one ranks so high is the Lara Croft photoshop gag, which worked out way better than I could've hoped for.
4. Funny To A Point – I Joined A Devil Cult; Its Name
Is Clash Royale
A piece built on the very solid foundation of shaming myself, this column also pulls no punches for the game design of Supercell's massively lucrative mobile hit. This one was also a bit of a proof-of-concept, confirming that I can name these columns whatever I want without getting called on it by my fellow editors. The biggest surprise was the genuine sense of respect I felt for Shea when he announced he was quitting the game as I was writing it (which was doubly appreciated because I had no idea how to end the column otherwise). Side note: Shea has since gotten sucked back into Clash Royale, erasing said respect and restoring balance to the universe.
To A Point – The Call Of Duty Hate Has Gotten Embarrassing, Guys
One of the classic entries from the early days of Funny To A Point, this irreverent look at the gaming community's hate of Call of Duty struck a delicate balance between humor and making a serious point. It also tricked some people into watching a painfully boring Andrei Tarkosvky movie scene, which I find hilarious. This remains the most-viewed FTAP, and was surprisingly well-received – I guess the haters must've been too busy focusing their eye of Sauron on Call of Duty's YouTube comments to notice.
2. Funny To A Point – Pokémon Go Has Turned Me Into A
Hey, remember that game everyone and their grandmother was playing two months ago that absolutely no one talks about anymore? This column represents peak self-deprecation, as I dutifully recounted my own sheer idiocy while playing the game. The images offered some creative opportunities for humor as well. All in all, this is probably the most widely relatable FTAP column, even if since then we have all collectively chosen to forget the game like the end of Sphere.
1. Funny To A Point – Modern Box Art Sucks: An
Whittling down this list to just ten entries was nearly impossible, but picking the number-one spot was a piece of cake. This damning look at the way box art has declined over the years is as entertaining as it is educational. From the custom-made top image that I made customly, to the vast collection of cheeky box art comparisons, this one definitively proves how awesome and imaginative hand-painted box art used to be. This ended up being the second most-viewed FTAP column, because everyone loves to rag on bad box art.
*(MoE +/- 87%)
**Top Ten Funniest Dane Cook Jokes:
Disagree with my Top Ten FTAP ranking? Did I omit your favorite entry? Post your own ranking in the comments below, then delete it because no one cares!