Archive for the ‘lists’ Category

Backlog, Schmacklog

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

As recently as a month ago, I was making grand proclamations about how I was going to knuckle down and get my backlog under control. I was going to pare down that list bit by bit and eliminate it once and for all. That was a good idea, in theory, and I am still making progress toward that goal, but I very quickly came to a realization: No matter what I do, my backlog is probably never going to be zero.

And I’m okay with that.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m giving up and am going to let myself drown under an ever-growing pile of unfinished games. That would be crazy. But I did go through my backlog and I identified three kinds of games in there and my likeliness to get them finished as a good first step.

Type 1 – Games I got as a part of a bundle that I didn’t really want in the first place. There are way, way too many game bundles floating around on the Internet. Lots of these game bundles are ‘pay what you want’ with special plums if you pay over a certain dollar amount. The big problem is that you get a game that you want, that is maybe pretty good, and you also get four or five (or more) other games that you’ve never heard of, didn’t really want, and may never play. I have lots of these artificially inflating the number of games in my backlog, so it looks worse than it actually is. It’s tempting to get rid of a lot of these games, but since most of them are digital-only, I’m stuck with them.

Type 2 – Games that looked interesting or were recommended, but it turns out that I didn’t like. Games like 3D-Dot Game Heroes get moderately favorable reviews, and look interesting enough for a try (or were in the bargain bin), but on putting them in, it turns out that they’re just not very good. I’m sure that to someone somewhere these games are good, but I’m not going to waste my time slogging through them if I’m not having any fun doing it.

Type 3 – Games that are just too long. Probably until I either retire or hit the lottery, my time for playing games is limited, and even when I do get a chance to play, I may not be able to play in long stretches. Some weeks I can manage six or eight hours, and other weeks it’s a bit less (like zero). That time may not be in big chunks, either. Some days I might only have a few ten or twenty minute chunks of time that I can devote to a game, other days it might be two or three hours. If I can’t pick up a game and put it down after a few minutes, I may end up putting it down and coming back to it just after never. If a game takes 40 or more hours to complete, and I can work in 10 hours a week playing it, it’s still going to take me a month or so to get to the end.

What are the odds that I’m going to finish these up? Type 1 is very unlikely. I might play it once to see what it’s all about, or I might never look at it. I didn’t really want it in the first place, so these don’t count toward my backlog. I can write them off.

Type 2 games can also be written off. I’m not going to force myself to play something I didn’t like. If I gave it a try and didn’t like it enough to finish it, or at all, then I’m knocking it out of the backlog.

Type 3 games are an interesting category. Games that I liked, probably, but took so long to play that I just got tired of playing them every free evening for a month or more. These games I’d like to get back to, but the odds of me doing that are directly related to how long it’s been since I played it last. A game that I last played a month ago? There’s a decent chance I’ll give it another go in a couple of weeks after I’ve played something short to ‘cleanse my palate’, so to speak. Something I stopped playing in 2007 two consoles ago? Assuming I remember that I have a saved game, and the console is still hooked up to my television, I might play again. But, realistically, we can take these off the list, too, if they haven’t been played in the last year.

And, just like that, my backlog goes from insane and completely unmanageable to slightly off-kilter and kind of manageable.

It’s a start. I’ll take it.

The definitive list, exposed

Friday, October 10th, 2008

The other day I posted a list of every NES game (according to Wikipedia, at any rate), and then ranked them. A couple of sites picked up on the list and it generated a little bit of a controversy. So, what’s up with the list anyway? Was it just a ploy to get web hits? What do the ranks mean? I’m going to answer all those questions and more.

As I’ve posted before, all lists that attempt to rank video games in any kind of meaningful way are inherently flawed. They’re ways to quickly drum up content in a pinch, they don’t take a whole lot of research to compile, and almost every time you see one the discussion is rife with comments saying that the list failed in some way because Game Y was rated higher than Game Z and the editor must have been smoking hallucinogenic drugs to order the list the way that they did. In fact, a list from ‘worst’ to ‘best’ implies that the games in the list can be quantitatively broken down into numbers that somehow reflect the ‘goodness’ that might be in a game. It would be pretty awesome if there were a kind of ‘fun unit’ that we could use to determine the amount of pleasure one might get out of a game.

But we can’t. Primarily because experiencing video games is hugely subjective. Someone might favor graphics over all else. Someone else might give the edge to sound quality. A third might give passes to both of those as long as the story is well-written. And so on, ad nauseum. This brings me to my main point: There is no good way to rank games in any meaningful way because tastes vary too widely. Which, stated another way, is “All ‘Top X’ lists are essentially equally as valuable as another” and are little more than excuses for the authors to meander down Memory Lane. And there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as we recognize them for what they are.

My solution to this mess involved taking a list of games for the NES (though any platform would do) and creating a simple script to randomly order it into a list. I then sent notice out to a few key websites to see what reactions might be.

Bear in mind, now, that I never once mentioned how I ranked them, or what the rankings might be. Everyone pretty well assumed that the game at the top was the ‘best’ and the game at the bottom was the ‘worst’, but it was simpler than that. The game with the ‘number 1′ ranking was simply the game with the number 1 ranking. Immediately, comments started pouring in on various websites saying that I didn’t know what I was doing, or that Goonies II was ranked higher than Zelda II, when clearly it should be the other way around.

This was the expected response.

Most lists of this nature have some pretty loud objectors. Mostly due to their widely varying tastes (remember those?). I’ve taken note of that and created an outlet. Press F5 and *boom*, new list, exactly as valid as the last, and primed for new discussion.

Of course this has the (also intentional) side-effect of no two people seeing the exact same list (with the exception to the first couple of hours the list was up due to a snafu on my part) leading to two people arguing over their favorite game’s placement:

SomeGuy: No way, can you believe this moron put Bad Dudes at 468? What an idiot, that was a great game!

SomeOtherGuy: Are you insane? Bad Dudes is number 8 and that game sucked. 468 is Metal Storm, which is way too good to be so far down.

And that, friends, achieves my ultimate goal: to foster discussion. Which The List did admirably. There were no hidden motives, no ‘publicity stunt’, no ‘whoring for webhits’, or anything like that. For those that ‘got it’ and appreciated it, I thank you for your kind words, and those that didn’t… well, better luck next time, I guess.

Every NES game ever, ranked

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

It’s been a long, hard process. But, with the assistance of an esteemed colleague of mine we sat down and produced a ranking of every NES game that has seen domestic release (plus a few extras). I’m not really comfortable disclosing our methodologies, since we might sell them at some point to buy pizzas, and I’m quite sure that someone out there will find fault in this listing because we put some game he hated over some game he loved. And all I can really say to that is, “get your own website and make your own list”.

Now, hit the jump for the complete listings, and let the debates begin!