Tabletop Board Game Top Ten Lists:
I have a confession. It’s time I fessed up to it. Last few months something changed for me. It started small but grew into something bigger. I started to go through what I can only describe as “Top Ten List” fatigue. I know. Top ten lists are the lifeblood of many YouTube channels. Dice Tower top ten lists can garner hundreds of thousands of views. And it is not hard to see why. When done by expert gamers that you trust they are a great cheat sheet to finding the gems.
I would use top ten lists when looking for my next purchase, or when I was keen to find games that I just had never heard of. But after several years of weekly top ten lists, I found myself scrolling past them more regularly. Top ten games of the year, top ten of all time, top ten sci-fi, top ten essential games, top ten filler games, top ten family games, top ten couples games, top ten cooperative games, top ten annoying rules, top ten components, and this says nothing of personal top ten lists posted by each channel, contributors, and friends of contributors.
None of this is a joke, by the way, go to YouTube and do a search and you will find pages of top ten lists for board games. You may even find some by yours truly. Yes, I say all this in full knowledge that I have provided many of those top ten lists on YouTube and on this very website. Top ten lists have become all too easy to push out with no real attention paid to whether the lists are providing anything meaningful. Often these lists reflect more a “cult of the new” attitude and I question if these lists are helping people at all or if they are more akin to click bait.
After a hiatus, I decide to dip my toe into the top ten water and tried Tom Vasel’s top ten games from different publishers. Watching Tom’s pick of games from Tasty Minstrel Games (TMG) got me excited and I wondered how I grew tired of top ten lists to begin with. I forgot how exciting it was to find a rare pick or option that was unknown to me. I loved seeing some of my personal favourites flash up on the screen and nodding my head along to what was being said. I was inspired once more. I’m not promising a return to weekly top ten lists, but it is good to find some that interest and inspire me. I was left wondering what was really going on. When I looked at my behaviour I found something peculiar. Tom’s list didn't just give me something to hit the thumbs up button for, it provided me ideas to go away and research, think about, and look into. I felt actually informed. But then came a crushing blow. In my searching, I discovered a growing trend that made my heart sink yet again.
I discovered a new trend that was creeping into my YouTube suggestions, “Worst Of” top ten lists. These have always been around but now I am seeing these lists more and more. Out of interest, I watched one on the top ten worst Magic Cards. I was confused because most of the cards chosen looked like cards that would work well in specialist decks. There were several I considered putting into a deck I would run. I was left feeling confused about the practice of looking at the worst elements of our hobby. I can clearly see why top ten lists are desirable. They help people make informed choices that guide them to the best of something. What value is there in looking for the worst? The big concern for me is that lists like these cause us to actively look for and focus on what is bad in our hobby. Can this really be of benefit? When we train our brains to focus on the bad things we will actively seek to find the bad. We begin to erode our own enjoyment of the hobby by participating in this practice. We actively deviate our attention away from those elements that excite and inspire us to fixate on the things that we hate.
As I pondered my fatigue of “top ten” and my disgust of “worst ten” lists I challenged what I was really reacting to. I believed my actual objection was to content that just sought to create an emotional reaction for likes or comments. It is perfectly reasonable to me that top ten lists be popular and receive lots of attention. But the glut of lists on YouTube and on blog sites everywhere has made me think that these lists are an easy way to get views. It seems that any list will do. This attitude erodes away the value of the content. Is it really helping and informing me? I am not so sure. The lackluster attention to content drove me away from top ten lists. I want lists the show me something new or interesting, provide insight or perspective. A lot of lists are just presenting new games or the same old ones with little or anything that could constitute helpful or insightful commentary. So when I found Tom’s top ten on TMG I was genuinely excited and discovered some new options for expanding my collection. That said, I would take the top ten anything over a ‘worst of’ list. Franky put if it's bad it won't ever appear on a top ten and most likely it will fade into obscurity. I think spending time actively focussing on the things that disappoint us only makes us more prone to being disappointed. It seems a self-defeating process to constantly look for negative things to dwell on. But before I become a victim of irony I will leave it there. In future, if you see a top ten list from me I promise you this, I will seek to genuinely provide something insightful and considered. You can hold me to that. Until then, go check out Vasel’s series on top ten from publishers. It’s a good series.