The Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of Top 5s on Gaming Blogs.

September 7, 2009 by Alex Beech  
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At this point it is widely accepted that most members of the Internet generation have the attention span of a gnat in heat. We want our information now, and if it takes us more than two minutes to read and doesn’t have pictures then we cannot be bothered. It is a sad state of affairs that basically we have regressed to, (or maybe never matured from) our elementary school selves. I am not judging; I am as guilty as anyone. Hundreds of articles sit in my RSS feed waiting for me to look at their title and see if they are worthy of a cursory glance. We find ourselves clicking on a pandering article titled to get clicks, perpetuating the cycle by reaffirming that is the rapidly digestible that we desire, not engaging discourse.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as we do sometimes push ourselves with more involved articles. News doesn’t have to be given in lengthy prose, and even generic boilerplate articles have merit if the content is interesting and appropriately framed. I have no problem with reading opinion pieces as long as it is clearly labeled and not filled with hateful bile, and when I am in a hurry I would rather have articles distilled into summaries, lists or bullet points.

See that, I don’t mind bullet points or lists. Even the top fives that liter the world of game blogs can be entertaining in moderation. The problem is it is so easy make them that you see more everyday, and it is becoming frustrating. They generate more interest than numerous well-written considered articles based purely on a catchy title and reader’s desires to contradict the author to feel superior. Sites churn out their lists without thought just for the clicks and all to the same generic formula.

‘The Top/Bottom/Best/Worst 5 X (on/in) Z’ – the addition of a year is optional.

(Where X=anything you fancy and Z=platform or time period)

It should be noted I am not (just) banging on the little guys. Even the big sites do it because of the guaranteed traffic. So, in a fit of self loathing I though I would prostitute myself for clicks with a ‘Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of Top 5s on Blogs.’

5 – DO ask people in the online community for their ideas.

It is simple advice. If you are looking to compile your ‘Top 5 Worst Mini-Game Collections on Wii’ and you only know five mini-games its is time to do some research. Ask people online don’t just write about the five you have played like you are an authority. That article would be called ‘5 Mini-Games I played that Sucked (on Wii)’ which actually sounds like a fun article, try that one instead.

4 – DON’T pass of you opinion as definitive.

This really follows on from the last point. If you know you have not tried the majority of titles don’t suggest that you are an authority. Even if you have, unless you have some form of empirical evidence to support your claims it is always better make the fact that its your sole opinion clear. I know it’s tempting to use passive voice, how much more professional it seems. It is easily avoided, simply using ‘I’ or ‘my’ will go along way rather then ‘the’. You can even state explicitly state the fact it’s your opinion in the opening if you want to, but remember…

3 – DON’T expect people to read your text.

The majority of the Internet will only read your title and your five choices. As I said in the opening (if you read it) people want their information short and fast. In good cases translates to them scanning your text, but in most cases it means that they will only read the nicely indented one-liners that make up your choices before declaring that you are wrong with out reading your justifications. In fact I half wonder why I am bothering with this part…

2 – DON’T add an item just to pad out the list.

Occasionally you have a legitimately good idea for a list (and often you will just want to install the virtues of a game you like). For this example lets say that we want to write the ‘Top Five Games With Cake In Ever’ list (because you like Portal).  You start off strong with Portal, Cooking Mama and ‘Splosion Man, then you start to run out of steam so you turn to Google. First hit yields you a number of free to play flash games (yes, I have checked) and then a pile of DS games such as Strawberry Shortcake the Four Seasons Cake (I have no idea if it any good but it exists, and it has cake it.) Soon you find yourself seriously considering such titles to fill out the last two spaces rather that adding something of value or making it a top 3.

1 – DON’T listen to me.

That’s right. I am no more qualified than anyone else to tell you how to write or what to write about. If you have a good idea for a then write it. But I would request that you don’t write because you have to but because you want to. If you are writing for a blog then you will have to produce regular content, and sometimes you won’t be feeling inspired but never write about something you don’t care about. As long as you enjoy the subject and the writing it will show. Don’t worry about all the negative members of the audience; you shouldn’t be looking for validation or traffic but the satisfaction of the craft. That said if you just want eyes on your site I have an article about cake here somewhere.

Honorable mentions (or ideas I didn’t want to expand) go to – ‘DON’T publish anything if you and your mum think it blows’ and ‘DON’T go in with a bias/hate campaign’.

That is my top five. Notice that it is pretty hard to disagree with all of them, but I am sure some of you will find a way. If you have more I am happy to read them, or at least title, as more ideas can only serve to improve the quality of my writing and that of others.